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Video William Wentworth: 'currency lad', 2009

TLF ID M008485

This video clip focuses on William Wentworth, the colonial-born son of a convict, destined to become a loud charismatic press baron, publicist, barrister and patriot. 'William Wentworth: "currency lad"' is an excerpt from the documentary 'Rites of Passage' - the second episode of the two-part series entitled 'Rogue Nation' produced in 2009. In 'Rogue Nation', historian Michael Cathcart tells the epic story of how the colourful characters of early colonial Australia transformed a penal settlement into a land with rights and opportunity in a mere 40 years. This sweeping two-part dramatised documentary covers formative events in Australia's history, including the Rum Rebellion and early court cases, which established independence and civil rights for all settlers. 'Rogue Nation' explores how a fledgling colony on the wrong side of the globe was rapidly transformed from a place of punishment to a place of opportunity; a confident and prosperous community. It goes behind the power struggles between wealthy landowners, the educated offspring of convict settlers and the governors who ran the colony. A Screen Australia production in association with Essential Media and Entertainment. Images in the clip courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Lachlan Macquarie (governor 1810-21) is the governor who 'goes native'. He was the man in power who went a large way in inventing the idea of Australia as a country that existed for convicts to have another chance to make good in life, and the convicts' 'native-born' Australian children and subsequent generations. Meanwhile Earl Bathurst and his Colonial Office not surprisingly decided that this was pure madness. Australia for the convicts and their children? Australia, from their point of view, was a colony of Britain, a place of salutary terror to scare would-be criminals into virtue, and a place (after the war with Napoleon finished in 1815 and a whole army was disbanded and given nothing to live on) to dump surplus population. It was all getting a bit too lax down there, too free and easy. For goodness sake, ex-cons were being made magistrates! And invited to the Governor's table for dinner! Had the place gone completely crazy?
  • With Governor Darling (1825-1831) Britain again tried toughness. Ex-cons were no longer to be so encouraged - instead it would be new free arrivals with plenty of capital. There would be no more convicts earning money on the side, no more handing out tickets-of-leave to prisoners fresh off the boat. Nor would they be any longer given land to farm when their time expired. But after some wrangling, ex-convict legal rights remained - but then again, they had to, they owned over half the wealth of the colony.
  • Meanwhile, a young William Wentworth was in London, and outraged at being 'outed' as a child of a convicted criminal - even if the crime was a rather dashing and romantic one - highwayman. A 'currency lad', part of the first generation of 'native-born' colonials, he took up the cudgels for a lifetime of retaliation. Wentworth invented himself as a patriot for the newly imagined country, 'Australia'. The ex-convicts and their children felt this country to be theirs, felt that they belonged here and wouldn't go back to England in a way the free arrivals, the 'exclusive' class, simply could not feel. Wentworth would be one of the first to tap into this widespread feeling, and express it in his newspaper, 'The Australian' as he fought his personal and political battles.
  • Darling, the close-lipped efficient governor, and Wentworth, the loud blustery charismatic press baron, publicist and barrister, were both destined to fight it out in a renewed struggle for control of the future direction of the colony.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Organization: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: ACT, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Video
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Film and Sound Archive, 2011 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out and copy this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.