Making Good: Convict Artisans in Exile

A new exhibition at Old Government House explores the lives of convict artisans who used their skills to transform their place of exile into a thriving modern settlement.

Making Good: Convict Artisans in Exile, running from 5 March – 27 November, tells the stories of skilled convicts connected to Old Government House and more broadly the colony. The exhibition explores how those forcibly banished to the antipodes used their skills and acumen to become independent businesspeople who furnished the homes of their captors. These convicts were instrumental in transforming a place of exile into a modern settlement with a thriving local economy.

Through an exploration of convict artisan crafts, we turn the lens onto convict ingenuity, skill, perseverance, and entrepreneurship. Bereft of family and exiled from their home, convicts produced and sold their wares to ultimately gain their freedom in the colony, seizing all opportunities. While this exhibition showcases the artisan and exquisitely made wares made by convict hands, the exhibition is fundamentally about the lives of these people told through their objects.

From convict love tokens to beautifully detailed silverware, the exhibition includes furniture made by Laurence Butler and Alexander Hart, clocks by James Oatley, art by Joseph Backler and Joseph Lycett, pottery by John Moreton and Jonathan Leak, and textiles made at the Parramatta Female Factory.

An exciting component of the exhibition is a multimedia artwork created by a Western Sydney artist in response to a convict made bed, exploring the ideas of industry, the convict labour system, and the impact that making a colony had on the Indigenous people forced from their land.

Access: Please note this exhibition is located on the top floor of Old Government House, up a flight of stairs.


Exhibition details

This exhibition runs Saturday 5 March – Sunday 27 November 2022 in accordance with Old Government House opening hours and days, as listed below. Last entry at 3.30pm for 4pm closing.


How to book your tickets

Your exhibition ticket also grants full access to the house.

Book via Eventbrite where possible, to guarantee a spot.



Please contact the property direct using the details below.


View of part of the town of Parramatta in New South Wales taken from the south side of the river; drawn by J. Eyre; engraved by W. Presston 1813.
Old Government House dining room. Sideboard attributed to Laurence Butler c1810. Private lender. Photograph by Mark Bowyer

Old Government House

Old Government House


Parramatta Park, Pitt Street Entrance
Parramatta 2150 NSW


Old Government House will be closed Thursday 22 September 2022 for the National Day of Mourning.
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 4pm

(02) 9635 8149
Entry Fees:

National Trust Members – FREE
Adult - $15
*Concession/child - $10
Family - $35
Children under 5 years – FREE
(* Concession applies for full-time students, seniors, pensioners and children aged 5-15 years.)
Booking fees apply.

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