Australiana (1989)

with financial support of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst
first performance: April 19-1991, de IJsbreker, Amsterdam
Charles van Tassel – baritone
Miny Dekkers – accordion

The composition is based on the stunning penal records of some of the ‘criminals’ who were deported to the English penal settlement in Australia. Various old, but also newly invented vocal techniques are applied in order to give expression to the absurdity of these records.
There are three songs: song 1: Thomas Willetts (also published seperately as a solo for baritone called A very bad Character), song 2:Charles Stagg (a record of his tattoos) and song 3: Robert Williamson and William Riley.


Thomas Willetts Number 1809
Tried at Warwick, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land
August 1834.
Trade: none. Complexion: dark. Hair: brown.
Visage: small. Eyebrows: brown. Nose: small.
Chin: small. Height: 4 feet 11 inches.
Head: small. Whiskers: none. Eyes: grey.
Mouth: wide. Remarks: Pockmarked, scar on right arm.
Convicted 7 years’ transportation for stealing stockings
and garden vegetables.
Character: very bad.


SONG 2 – CHARLES STAGG (record of his tattoos)
Mary Stagg, Thomas Stagg, crucifix,
five dots, crucifix, HK, Gwynson,
man with stick, dog, Liberty,
Eliza Smith, shoe, WS, X, Mary Robinson,
O, sun and blue marks and rings
all over right arm, man and woman,
two men fighting, TWSLSHS, 1842,
sun and moon on breast, anchor,

Endeavouring to excite prisoners to Abscond: 6 months in Irons.
Idleness: to lodge in a cell 10 nights.
Having a quantity of vegetables in his Possession: 1 month on chain gang.
Having a file in his Possession: 6 weeks in chain gang.
Making use of a most Grossly indecent Expression and subsequent malicious Conduct: 10 days solitary confinement.
Fighting at Work:48 hours solitary confinement.
Breaking Goal: 75 lashes.
Absenting himself from his Gang without leave: 14 days no.1 chain gang.
50 lashes for asking a Gaoler for a Chew of Tobacco.
3 months’ solitary confinement on the Chain for disobedience of Orders.
200 lashes for insolence to a Soldier.
3 months’ Gaol for being a short Distance from the Settlement.
100 lashes for smiling while on the Chain.
50 lashes for getting a light to smoke and for neglect of Work.
100 lashes for striking an overseer who pushed him.
8 months’ solitary confinement on the Chain for refusing to work.
100 lashes before all hands in the Gaol for insolence to the Sentry.
100 lashes for singing a Song.
100 lashes for saying while on the Chain for Mutiny :’O my God’.

(quoted in THE FATAL SHORE by Robert Hughes)