In 1983 I was sentenced in the Tasmanian Supreme Court to the Term of my Natural Life in prison. In April 1996, under a new truth in sentencing law – Criminal Code Amendment (Life Prisoners and Dangerous Criminals) Act 1994 – my sentence was reduced to 21 years with a 12 and a half year non-parole term. I served 15 and a half years in total – 11 in maximum security, 2 at the Ron Barwick Medium Security Prison and another 2 years on Hayes Prison Farm outside New Norfolk.
I hated the cells. I hated the people. I hated the food. I hated everything about the place. I was released in November 1998 and served another 6 years on parole. I hated parole, too.
That means I paid the price under the law. I finished my sentence 9 years ago in 2004. And it’s been over 30 years since I first entered the gates of Risdon Prison.
OK that’s heavy. But it’s an essential aspect of understanding what the whole idea of Morgan’s Barn Mead is fundamentally about. If we can eventually get something worthwhile off the ground. Unfortunately, being an ex-convict in the modern age is a lot more restrictive and I’m a lot more unemployable (regardless of qualifications) than was true of our forebears.
I think our society has lost touch with a fundamental principle about serving one’s sentence and re-entering society. We’re now about revenge. About a God-fearing never-ending perpetual justice. Our society is right now about as far from believing in social redemption as we are of the Easter Bunny as a political candidate.
However, back in the late 1700s-1800s a sentenced convict once freed often started life over with a mind to doing legitimate business and under-pinned by a strong bent back. Many of our businesses were true to that tale.
My great great great great great grandfather Richard Morgan was exactly that example. He served out his seven year sentence on Norfolk Island and was granted 130 acres at Kangaroo Point, Clarence Plains – prime land directly across the river from what is now the heart of Hobart.
No, we don’t make mead for bigots and there’s no mincing words to that fact. The death penalty brigade will be more than happy scoffing a commercial beer and whining about our existence. What we do make is a damn fine mead. And whether or not we can get this up and running in the next few years it’s the only story we can offer.
An authentic Tasmanian convict story with an artisan product.