A little-known aspect of Australian history is the subject of Echo Theatre's debut production - which is also the play's Australian professional premiere.
Jaki McCarrick's 2015 play Belfast Girls is set on a ship bound for what is now Australia.
Director Jordan Best says, "This is a bit of Australian history I knew nothing about. From 1848 to 1850 more than 4000 Irish women came to Australia as part of Earl Grey's Orphan Scheme."
The play tells the story of five orphaned women leaving home to escape poverty, prostitution and the potato famine. The famine was a huge disaster in which plant disease and greed combined to devastate the supply of potatoes on which many people subsisted. About a million people died and as many emigrated to other countries - like the "Belfast Girls".
The characters hope for a better life - even though they will be cheap labour as indentured servants in their new land and their futures are uncertain. Focusing on the women aboard the ship, the play deals with issues such as class, race and misogyny. It's done both dramatically and humorously as the women discover their similarities and difference during the long and sometimes terrifying journey.
Ellen (played by Joanna Richards), Belfast born and raised, is a prostitute.
Although she is not very smart, Best says the character "is very, very keen to learn and wants to better herself".
Sarah (Phoebe Heath) is "the most mysterious of them all", Best says, a woman who came to Belfast from the country where the famine hit very hard and ended up in the poorhouse.
"She's very angry with the English" - Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom and the British reaction to the famine exacerbated it, with harsh tactics by landlords and large food exports.
Molly (Eliza Jennings) is also somewhat mysterious, a former maid in a landlord's house who ended up in the workhouse (like the poorhouse, it was for the indigent, but as the name implies, people had to work for their shelter and meagre rations).
"You really get to know the women. [There's] a lot of tears and a lot of laughter" and, in the Irish fashion, "a lot of taking the mickey out of each other".Jordan Best
"She's smart and seems quite educated and forward thinking."
Hannah (Natasha Vickery) , like Ellen, is a prostitute. She, like Sarah, came to Belfast from the devastated rural areas and tries to see everything with a sense of joy and hope - especially for the women's uncertain futures.
And, finally, Judith (Isabel Burton), also a prostitute, is "a kind of outsider of the outsiders" - a mixed-race woman who came to Ireland from Jamaica and is now uprooting herself again.
"You really get to know the women," Best says, adding that the play has "a lot of tears and a lot of laughter" and, in the Irish fashion, "a lot of taking the mickey out of each other".
Belfast Girls, she says, is "sad and funny and most of all, hopeful."
And the real-life women - most of whom survived the journey here - had a lasting impact.
"If you think of the 4000 women as a percentage of the white population, it was a high percentage. They had a major impact on the culture and who we are today ... there are quite a lot of descendants out there."
Belfast Girls. By Jaki McCarrick. Directed by Jordan Best. Echo Theatre. The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. August 24-31. theq.net.au or 62856290.