14 May 2011

Boggo Road Revisited

Looking to the main gates
Last month I was contacted by a reporter from a local newspaper who wanted to interview me about the future of the Boggo Road prison, given that the Ecoscience block next door to the prison had just been officially opened and the prison was still closed. We had a chat on the phone, then I sent her some documents clearly spelling out the position of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society, and finally we met up outside the prison for an interview and photo shoot. I took the opportunity to have a good look around the place (from the outside) and must say I was quite impressed with how well it was looking.

The interview itself went well enough, but I never saw the article as I was away camping for a while and missed that issue. It was only last week that a friend forwarded me a digital version, and I must say I was a bit surprised with the outcome. Headlined ‘JAILHOUSE ROT’, it had an angle on the story that did little to dispel some of the misconceptions floating around about the current state of play with Boggo Road. The following should hopefully tidy up some of those things:
  • Is the prison ‘being left to rot'? In my own opinion, the answer is definitely no. However, there are members of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society who think otherwise, a situation that has come about because of the difficulty in getting information and updates about the painfully slow site redevelopment process, and the general lack of access. 
  • Are the government trying to ‘offload management of the site onto a developer’? Well, yes they are, and the Public Works minister’s comments in the article that they ‘negotiating with a developer that would become caretaker of the site’ confirm this. However, the claim in the article that ‘the State Government is set to sell the iconic Boggo Road Gaol’ is simply not true, and was certainly never made by me. They are looking for someone to lease and manage the place, and it is not for sale. 
  • Finally, and less importantly, I was not an ‘original volunteer’ and did not take tens of thousands of schoolkids through the place on tours, as stated in the article - this was all the work of the ex-officers and other BRGHS staff who managed the site from the 1990s.
Side of the former staff quarters
Anyway, by the time I saw the article I had already been contacted by people who wanted to interview me for a documentary that was to be shot inside the old Boggo Road prison in early May. This was my first visit inside the place since 2006, and truth be told it was a strangely emotional experience walking into a place that I had spent so many great hours working in, but had been locked out of for so long. I can only imagine the feelings stirred among returning ex-officers or prisoners who actually had a much deeper experience inside there. Seeing my old office, walking around the perimeter track and yards, stepping inside the cellblock, sitting in the Circle, was all a step back in time for me. It was hard to believe five years have passed.

Yours Truly in front of F Wing
The place was looking pretty good, all things considered. A loose gutter here, a leaky tap there, and the cells could do with a sweep, but the grounds were in good order and not too different to how the historical society left them five years ago.

Looking from the Circle to the gatehouse
So, in a nutshell, I can report that the place is in generally good condition and is not rotting away, and that the state government, despite their lack of interest in heritage, is not looking to sell it off. There's been enough misinformation spread around about the reopening of Boggo Road lately and it is important to get the facts straight, if only to reduce the number of phone calls I get from people who've heard that misinformation and call me up worrying about it.


  1. Having grown up in Brisbane but now living in Sydney for many years, I am enjoying reading your history of the Boggo Road Jail.

  2. Thanks very much Sharn, splendid to hear that. Did you live near Boggo Road?

  3. I was surprised to see original water pipes being dug up across the road from the jail and that there were no historians doing a dig in that site - what a shame!! Hope the jail opens for tours!

  4. Austral Archaeology conducted a dig at the site in 2005, but not too much was found. There is something here about it: http://www.boggoroadgaol.com.au/History%20pages/Building%20the%20gaol.html

  5. well I'm sorry to say it will not open until 2013 now which is sad i was there when they had big party there back then the wall of jail cell was still standing but not any more and looking in the jail cells to me gave me the creeps but we all had fun heaps of bands on stage so we all had fun