Around 100 people braved the famously chilly winds that rushed down the Hobart Rivulet from Mount Wellington yesterday afternoon to celebrate some of the less well-known history of Tasmania’s convict past which has been made more accessible to visitors.
The yards of the convict-era women’s prison have been filled with the footprints of the buildings that housed the women who were once held and worked there, as part of a project funded in part by a grant of $374,000 made under the Federal Government’s Your Community Heritage program.
The works have been managed by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, which assumed management of the World Heritage listed Cascades Female Factory in January 2012.
The $750,000 project has vastly improved the visitor experiences at the World Heritage listed site which once housed over 1000 people. Visitors will be able to explore the stories of convict women through interpretation media.
“All that remains of the original fabric of the site buildings are the imposing stone boundary walls,” said PAHSMA project manager, Dr Jody Steele.
“It was very difficult for visitors to understand what happened, or how the yards were laid out, or anything much at all about the lives of the women and children incarcerated here.”
“Now visitors can see, via the landscaping elements which show the various structures, locations and boundaries, where there were buildings and what those buildings were used for.”
“There are also pathways shown, which would have been the well-trodden pathways that women would have taken as they moved around within the prison walls each day, so it really does offer visitors a strong sense of the lives of the convict women who were here in the middle years of the nineteenth century.”
Interpretation elements, including a solitary cell, light boxes offering views of long-vanished buildings and illustrated signage, offer insights into the uses the Site has been put to during and after its years as a women’s prison.
“Before the female factory, there was a distillery on the site, and one of those circles that history tends to take, in more recent years, Yard One was home to a wine merchant,” said Dr Steele.
The improvements will be followed by the introduction of a small fee to visit the site from 1 October. The introduction of the fee follows consultation with volunteers and the local community.
“Funds raised through the $5.00 fee will contribute to the on-going conservation and improvement of the visitor experience at the Site,”, said PAHSMA Chair, Professor Sharon Sullivan.
“We also need to protect the substantial investment that has been made in these improvements, as well as the heritage fabric of the Site.”
Local South Hobart residents will continue to receive free entry to the historic site, and holders of Port Arthur Historic Site Ticket of Leave passes will also have free entry to the site, paying only for tours.
The Cascades Female Factory opened in 1828 and operated as a prison and place of punishment for re-offending female convicts, a female labour hiring depot, a hospital, a nursery, a place for pregnant convicts and a workplace.
As one of the only places of early female imprisonment with remains intact, it is one of the most significant sites of convict heritage in the world.
The Cascades Female Factory is one of eleven sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property.
More more information visit www.femalefactory.org.au