Three senior guides from the Port Arthur Historic Site, Lindsay Hamilton, Shelley Kube and Mel Andrewartha along with training officer Ernest Jilg were treated to insider’s tour of Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island recently. The behind-the-scenes tour was led by Parks and Wildlife Archaeologist Dr Jody Steele, who has been the driving force behind Darlington’s resurrection as a major Tasmanian heritage site.
Ernest organised the excursion as part of the ongoing cooperation between Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. This is the third historic site that Port Arthur guides have visited, following trips to the Female Factory at Ross and Richmond Gaol.
“I’d never been to Maria Island before, but Darlington amazed and impressed us,” said Ernest. “We were all astounded at how much of the historic fabric remains, not just the building but a lot of the equipment used at Darlington over the decades since its establishment as a penal settlement for secondary offenders in 1825.”
“It was more trouble to haul things off the island than to leave them there and as a result there are buildings full of interesting pieces from the convict periods, the era thereafter when Italian entrepreneur, Diego Bernacchi established vineyards and a cement factory and the farming period leading up to the island’s establishment as a National Park in 1971.”
Recently, half a million dollars was spent to stabilise and conserve the buildings. Once an Interpretation Plan is completed, Jody Steele hopes that guided tours of the site can be conducted.
“After seeing how beautiful the site is, I would recommend a trip to Maria Island to anyone who wants to see Australian History surrounded by stunning views, abundant wildlife and wonderful landscapes,” said Ernest. “After visiting Port Arthur, of course!”, he added.
Darlington Probation Station is one of the Australian convict sites currently nominated for World Heritage listing, along with others under the auspices of DEPHA – the Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites.