Fannie Bay Gaol in Darwin

posted in: Northern Territory

I found this old post from Darwin that I guess I hadn’t finished…

I can’t remember how we heard about the Fannie Bay Gaol while we were in Darwin, but we decided it would be good to go have a look.  Entry is by donation so it’s an affordable family attraction.  We thought it would be good for the kids to go inside the prison cells and learn a little about prison life.  This is probably one of those places that people who live in Darwin have never visited!

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Isn’t the Northern Territory flag pretty?  The white flower has seven petals representing Australia’s six states plus one for the NT.

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When you arrive the first building you see is the visitors’ building, where prisoners could meet with their visitors.  I wonder how old this sign is?

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Then we were off to the minimum security section.  It was a series of large cells with see-through walls.  Inmates could see and hear each other.

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There was an old toilet and sink in each cell.  You can just see the short privacy wall behind JitterBug (who has his prisoner face on).  The kids were very concerned about the lack of privacy.

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You can see in this cell there were some old beds set up.  Some even had old mattresses filled with straw and we wondered what it would have been like to sleep on them.  Softer than the floor at least.  I caught one child laying on one as soon as my back was turned.  Just had to try it out.  I won’t say which one, but if you know them then you know who it was!

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The infirmary building also held the gallows.  Two people were hung on these gallows, there were other hangings at the prison but they had all been done on temporary gallows erected for the occasion.  It was a bit spooky seeing the gallows and the trapdoor open beneath.  There was an information sign nearby that talked about what a job it had been digging out the ground for that trapdoor.  Australia has now abolished capital punishment, with the last execution taking place in 1967.

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Next we found the ablution block.  Before they had this they would take the prisoners down to the sea for a wash.  The prison is very close to the coast.  Apparently someone escaped during one of these trips to the ocean, so a separate building on site was built.

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Here they are having their showers!

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Then we found the separate confinement building.  Not the same as solitary, there were two cells right next to each other and you could hear anything that went on outside.  It was meant for prisoners who might have been a harm to themselves or others.  It was hot the day we were there, it would have been unbearable in some of these prison cells.  LadyBug (5) enjoyed locking us in the cell, this was the view through the small window in the door.

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JitterBug (8) was trying to bend down next to TurboBug (2) for a picture but TurboBug thought that meant he should bend down too.

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There’s JitterBug’s prison face again.

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It looks like they must have had their own outdoor yard, but the recreation area was right in front of this.  So I guess they could watch or hear what was going on but not participate.

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The recreation area was just an open grassy area, but the sign says the guards used to play ball games with the prisoners.  Wouldn’t happen these days!

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This was the muster area, I suppose the numbered squares were to line everyone up for a head count.

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Then we were off to the maximum security building.  See the signs on the wall in the background?  Some of the cells had information about the history of the police in the Northern Territory.  The signs looked dated, it seems like they are trying to expand their exhibits.

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Then we all took turns locking each other in.  Not all the cell doors closed properly, but many did.

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Look how skinny these doors are!  Each cell had a solid door and a mesh door behind it.  Not really made of mesh, but wire like the picture above.

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There were various displays of prisoner’s art and documents from the prison.  It was all very nicely done.

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We made a quick stop in the children’s prison, they were of course kept separate from the adults.  I considered leaving some of mine behind, but in the end we let them out of their cells.  😉

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Next was the women’s prison.  The kids all wanted to know why this one had shade!  Who knows what it looked like when the prison was operational.

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Us women were locked in for a short time.  It was interesting to see that the women had much more privacy for their showers.

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The laundry building was blown away during Cyclone Tracy in 1974.  After hearing about some of the other damage during the cyclone, I’m amazed the prison didn’t suffer more damage.

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This is right outside the gates.  See how close the ocean is? 

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And that’s our history lesson for the day!

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