To experience Fremantle Prison today is to be transported back to a dark time in Western Australia’s history. Initially conceived for British convicts in 1855, Fremantle Prison later housed local convicts; even women convicted of crimes such as idleness or loitering did time here. The prison’s history doesn’t lack for drama. Poor treatment of prisoners was the norm (a bucket served as a toilet for most prisoners) and changes came slowly, if at all. A riot took place in 1988, during which prisoners took guards hostage and a giant fire ensued. More than 40 hangings took place in the gallows of Fremantle.
One can see how cell blocks changed over the many years, from solitary cells void of any furnishings, up to more recent decades when TV sets were allowed in some cells and even mural painting by inmates transformed their private spaces. These changes, however, hardly erase the brutal winters convicts suffered, the poor diet they endured and the drudgery of their daily labor. Massive amounts of heavy netting was hung below the multi-tiered cell blocks for a reason.
The prison remained in operation until 1991 and still, no indoor pluming was ever installed for the inmates. The bucket endured. Today Fremantle Prison is a World Heritage Site with several thousands of visitors yearly.
My photographs can only tell a minute part of the story; the story of endless lives held in captivity here beginning in 1855, and whose voices and footsteps still echo through its sorry halls, yards and tunnels to this today.