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The Melbourne Gaol

Yesterday, I visited The old Melbourne Gaol, the home of many of Australia’s infamous celebrities, including Ned Kelly. The works on the buildings started back in 1841, when there weren’t even streets in the area, and finished around 1850, when the space allocated for prisoners was already insufficient. Well, you can only imagine what the discovery of gold did to Melbourne at that time (1851) and how the need for a new block of cells was becoming more and more urgent. By the end of 1858, they built another one, which I got to visit yesterday. As you can imagine, in time, the gaol kept expanding with a hospital, a chapel, exercises yards, etc, until 1924 when it got closed. Later on, during the WWII, they found another use for it, by scaring young soldiers who were back on a leave and didn’t feel like going back to the horrors of wars. However their stay was mainly temporary, in between 1 day and maximum 10-14 days, just enough to scare them.

The block I got to see was a 3 level building, each level with its own type of detainees: ground floor, the newcomers and ill-behaved, the second floor, to the ones that obeyed the rules and third floor, prisoners that weren’t as dangerous and those who were nearing release. The prison cells were really small, my guess would be around 4 sqm, and they would spend 23 hours locked in there. There was only one hour of solitary exercise, in a courtyard that was actually quite small. They were also not allowed to talk at all times and they had to wear masks which were called “silence masks” and which left uncovered only the eyes area. Something similar to the one in The Man With The Iron Mask, but not as fancy.

Part of this tour included for visitors to go through the getting arrested procedure and experience a little of the back then experience. This one proved very fun, although I can only imagine the horror when it happens to you for real. Also, there’s lots of reading about former inmates and people that actually stayed in those cells and what can I say, many of them sounded as innocent as the next guy. There is one famous case in which they proved the innocence of man in 2004, accused of raping and killing a little girl sometimes at the end of the 19th century. As you can understand, most of the trials back then, were based on testimonies, which usually came from people that were either holding grudges, or would hate you for some reasons independent of you. All I could think of is that I would have been a dead girl, by then, for sure. Anyway, here are some photos, hope you’ll enjoy them.

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