Australia · Pacific Ocean · photography · South West Rocks · travels

The stories these ruins could tell: Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks, N.S.W.

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An assignment I recently completed through the University of Tasmania, The Photo Essay, called for a series of seven to ten photos, each captioned, to tell a progressive story of the students’ choice. I spent several weeks away from home late last year and found photo opportunities everywhere I went, so the difficulty with this assignment was choosing which series of ten photos would tell the most interesting story.

The last time I visited Trial Bay Gaol at South West Rocks it was too early in the day for the ruins to be open to tourists, but I did enjoy a lovely visit from a family of curious kangaroos, who had spent the night ‘behind bars’. This visit, however, the gaol was open to the public, so my husband and I spent some time wandering around the confines, camera in hand, learning some fascinating history of this beautiful area.

Last Friday, the grades for the assignment were released and I was thrilled with my mark of 46/50! And the assignment reminded me so much of a blog post (written as a Word document) that I decided to share it with you today –

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The stories these ruins could tell: Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks, N.S.W.

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After walking through the entry of Trial Bay Gaol to the inner confines, the historic relevance is immediately evident. Now a South West Rocks tourist attraction, the roofless ruins stand as testimony to a time over a century ago when these buildings were used for a different purpose than they are today.

 

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Arriving in 1876, the first high-risk prisoners’ days involved carrying out hard labour. At the end of the day, these inmates were searched and locked in their cells for the night, with lights out at 9 pm.

 

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In an innovative project for the time, from 1889 the prison accommodated low risk, end of term inmates whilst they built a breakwater at Trial Bay to offer a safe retreat for passing ships. These prisoners learnt trades and skills while earning a small salary for their work.

Multiple arches provide visual portals into the inner reaches of the buildings, offering glimpses of what lies beyond.

 

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A mock prisoner demonstrates the sparseness of the cells and confined space, behind the bars of the securely locked cell door. Living a solitary life for many years did not bode well for some inmates who suffered psychologically from the isolation.

 

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In 1903 the prison was temporarily closed but reopened again between 1915 and 1918 to be used as an internment camp. After the outbreak of World War I, German men living in Australia were regarded as a threat to the security of the Empire, therefore, some wealthier and better-educated men were confined at Trial Bay Gaol. During these years, interns built three tennis court in a disused quarry near to the gaol, enjoying the recreational facilities the courts offered.

 

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Climbing approximately forty stairs to a tower overlooking the nearby surrounds, warders kept watch for ships in distress along the Pacific Ocean seafront. The gaol owned an old rescue boat which they used when necessary. The tower also served as an outlook for any escaped prisoners and of the eighteen escapees during 1887 and 1901, most were captured.

 

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Within the three rooms of the kitchen, including a scullery and bakehouse, prisoners prepared meals for their fellow inmates on a wood fired stove. The large display picture shows the activity of inmates in a room now stripped of any evidence of its past use.

 

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In a display of nurturing in the grounds of the gaol, a family of kangaroos pass away the hours, content within the safe enclosure of the gaol grounds. Signs in the area advise visitors not to approach the kangaroos, who can show aggression.

 

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Situated amid a display of old photographs, this scene shows the gaol intact and in full use. The section of the building on the far right with the arched opening still stands today. The buildings behind have since lost their roofs.

 

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After the gaol’s final closure in 1918, the buildings were left abandoned. Since the 1960’s the old gaol ruins have become a tourist attraction, displaying the majestic sandstone buildings with details of the historic events that have taken place during the last one-hundred-and-forty years.

What a story these ruins can tell.

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Australia · photography · remembering · respect

Trial Bay Gaol.

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You may recall a post I wrote in September of last year. It’s an easy story to remember if you visited around that time, as I showed you photos of a pair of adult kangaroos, hopping around behind the bars of the entry to the disused Trial Bay Gaol, along with their joey.

It might be an idea to take a moment to look back at these beautiful animals, to either jog your memory, or take a first look, so here’s the link ~

Can you spot the kangaroos?
Can you spot the kangaroos?

If you look very carefully at the photo above, up towards the building on the right hand side patch of grass, you will see how I first saw this adorable family. They eyed me for a moment or two before approaching, although little joey wasn’t too keen on coming face to face with a fur-less, two-legged creature holding a black box that made clicking sounds, and quickly scurried into its mama’s pouch! I did manage to take a few photos of him though, before he disappeared into her pouch, head first!

Way back, in the days of the open gaol.
Way back, in the days of the open gaol.

Work began on the building of the gaol in 1876, although it wasn’t completed until 1886, due to “difficulties in working the hard stone, inconsistent funding and contractual problems”. A southern wing was added to the gaol in 1900, yet three years later the building was closed.

Barred, yet beautiful.
Barred, yet beautiful.

I prefer to see the gaol as a lovely, historic building. Even though I realise there is a need for prisons, as not all folk in society deserve to be integrated in our day to day life due to their own bad judgement in their actions, it bothers me to think of the way men were treated in the early days of Australia. Many men, and women as well, were judged as criminals for the slightest misdemeanor. I can imagine the number of tormented souls who continue to walk the halls of this ruin. It’s not a part of history that Australia should be proud of. But I suppose all countries have parts of their history that they wish to be not spoken of.

What a view!
What a view!

In an article I read, Trial Bay Gaol is described as “an experiment with humane prison reform”, so I would take that as a positive sign that the powers that be of the time were questioning the old ways of treating prisoners. On the other hand though, the gaol only remained in use for twenty-six years ~ perhaps the experiment wasn’t a success!

The view from the building is amazing though, looking out across the ocean from the top of a hill, from what is now regarded as a “Heritage Listed Building”.

Trial Bay Gaol is located at South West Rocks, and while I was visiting the area with my son Adam last year, he guided the way to a lighthouse there that he knew of, telling me that I would love taking photos of the area. He wasn’t wrong. And I will show you those photos next time. 🙂

Australia · blessings · enchanting · freedom

Ask and it is Given ~ Kangaroos in the Wild.

What a treat to see a kangaroo coming up so close to my car!
What a treat to see a kangaroo coming up so close to my car!

Around the end of January this year you may remember that I did a series of posts on all things Australian. With Australia Day being celebrated on January 26th each year, it is a great time to take a look at Australian icons, and I really enjoyed sharing some of them here on my blog.

Karma asked if I would be showing you photos of any kangaroos or koalas. I told her at the time that I would see what I could come up with, having in mind that I could take a trip to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, about twenty minutes drive from my home, to take a few photos to show you some of our native animals.

Look, a whole little family!
Look, a whole little family!

Well, my trip to the wildlife sanctuary didn’t go to plan at that time, Mother Nature had other ideas for the people of the Tweed and Gold Coast areas. We spent weeks avoiding venturing outdoors, due to the tail end of a tropical cyclone hitting us!

The worst of the cyclone was over by the end of January, but the wet weather conditions continued for weeks. And what I really wanted you to see was kangaroos and koalas in their natural habitat and not in captivity.  I’ve heard that many of the people in other countries believe that Australians see koalas and kangaroos regularly, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t. Seeing our iconic marsupial mammals, which is what koalas and kangaroos are, in the wild is a huge treat for us too!

I didn’t forget Karma’s request, although I really wanted to see some native animals in the wild! As usual, The Universe responded to my request, and during the space of just one month I have had the privilege to see firstly kangaroos, then koalas, both in the wild!

I could see they were about to jump away and thought I wouldn't be seeing them again.
I could see they were about to jump away and thought I wouldn’t be seeing them again.

The kangaroos I found at a place called South West Rocks, where my son and I stayed a night at a motel on our way home from our trip down south in early July. Adam had been to South West Rocks with his father a couple of years ago when my husband took him there for a surf carnival. Adam loved the area and wanted us to spend a night there, telling me I would find heaps of very cool things to take photos of. I don’t think even Adam expected to see the kangaroos!

It was late afternoon when we arrived and by the time we had booked into our motel and headed out for a drive it was beginning to get dark, so the top photo, as you can see, has been taken at night-time. Regardless, I was thrilled to bits to actually see these kangaroos hopping around near my car!

Kangaroos legs are incredibly strong as you can see here by the way they jump.
Kangaroos legs are incredibly strong as you can see here by the way they jump.

The next morning Adam and I booked out of the motel early, to make the most of our time at South West Rocks before we headed home. First of all we drove to the lighthouse, where I took some photos of the lighthouse and the surrounding ocean. It is indeed an area of great beauty and Adam was right, I found plenty of photo opportunities there.

Next we went to Trial Bay Gaol. I won’t tell you about the gaol or the lighthouse now, but all will be revealed in a future blog post. I will tell you though that the gaol is no longer in use as a gaol!

As it was so early in the day we were the only car in the parking lot and all was quiet around the gaol, as I walked around snap, snap, snapping away with my camera. I walked up to the main entrance of the gaol and as I continued to take photos a movement caught my eye.

They jumped right up to me! Aren't they beautiful?
They jumped right up to me! Aren’t they beautiful?

At first I thought I was imagining things, but no, there they were, a mama, papa and little baby kangaroo ~ a whole family! All three looked very alert and I knew that they had heard the click of the camera and had seen me there, so I stayed still. Low and behold, suddenly, all three of them decided to come over and say hello to me!

I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful they were, with their big black-brown eyes, and the softest of fur. Well, I couldn’t touch them, they were behind the gate of the gaol, but I have touched kangaroo fur before and believe me, it’s very soft. I think it was all too much for the little joey tough as it quickly scurried into mama’s pouch once they had come over to me. The funny little thing, it didn’t right itself in the pouch though, so if you look carefully you will see one long, thin, black joey paw, peeking out of her pouch!

You can see here the little joeys long black hind leg sticking out of mama's pouch.
You can see here the little joeys long black hind leg sticking out of mama’s pouch.

The kangaroos stayed with me for a few minutes. I don’t know if they were expecting food, but I had nothing to give them, so after a short while they jumped away, out of sight.

Talk about magical moments. Anyone would have thought I was a visitor from overseas seeing kangaroos for the first time! It wasn’t just the joy of seeing them though and taking their photo. They were living freely in a wild habitat and not an animal sanctuary, and they trusted me enough to come right up close to me. What a privilege that was.

In my next post I will show you the koalas I saw. There is a funny story to the koalas, and I learnt a lot about them too! 🙂

And here's a close up photo of mama and papa.
And here’s a close up photo of mama and papa.