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Exploring Brisbane's most notorious prison with an ex-inmate
The imposing guard tower and red-brick walls of Boggo Road Gaol are an iconic sight along Annerley Road. Now an urban development, it's hard to believe that this Brisbane Gaol was once Australia's most notorious prison. Thousands resided here, 42 prisoners were executed by hanging and in the 1980's hunger strikes and riots made headlines. Operating for 119 years, this year marks 25 years since its closure.
Number 2 Division
Named after the boggy road that led to it, Boggo Road Gaol's infamous inmates included jail-breaker "Slim" Halliday and James Finch and John Stuart, the Whiskey Au nightclub fire-bombers.
Heritage listed Number 2 Division is open to the public and Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd has been conducting tours, experiences and events since 2010. There is no better way to explore this historic site, then with an ex-inmate.
Our guide, author and former inmate Larry Campbell, provided raw and insightful accounts of daily life inside these walls. Captivating stories included spending days in a cage scraping paint off metal brackets and bed heads, cooking steak on a shovel and emptying slop buckets A member of the Boggo Road Historical Society, Larry is extremely knowledgeable, having spent 14 years in the prison, entering at only 18 years of age.
Larry educated himself within the prison and defended himself in 11 trials, winning every trial. Passionate about rehabilitating youth, Larry's education has continued with Australian Penology studies.
We were invited to explore the two cellblocks where Larry spent many years. The cells have been empty since 1989. Paint was peeling from the concrete walls and the dim, cold cells housed rusty spring beds and old black and white photographs from when women resided there. Prisoner graffiti from the 1980s decorated the walls.
Cell at Boggo Road Gaol
Our tour also included a visit to the interview room, the prison bell, some amazing murals painted by talented ex-prisoners and the Superintendent's office, which now includes fascinating historical artefacts.
Ray Wallace Mural 1988
The tour concluded with Larry reciting a moving piece of poetry he wrote about life in prison. Larry has written a number of books including The Real Boggo Road, which provides an insight into prison life at Boggo Road Gaol in the 1960s, The Dream Breaker, which recounts how life in prison affects the youth and Queensland Offenders 1 and 2. Copies of Larry's books are available for purchase in the Jail shop.
Larry Campbell's books and interesting media articles
Ex-inmate tours are 1 hour 15 minutes in length and occur on the first and third Sunday of each month at 11.30am. Former prisoners and officers guide these tours. For a tour with Larry, please request specifically when booking. Tours include entry into historic Number 2 Division, a visit to the gatehouse, yards, the Circle and time to explore an original cell block. Due to the mature content discussed this tour is not recommended for children under 15 years of age.
The ex-inmate tours are a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. Larry was engaging and provided fascinating insights into life at Boggo Road in the 1960s.