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

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


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 –


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


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


A Sense of Spirit · farewell · sisters · travels

The twenty-eighth to the twenty-eighth

sunsetDuring the last month I have spent more days away from home than I have there, an unusual occurrence for me being the home-body that I am.

On the twenty-eighth of October I began a ten-day trip south with my youngest daughter and when I have the time to sort through and edit almost five-hundred photos I took, I will share a few photos here.

Less than two weeks after returning home I headed north, this time to attend the wedding of my eldest daughter who married her long-time boyfriend in a gorgeous beach ceremony.

After returning home from the wedding, and with just enough time to complete and submit a university assignment and catch up on some work, I received news that I had been dreading – my brother-in-law, who had been ill for some years, had taken a turn for the worse. I had to be with my sister.

My big sister means the world to me and I have often cursed the geographic distance between us. Knowing that my brother-in-law, a man I have known all of my life, had just days, maybe even hours to live, had me packing my bags and heading south again.

On Friday night, after a six-hour drive, I arrive just in time to join my family at the hospital. We cried, hugged one another, laughed as we remembered the good times, and shed tears over the loss of a beloved family member.

The funeral is Friday and I will stay with my sister until after we say our final goodbyes to her husband. She has never lived alone before and the days and months ahead will be a time when she will have to make adjustments to the new life which has been forced upon her. Thankfully, she will not have to face the future completely alone – a beautiful girl with unruly curls and floppy ears will keep her company.

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe

Change is inevitable, but for the last month of the year I am hoping for a calm, peaceful time at home. The twenty-eighth October to the twenty-eighth of November this year has been a memorable month, for many reasons.