The Hay Gaol is an example of James Barnet's Hay-type gaol, a classification defined by JS Kerr in his 1988 book ''Out of Sight, Out of Mind' in which Kerr differentiates Barnet's Hay-type gaol from the more common Braidwood-type gaol design of the previous colonial architect. The main difference between the two designs is that the Hay-type gaol is single-storey and the cells larger than the two-storey Braidwood-type gaol. Other gaols built to the Hay-type pattern were at Young (1876-78), Tamworth (1879-81) and Wentworth (1879-81). Of these buildings; Young was destroyed in a fire, with only the gate house remaining and Tamworth is still in use by the Department of Corrective Services. The Wentworth and Hay sites are open to the public, both are currently museums. Braidwood-type gaols were built at: Braidwood, Albury, Armidale, Mudgee, Grafton, Wagga Wagga, Yass and Deniliquin. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
The Hay Gaol is constructed of English bond red brick, made locally by the Headon Brothers at a kiln in North Hay. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Perimeter walls and watchtowers: A perimeter wall 5 meters (15 feet) high and 23 centimetres (nine inches) thick surrounds the complex. There are two watchtowers on diagonally opposite corners of the wall. A catwalk originally ran above the wall with supports on either side. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Entranceway: The imposing entrance gateway (in contrast to the utilitarian nature of the rest of the design) bears various forms of decoration including; rusticated quoins, moulding over the entrance arch with keystone emphasis, a dentil course, and a parapet with the royal cypher in the centre. Solid double wooden doors, with an inset smaller door, complete the imposing appearance of the front of the gaol. Inside the front gate is a small barred entrance court, with two small rooms marked 'office' and 'guard' in the original plans for the gaol. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Cell block: Today the cell block contains 14 cells. Its brick walls are 46 centimetres (18 inches) thick and the building has a hipped corrugated iron roof and a gabled entrance. Cells have small barred windows and thick iron doors with peep holes. One cell has additional colonial-style prison bars; it is unclear as to whether all cells were equipped with such bars, but this is doubtful. A closed in verandah at the back of the cell block leads into a large metal shed. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Services block: Within the compound an L-shaped block with a hipped iron roof and a verandah houses the kitchen, hospital, dispensary, bathroom, store and large workshop. Rainwater from the roofs was collected in a large underground tank. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Solitary confinement cell: A free standing solitary confinement cell stands in the centre of the compound. Evidence of a second solitary confinement cell attached to the west of this structure is evident. A tin shed housing male toilets and used for storage now abuts the western wall of this structure. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Gaoler's residence: A gaoler's residence is located outside the compound on the western side of the entranceway. The structure has a hipped iron roof, verandah, the tall chimneys have cornices and windows have flat arches. The structure abuts the perimeter wall. A small free standing carport was added to the south of the complex at some stage. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Officer's residence: A second, three bedroom residence, is located outside the compound on the eastern side of the entranceway. This building was added in 1935 when the Public Works Department called tenders. Local builders Butterworth and Co constructed the cottage. This structure does not abut the perimeter wall. A free standing residential sized shed and carport has been added to the back of this residence at some stage. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Perimeter walls and watchtowers:
1961: Catwalk is removed from perimeter walls
1961: Stays are installed to the exterior of the eastern wall
Entranceway - office:
Possibly 1961: Interior of office subdivided to house two small offices and washroom for admitting newly admitted girls.
2004: Interior subdivisions are removed due to white ant attack and space is established as exhibition space interpreting the history of the site
1896: Two additional cells for female prisoners were added to the cell block
Date unknown: Two original larger cells were halved in size to become the same size as the other cells
Date unknown: Back verandah closed in
1961: Cells are modified to include simple seat and bench for girls' institution and electricity added to cell block
1961: Cells are painted and scrubbed by girls for girls' institution
Post 1974: Large shed for housing museum collections was added to the northern end of the cell block
Post 1974: Cells modified to include housing and security for museum exhibits
2003: Small room used by night staff when the gaol was a girls' institution is dismantled due to white ant attack
Date unknown: verandah added probably after 1974
Solitary confinement cell:
1899: Two solitary confinement cells were constructed in the courtyard
Date unknown: The western solitary confinement cell is removed
Pre 1973: A tin structure, including male toilets, is added to the western side of the remaining solitary confinement cell.
1897: Wash house added to the gaoler's residence
Date unknown: At some stage the underground water tanks in the compound may have been removed.
1898: Acetylene gas is connected to the kitchen and hospital.
1899: Gas lighting is installed in all the cells in 1899
1930: Gaol connected to town gas and sewerage
[Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
The Hay Goal is in a deteriorating physical condition. It has many modifications from its original use as a colonial prison but a study of the physical fabric of the site would yield information about the Gaols history of use. Paint scrapings in the cell block to determine the various paint and surfaces of the different eras is considered important to the possible future interpretation of the site. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Whilst the Gaol currently functions as a community museum, the Hay Gaol Management Committee has started work on projects interpreting the history of the site. Concrete paths laid by girls at the girls' institution remain in the building fabric as does the girls' laundry box. Objects related to the history of the site, particularly when the Gaol was a girls' institution remain in the Hay Gaol Museum collection as significant objects. The Hay Gaol Museum also holds historical images of the site. [Hay Council SHR nomination, 2006]
Aboriginal communities in the western Riverina were traditionally concentrated in the more habitable river corridors and amongst the reedbeds of the region. The district surrounding Hay was occupied by at least three separate Aboriginal groups at the time of European occupation of their lands. The area around the present township appears to have been a site of interaction between the Nari-Nari people of the Lower Murrumbidgee and the Wiradjuri who inhabited a vast region in the central-western inland of New South Wales (Wikipedia entry on Hay, 17/1/07). The groups in the western plains and Riverina were dislocated as the equipoise of their hunting, fishing and collecting was disrupted by increasing British occupation of their lands in the 1830s and 1840s. Aboriginal missions were created in NSW the 1890s and displacement continued under the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909. (DUAP et al, Regional Histories, pp192-193) [Comment on Stolen Generation].
British occupation of the area
In 1829 Charles Sturt and his men passed along the Murrumbidgee River on horses and drays. During the late-1830s stock was regularly overlanded to South Australia via the Lower Murrumbidgee. At the same time stockholders were edging westward along the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Billabong and Murray systems. By 1839 all of the river frontages in the vicinity of present-day Hay were occupied by squatters. By the mid-1850s pastoral runs in the western Riverina were well-established and prosperous. The nearby Victorian gold-rushes provided an expanding market for stock. The prime fattening country of the Riverina became a sort of holding centre, from where the Victorian market could be supplied as required. (Wikipedia entry on Hay, 17/1/07)
The locality where Hay township developed was originally known as Lang's Crossing-place (named after three brothers named Lang who were leaseholders of runs on the southern side of the river). It was the crossing on the Murrumbidgee River of a well-travelled stock-route (known as 'the Great North Road') leading to the markets of Victoria. In 1856-7 Captain Francis Cadell, pioneer of steam-navigation on the Murray River, placed a manager at Lang's Crossing-place with the task of establishing a store (initially in a tent). In August 1858 steamers owned by rival owners, Francis Cadell and William Randell, successfully travelled up the Murrumbidgee as far as Lang's Crossing-place (with Cadell's steamer Albury continuing up-river to Gundagai). By October 1859 "Hay" had been chosen as the name for the township [after John Hay (later Sir John), a wealthy squatter from the Upper Murray, member of the NSW Legislative Assembly and former Secretary of Lands and Works] (Wikipedia, 17/1/07). Hay, situated on the Murrumbidgee, was gazetted as a town in 1859. (DUAP et al, Regional Histories, pp194). In the late nineteenth century, several grand buildings representing Hay's aspirations to become the capital of the Riverina were built. However inter-colonial disputes over trade thwarted these aspirations and instead of booming Hay remained small and isolated, but importantly connected to Sydney via a rail line (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
The Gaol's beginnings, 1870 to 1915
Hay's original gaol was a brick lockup at the rear of the Hay Courthouse. In 1878 it was decided to erect a large new gaol on a reserve especially set aside for that purpose. The Hay Gaol's grand scale reflected the view that Hay, as the transport hub of a wealthy wool-growing area, would become the major regional centre in the Riverina. Local builders John and James Witcombe built the Gaol to a design by NSW colonial architect James Barnet. [Comment on Hay-type gaol design]. The Hay Gaol opened on 21 December 1880 under police control. It was used mainly for offenders with short sentences, as those imprisoned for long terms were sent to Goulburn Gaol. As the years went on Hay Gaol struggled to remain open, due to a lack of prisoners. By 1915 it was closed; at this stage it reportedly had one prisoner guarded by four wardens. The local newspaper, The Riverine Grazier, reported the escape of a Robert Chapman, alias Murray from the gaol in 1893. Closed as a regular prison in 1915 due to a lack of numbers, Hay Gaol's reputation as one of the most secure in the state, coupled with Hay's isolation and easy access to Sydney ensured the Hay Gaol reopen as an incarceration facility in later years (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
Hospitals: 1918 to 1940
Between the two World Wars, the Gaol buildings met Hay's medical needs. In 1919, during a local outbreak of the worldwide Spanish Flu epidemic, the Gaol was briefly used as an emergency hospital to isolate patients who couldn't be treated at the Hay Hospital. In 1921 Hay's Red Cross Society turned the Gaol into a maternity home. The two rooms at the front entrance became wards, as did the old hospital area. Many older Hay locals enjoy telling the tale that they were 'born in the Hay Gaol.' In 1930 the maternity home moved to a new site in Hay. That year, the state's gaols were congested, a result of the new Consorting Act which gave police more powers to convict well-known criminals. It was decided to reopen the Hay Gaol and connect the building to town gas and sewerage. The Gaol operated for ten years, in that time one escape was recorded; Reginald Arthur Dawson, a prisoner employed as a cook, scaled the wall of the Gaol using a rope made from towels and a poker. He was captured in a paddock five days later (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
Internment and POW camp facility:1940 to 1946
During World War II Hay was used as a prisoner-of-war and internment centre, due in no small measure to its isolated location. Three high-security camps were constructed there in 1940. The use of the Gaol as a detention and hospitalisation facility that serviced the POW camps from 1940 to 1946 brought aspects of the camps into the town's heart. The first internees were over two thousand refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria, many of them Jewish; they had been interned in Britain when fears of invasion were at their peak and transported to Australia in 1940 aboard the HMT Dunera. Interned under the guard of the 16th Garrison Battalion of the Australian Army they became known as the 'Dunera Boys'. Later that year began the arrival of Italian civilian internees. In February 1941, in the wake of the Cowra POW break-out, a large number of Japanese POWs were transferred to Hay and placed in the three high-security compounds. During 1946 the POWs who remained at Hay were progressively released or transferred to other camps, and the Hay camps were dismantled and building materials and fittings sold off by June the following year. The internment at Hay of the Dunera refugees from Nazi oppression in Europe was an important milestone in Australia's cultural history. About half of those interned at Hay eventually chose to remain in Australia. The influence of this group of men on subsequent cultural, scientific and business developments in Australia is difficult to over-state; they became an integral and celebrated part of the nation's cultural and intellectual life. The 'Dunera Boys' are still fondly remembered in Hay; every year the town holds a 'Dunera Day' in which many surviving internees return to the site of their former imprisonment (Wikipedia, 17/1/07). Today the Gaol is one of only a few buildings remaining in Hay associated with the camps.
Emergency housing 1952 and 1956 floods
After the Hay camps were broken up in 1946-7, the Gaol was used intermittently for emergency housing during the 1952 and 1956 floods, and as accommodation for Italian workers in town to build the new sewerage system (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
The Institution for Girls in Hay: 1961 to 1974
From 1961 to 1974 the Hay Gaol was managed by the New South Wales Child Welfare Department as a particularly coercive maximum security institution for girls between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The Institution for Girls in Hay, as it was officially known, was established in response to wide scale rioting at Parramatta Girls' Home in 1961. The aim of Hay was to separate the girls involved in the riots and those whose behaviours generally were considered too difficult to be managed at Parramatta. Girls were sent to Hay for three month sentences. Many of the girls detained at Hay in the Institution were Aboriginal. In its conception, as a facility for maximum security segregation; in its governing according to strict discipline and routine; and in its housing in an old colonial prison, Hay mirrored The Institution for Boys in Tamworth previously established in 1947 (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
The girls sent to Hay were drugged and removed from Parramatta at night. From Sydney, they were transferred to Narrandera on the overnight train and there moved to the back of a van for the final leg of the journey onto Hay. The Hay Gaol Museum has this van in its collection; significantly it has etchings 'girls' initials and the acronym 'ILWA' (I Love Worship and Adore) carved into its paintwork. Once in Hay the girls encountered a system of strict dehumanizing discipline and routine, often cited as being harsher than what they would have experienced in a women's prison. The girls were only allowed ten minutes, twice a day to talk between themselves; they had to have their eyes downcast at all times; they were only allowed to talk to a staff member by raising their arm and awaiting a response and at all times they had to be at least six feet apart from each other. The girls were worked hard; scrubbing, painting, cleaning, cooking, washing, laying concrete paths, tending vegetable plots and gardens and doing handicraft. The Hay Gaol Museum has handicrafts prepared by the girls in its collection and 'patchwork' concrete paths made by the girls still remain in the gaol courtyard. The girls received no schooling whilst institutionalised (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
When the first girls arrived at Hay in 1961 the cell block was unprepared and it was the work of the girls to scrub and paint the walls and floors of the cells, shabby from years of disuse. In later years, new arrivals were detained in the 'isolation cell' of the cell block; here they spent their first ten days in Hay, mostly confined to this cell, scrubbing its walls and floors with a scrubbing brush and alternately a brick. Girls who misbehaved were confined to the isolation block in the gaol courtyard for 24 hour periods, fed on nothing but bread and either water or milk. Subordinate staff members came from the local community and were for the most part untrained. Senior male staff were transferred to Hay from similar institutions such as Tamworth and Gosford boys' institutions. In their cells at night the girls were required to sleep on their side, facing the door so that when they were checked by guards, every twenty minutes to half an hour, their faces could be seen. One of the cells in the cell block is fitted out as it was when the gaol was a girls' institution. The objects furnishing the cell include; bed, bedding, toilet can and standard issue red cardigan (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
In the 1960s and 1970s governments started to move towards the closure the large institutions. Even before this time, two reports on Parramatta had questioned the appropriateness of the institution and public opinion generally, was decrying institutions for children as anachronisms. In mid 1974 Dick Healey, the new Minister for the Department of Youth and Community Services closed Hay and Parramatta and started to overhaul the outdated 1939 Child Welfare Act, under which the institutions had been created and administered. By the time Hay was closed, many people had already expressed concern about it; in August 1962 Hay locals reported screams from within its walls in the local newspaper; also in 1962, Anne Press, a member of NSW Parliament, visited and then raised concerns about Hay in Parliament; staff working at the institution were also writing letters to the Child Welfare Department and in 1973 child welfare activist Bessie Guthrie convinced ABC journalist Peter Manning, to investigate Hay and Parramatta for an episode of This Day Tonight. The program screened on the ABC in August 1973 (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
Despite the closure of Hay, Parramatta, and other institutions for children the after effects of these places continue to impact society and survivors of these childhood institutions still carry emotional, mental and physical scars. In August 2004 the Senate Inquiry: Forgotten Australians; A report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children was released. The Committee received 614 submissions and estimated that 'upwards of, and possibly more than 500 000 Australians experienced care in an orphanage, Home or other form of out-of-home care during the last century. As many of these people have family it is likely that every Australian either was, is related to, works with or knows someone who experienced childhood in an institution or out of home care environment.' (Senate Committee Report, 2004, p.xv) The memories of some Hay survivors are recorded in submissions to the committee. One woman recalls: 'Hay was the most inhumane place that anyone could be in and it was in Australia. We had to scrub freshly painted cells with bricks and wire brushes when we went into Hay, listening to the drill with the girls running on the spot. We were told that it would make you or break you, and for many it did: it broke a lot of spirits. We [have] to reclaim those spirits.' (Wilma Robb speaking to Senate Committee on 3 February 2004) The Committee made 34 recommendations as a result of the inquiry and recommendation 34 states that heritage centers be constructed on the site of former institutions (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
In addition to speaking up at the Senate Inquiry, many Hay survivors are starting to return to Hay and the gaol to tell their stories to the local community. A common feeling in the Hay community is one of dismay at the suffering of the girls matched by concern at never really knowing what went on behind the walls of the gaol. A reunion of Hay and Parramatta girls is planned at the Hay Gaol on the weekend of 3-4 March 2007. The weekend includes a professionally developed museum theatre production performed by locals and a haunting sound and light display in the cell block (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).
A community place: today
Today, the Hay Gaol Museum is a treasured community place, dedicated to the preservation, understanding, expression and celebration of Hay's identity and community spirit. A team of dedicated volunteers cares for the museum, its exhibits, archives and grounds. Local craft groups meet here to patch, quilt and spin and visitors come to discover our town's story. The Gaol Museum is the focal point of Hay's Australia Day celebrations; a tradition that goes back to the 1970s. The Hay Gaol Museum is one of Hay's five vibrant museums. The museum program in Hay is supported by the Hay Shire Council, who in addition to providing direct financial assistance to the museums also supports the program by employing a Community Curator to work with museum custodians. Hay's five museums are central to the development of cultural tourism in Hay and as such are important to diversifying the local economy. The Hay Gaol, as both an iconic building and museum housing significant collections related to Hay's social and pastoral history is an important feature of this program (Hay Council SHI nomination 2006).