Prison culture and heritage: Fremantle Prison Wall paintings and their artists

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Law and Social Justice


This is an exciting and innovative project which takes historical data and images used in a large-scale AHRC-funded project to co-create a new range of resources which will impact upon a wide range of people. We will produce a documentary which explores how and why two wall-murals were painted inside Fremantle Prison, an exhibition of nineteenth-century photographs of convicts in Hobart which shows how they still retain the power to challenge contemporary conceptions of criminals in the UK and Australia; and a set of online and printed resources which can be used tin campaigns and public-information strategies to increase social justice, and access to justice for marginalized sectors of the population.

This interdisciplinary innovative collaboration between criminologists, forensic anthropologists, filmmakers, cultural historians, heritage bodies, and a range of community-stakeholders, will develop resources which can be used to engage a wide range of different non-academic groups, including indigenous and white working-class communities in Western Australia; genealogists and family historians in Tasmania; undergraduates and school-students in both the UK and Australia. This kind of ambitious film-making and digital exhibition project is not without risk but has the potential to create a lasting and significant impact in both the UK and Australia.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from this research? We have set this out (below) as a ripple-out activity - the first benefits of this collaboration will be felt by academics, but (as stated below) we intend for the impact-ripple to spread to other communities.
Academics - This is a collaboration between experienced researchers who emerge from a number of disciplines, so we should attract an academic audience; and the project will serve as a model for interdisciplinary impact-creation which could disseminate good practice to the academic community. Participatory and community film-making techniques developed by Cooke in the UK may act as a model for Australian film-students; similarly, Wilkinson is a leading digital anthropologist and her work and techniques could increase capacity for this kind of work in Tasmania and Western Australia; and, not least, this academic team will benefit from engagement with cultural and heritage managers, and from working with indigenous communities in Australia. However, this is not a research project, and it is not primarily designed to impact upon the academic sector.

Heritage and cultural bodies - The exhibition at Hobart, and the film created in Fremantle will increase foot-fall, and public awareness of heritage assets, creating new audiences for their institutions. These will generate commercial gains, but we would also expect there to be a deeper level of beneficial engagement (particularly for Fremantle Prison) in helping the Western Australia Heritage Body to increase their engagement with indigenous communities (part of their mission statement).

NGOs/Activist groups/Working class and indigenous communities - the resources created (documentary films, briefing papers, factsheets, online clips, etc) will be made available to prison reform, indigenous social justice, and human rights groups to use in their campaigns. The resources will be powerful tools that can be wielded by campaigning bodies to challenge contemporary criminal justice policies, although the creation of higher levels of social justice is by no means an easy or an immediate task - our intention is that we will create a legacy of impact that will increase social justice in the Australian criminal justice system in the years after the funded-part of the project has concluded.
General public - we envisage that a large number of people will visit the Hobart Penitentiary exhibition, attend one of the free public lectures, or view one of the filmed documentaries. Most significantly we will provide for the public, accessible information on the lives of prisoners, and the experiences of indigenous and working-class communities in historic and modern-day Australia. We will therefore inform public sensibilities, challenge orthodox views, and create a new level of understanding about the challenges that members of marginalised communities cope with and overcome.


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