JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM, SHAUNA MULLALLY & NATASSJA WYNHORST
The halls of Fremantle Prison will come alive again for a charity fundraiser this Saturday, with guests locked up in cells for the night.
‘Convicts for a Cause’ invites guests to dress up as their favourite crook before they’re thrown in the slammer where they’ll stay until they reach a $500 charity bounty through donations both online and at the event.
Organiser, Alison Dalziel (pictured), said she understood that some people may view use of the historic prison for events as disrespectful to the past.
“It is quite a painful history,” Ms Dalziel says.
“I do sympathise with that view, although for us we are guided by the fact that we are allowed to use the venue for events.
“We certainly mean no disrespect to the past by using the venue.”
Convicts for a Cause will raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes Research WA, and two Rotary clubs – Rotary Perth and Mount Lawley.
Ms Dalziel says they aim to raise between $60,000 and $80,000.
Fremantle historical author Ron Davidson says social functions at the prison disrespect the gaol’s history, which included at least 44 executions on the grounds between 1889 and 1964 when Eric Edgar Cooke became the last man to be hanged in Western Australia.
“There are a lot of interesting things about the prison, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to have these special themes and events,” Mr Davidson says.
He wrote the book Fremantle Impressions, which discusses the social life of the port city in the early 1900s, detailing the life of infamous convict, Shiner Ryan, whose father was a mate of Mr Davidson’s dad.
Shiner Ryan was released in the 1940s, and became a well known socialite around Fremantle.
“People should treat [the prison] with a bit more respect and a bit more care with what it is really about, and I don’t think it’s about screams and ghosts,” Mr Davidson says.
Fremantle Prison is recognised on the World Heritage List, under the Australian convict sites nomination.
Its rich history and infamous names from 14 decades of operation attracted more than 193,000 visitors in 2014.
The prison was built by convicts in the 1850s and was later decommissioned as a full operating prison in 1991.
Many terrible and dark things took place during its operation, including hangings, floggings, prisoner riots and some well-known escapes.
Fremantle Prison Retail Service Coordinator Amberlee Hong says the gaol permits events such as weddings on the grounds.
“Fremantle Prison remains one the most intact convict sites in the world,” she says.
“It’s the perfect location to interpret this fascinating element of world history.”
The prison has confined many Western Australian larrikins including Fremantle local and original AC/DC front man the late Bon Scott, and 1860s jailbreak legend Moondyne Joe.