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HistoryAtWork has spent over twenty years working with communities, places and collections. Please explore our projects below to read about this work, and feel free to contact us if you would like to know more.


Fairlea. The history of a women's prison

Fairlea Women’s Prison opened to provide a system ‘such as will fit the prisoner to enter the world as a citizen’. The reform of Victoria’s prison service, starting with its female inmates, was to give Fairlea the lead in prison reform in Victoria at the time. In the late 1960s and the 1970s the women’s rights movement, an encroaching drug culture, and a movement away from longstanding conservative and paternalistic attitudes contributed to quite different ideas about the imprisonment of women, and some uncertainty of purpose at Fairlea.

A tragic fire in 1982 provided the impetus for the prison to restore itself and search for a fresh, progressive approach to female prisoner management. However in 1996 Fairlea was closed and Victoria’s prison system was privatised. The women moved to a newly constructed but private institution in Deer Park.

Behind the issues of prison reform lay the human and social dynamics of Fairlea, which can really be best understood as a dysfunctional family. This book, supported by often confronting oral testimony, tells the story of these dynamics and questions whether the women responsible for them were "mad, bad or sad".

CORE-the Public Correctional Enterprise and Australian Scholarly Publishing 1998
ISBN: 1 875606 52 1, Paperback, 64 pages