Brisbane’s heritage-listed Boggo Road prison opened in the 1880s and closed in the 1990s. During that time it developed a reputation as one of the more notorious prisons in Australia and there are many stories to be told about it. You can find extensive information about this history on the Boggo Road Gaol website.
Most of the prison buildings on the reserve are now gone, with the exception of ‘No.2 Division’, which opened in 1903 and closed in 1989. This consists of three cellblocks and various admin and other buildings. The prison reserve and surrounding land is owned by the Queensland Government and will eventually be home to a range of residential, retail and government facilities.
The former prison was successfully run as a heritage venue by not-for-profit groups such as the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society (Inc.) from the mid-1990s to 2005. They initiated guided tours, museum exhibitions, events such as team-building and weddings, and also music and drama performances at the site before it closed during construction of the nearby Ecoscience Precinct.
What went wrong at Boggo Road?
Boggo Road reopened under a controversial private management model in 2012, the result of a backroom deal between a small business and then-premier Campbell Newman. This made it the only major heritage prison in Australia to be run for private profit.
This experiment not only locked out the dedicated people that had previously made the prison a successful heritage site, it also failed to deliver promised revenue and jobs.
Access prices were among the most expensive in Australia for similar sites.
The new management presented the prison more as a ‘haunted house’ than a serious and important social history site. There was no input from professional historians and heritage experts. Other voices and perspectives on the contested history of the prison were silenced.
Sadly, the potential of the old prison remains sadly unlocked.
Boggo Road is currently closed again, and it is hoped that a better not-for-profit management model will be implemented when it eventually reopens.