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HM Prison Pentridge
Location Coburg, Victoria
Coordinates 37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917Coordinates: 37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917
Status Closed, partly demolished
Security class Maximum security
Opened 1851
Closed 1997

HM Prison Pentridge was an Australian prison built in 1850, with the first prisoners arriving in 1851 and located in Coburg, Victoria. The prison officially closed on 1 May 1997.[1]

Pentridge was often known by the nickname The Bluestone College, Coburg College or the College of Knowledge. The grounds were originally landscaped by renowned landscape gardiner Hugh Linaker.[2] Since decommissioning, the prison has been partly demolished to make way for a housing development [1] which threatens preservation of the history of the site. Large buildings have been built and a 16 floor modern apartment block is being planned.

The site is split in two with the northern prison being developed by Valad Property Group and the other areas by Pentridge Village. The former have proven to be uninterested in the history of the prison and are hoping to "re-brand" the site in order to make their apartments, wine bars, hotels and cafes more marketable.

The recent removal, without prior permission, of the famous "HM Prison Pentridge" sign from the National Trust Listed front gate of the Prison might be an example of their disregard for the significance of the site. The front gate showing the "HM Prison Pentridge" sign is featured on the cover of Australian band Airbourne's debut album Runnin' Wild[3].

The 1994 Australian film Everynight ... Everynight details prison life inside Pentridge's H Division.[4]. The opening scene of this film is considered to be one of the most accurate portrayals of what was H Division's mandatory "reception bash".

The 2000 Andrew Dominik film "Chopper" was partially filmed in H Division. The early parts of the film feature H Division and provide a powerful insight into the harsh nature of the division.

The 1988 John Hillcoat and Evan English film "Ghosts... of the Civil Dead" was largely based on events that occurred at Pentridge prison's Jika Jika maximum security division.



The prison was split into many divisions, named using letters of the alphabet.

  • A - short and long-term prisoners of good behavior
  • B - long-term prisoners with behavior problems
  • C - Vagabonds and short term prisoners, where Ned Kelly was imprisoned (Demolished in 1976)
  • D - remand prisoners
  • E - similar to “A”
  • F - remand and short-term
  • G - psychiatric problems
  • H - high security, discipline and protection
  • J - Young Offenders Group- Later for long-term with record of good behavior
  • Jika Jika - maximum security risk and for protection, later renamed to K Division

Jika Jika high security unit

The Jika Jika exercise yard. The enclosed roof was to avoid attempts to escape by helicopter

Jika Jika, opened in 1980 at a cost of 7 million Australian dollars, was a 'gaol within a gaol' maximum security section, designed to house Victoria's hardest and longest serving prisoners. It was awarded the 'Excellence in Concrete Award' by the Concrete Institute of Australia before being closed in the middle of controversy after the deaths of five prisoners in 1987.[5]

The design of Jika Jika was based on the idea of six separate units at the end of radiating spines. The unit comprised electronic doors, closed-circuit TV and remote locking, designed to keep staff costs to a minimum and security to a maximum. The furnishings were sparse and prisoners exercised in aviary-like escape proof yards.

In 1983 four prisoners escaped from ‘escape proof’ Jika Jika. When two prison officers were disciplined in relation to the Jika Jika escape a weeklong strike occurred.

1987 Jika Jika prison fire

In a protest initiated by conditions in Jika Jika, inmates Robert Wright, Jimmy Loughnan, Arthur Gallagher, David McGauley and Ricky Morris - from one side of the unit - and Craig 'Slim' Minogue and three other inmates on the other side sealed off their section doors with a tennis net. Mattresses and other bedding were then stacked against the doors. The windows in the day room were then covered with paper so the prison officers couldn't identify which prisoners caused the ensuing damage. Plumbing was then torn from the walls in the cells to enable the prisoners to breathe after the fire started, as Jika Jika was a climate controlled division and devoid of any fresh air circulation.

In spite of the men's attempts to avoid the toxic black smoke by breathing through the plumbing, prisoners Robert Wright, Jimmy Loughnan, Arthur Gallagher, David McGauley and Ricky Morris died in the fire. Convicted Russell Street bomber Craig Minogue and 3 other inmates survived as they were evacuated when the fire started.

Victorian Attorney General and Minister for Corrections Jim Kennan ordered the closure of Jika Jika immediately afterwards.

Proposed Demolition of H Division Yards

In 2009 Valad Property Group submitted their redevelopment masterplans to the Minister for planning Justin Madden. They contained the demolition of the 100 year old labour yards at the eastern end of A Division in order to make way for a road. These yards are an important example of 19th century attitudes towards prisoner rehabilitation, they measure only around 4m by 5m and were where prisoners broke rocks with hand held hammers until the mid 1970s. After 1958 the yards became part of H Division, the prisons notorious punishment and protection division. The yards were the scene of numerous murders, suicides, stabbings, bashings and riots and during the 1970s were a focal point of what became a broad based drive to "ban the bash" (unofficial beatings from guards) in Victorian prisons. This division is also where Ronald Ryan, the last man executed in Australia, spent his last night alive and where Bill O'Meally became the last man to be flogged in Australia in 1958. These yards are an important part of Australia's penal and social history as well as being an extremely evocative example of what was one of Australia'a most feared and brutal penal divisions. The current plan to demolish the yards is seen by many as a disgraceful, disrespectful and short-sighted proposal for a place which holds national and state significance.

Grave sites

Ned Kelly the day before his execution by hanging. His remains are buried at the former Pentridge Prison site.

The grave site of bushranger Ned Kelly lies within the former walls of Pentridge Prison while Ronald Ryan's remains have been returned to his family. Kelly was executed by hanging at the Melbourne Gaol in 1880 and his remains moved to Pentridge Prison in 1929, after his skeleton was disturbed on 12 April 1929, by workmen constructing the present Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) building. The gravesite, as of 2005, is covered in many weeds and is largely unkept by the developers, who have fenced off the area until a decision is made on its upkeep. Reverend Peter Norden, former prison chaplain at Pentridge Prison is campaigning for the site's restoration.

As of 2009, most of the bodies have been exhumed by archaeologists and are either awaiting identification at the Melbourne morgue or have been returned to their families. The developers of the prison continue to push for the sidelining of the site's history in order to make apartments more marketable. Removal and inadequate commemoration of the grave sites is an example of this.


Notorious prisoners

Entrance of Pentridge gaol circa 1861.


  • 1850's 'F' Division opened
  • 1870's 'G' Division opened as an Industrial Reformatory School
  • 1894 Female prison at Pentridge ('D' Division)
  • 1951 Last woman executed in Australia, Jean Lee is hanged.
  • 1967 Last execution in Australia - Ronald Ryan (between 1842 and 1967, 186 prisoners were executed)
  • October 1987 - Five prisoners die in a fire in Jika Jika during riots over prison conditions. Craig Minogue and 3 other inmates survived the fire.
  • 1 May 1997 - Pentridge Prison is closed.
  • Present day - Development threatens the integrity and preservation of the sites important history


  • 1899 Pierre Douar - Suicided after recapture
  • 1901 Mr Sparks - never heard of again
  • 1901 John O'Connor - Caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1926 J.K. Monson - caught several weeks later in W.A.
  • 1939 George Thomas Howard - caught after two days
  • 1940 K.R. Jones - Caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1951 Victor Franz - caught next day.
  • 1952 Kevin Joiner - Shot dead escaping
  • 1952 Maxwell Skinner - pushed off prison wall broke leg[6]
  • 1957 Willam O'Malley - caught after 15 minutes
  • 1957 John Henry Taylor - caught after 15 minutes
  • 1961 Maurice Watson - caught next day
  • 1961 Gordon Hutchinson - caught next day [7]
  • 1965 Ronald Ryan - caught in Sydney 19 days later
  • 1965 Peter Walker - caught in Sydney 19 days later
  • 1972 Dennis Denehy - [8]
  • 1972 Gary Smedley - [8]
  • 1972 Alan Mansell - [8]
  • 1972 Henry Carlson - [8]
  • 1973 Harold Peckman - [9] caught next day
  • 1974 Edward "Jockey" Smith - [10]
  • 1974 Robert Hughes -
  • 1974 George Carter - [11]
  • 1976 John Charles Walker - [12]
  • 1977 David Keys - [13]
  • 1980 Gregory David Roberts (at the time known as Gregory Smith) - escaped in broad daylight with Trevor Jolly and subsequently went to India after a brief period in New Zealand [14]
  • 1980 Trevor Jolly - [15]
  • 1982 Harry Richard Nylander - [16]
  • 1987 Dennis Mark Quinn - [17] Recaptured in New Zealand 19 days later

External links


  1. ^ a b Egger, Simone; David McClymont (2004). Melbourne. Lonely Planet. p. 69. ISBN 1740597664. 
  2. ^ "Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital Precinct". Register of the National Estate. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  3. ^ Airbourne's official site, accessed 1 August 2009
  4. ^ Everynight... Everynight, National Film and Sound Archive, Accessed 08 March 2008
  5. ^ O'Toole, Sean (2006). The History of Australian Corrections. UNSW Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0868409154.,M1. 
  6. ^,5742812&dq=pentridge+escape
  7. ^,2135713&dq=pentridge+escape
  8. ^ a b c d,1851196&dq=pentridge+escape
  9. ^,231743&dq=pentridge+escape
  10. ^,3466676&dq=pentridge+escape
  11. ^,803406&dq=pentridge+escape
  12. ^,6284122&dq=pentridge+escape
  13. ^,5176054&dq=pentridge+escape
  14. ^,3866510&dq=pentridge+escape
  15. ^,3866510&dq=pentridge+escape
  16. ^,2224129&dq=pentridge+escape
  17. ^,6247202&dq=pentridge+escape

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