Named after the road which led to it, that became a boggy quagmire after rain, “Boggo Road Gaol” was officially known as the Brisbane Prison. For 109 years it dominated the skyline of the capital of Queensland. It’s stark red brick walls, and imposing guard tower on Annerley Road have become iconic for all the wrong reasons.
Boggo Road Gaol opened in 1883 as the Brisbane Gaol. Used mainly as a holding prison for those serving short sentences or on remand, its initial infamy came from it being a place of execution. In 1903, a new purpose-built separate women’s gaol was created. After nearly 20 years of use, H M Gaol for Women was closed, its female occupants shifted to another part of the prison site.
In the 1920s, the men of the St Helena Island prison in Moreton Bay were moved into the former women’s gaol. Renamed Number Two Division, this section became home to those serving the longest sentences – killers, murderers, and violent offenders. Three cellblocks became the homes of “Lifers”. Soon Boggo Road became notorious.
Boggo Road was the home, and the place of death, of some of the nation‟s most infamous inmates including:
- James Richard Finch and John Andrew Stuart – the Whiskey Au Go Go bombers;
- “Slim” Halliday – the “Houdini of Boggo Road”, who escaped twice becoming one of Australia’s most famous escapologists;
- Ernest Austin – a child-killer who was to become the last man to be executed in the state of Queensland;
- Florence MacDonald – stepmother of the “Longreach Cinderella”;
- Patrick Kenniff – Australia’s last bushranger.
For every infamous inmate there were thousands of ordinary people whose crimes made the newspapers – prostitutes, burglars, thieves, charlatans, frauds, drunks, political protesters, wife-deserters and fine evaders – every story is fascinating.
Number Two Division was finally closed in 1989.
In the 1980s Number Two Division became the focal point of intense national media scrutiny following a series of dramatic escapes, hunger-strike, riots and roof-top protests over the primitive conditions in which inmates were being held. Number Two Division was closed in 1989. The entire prison complex shut its doors forever in 2002, after 119 years in operation, when the last section of Boggo Road – the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre – was closed.
Number Two Division is today the only remaining section of Boggo Road Gaol. Heritage listed, it will never be demolished. In December 2012 it has been reopened and will now become a tourist attraction for Queensland.