Nine Stories Nine Women -2- Rene Sykes

Nine Stories Nine Women  2 –  Rene Sykes

In keeping with the theme of Queensland Women’s Week 2019 – Invest in Women, Invest in the future.  Talking about financial insecurity and literacy.    The stories of the women of Boggo Road Gaol directly represent what goes wrong when women are faced with financial insecurity and other difficult circumstances.
This year, in honour of these women we have produced Nine Stories Nine Women a series of short stories representative of the different circumstances that women found themselves in.  Rene Sykes’ story is the second of our nine stories…

  Name (with aliases) Rene Sykes – alias Phyllis Sykes alias Rene Prince alias Phyllis Prince alias Phyllis Oro

  Native Place:  Western Australia

  Year of Birth: 1901

  Trade or Calling:  Domestic

  Religion:  Church of England

  Education: R &W

  Height (without boots):  5 feet

  Weight: 8 Stone

  Hair Colour: Brown

  Eye Colour: Blue

  Complexion: Dark

  Build: Slight

  Marks or features: Scar on Abdomen


Rene Sykes, could be described by some as a hardened criminal, however her decline into criminal activity all stems from an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol.  Opium.  A huge problem in the world still to this day. It was in its deadliest form – Heroin that was the drug of choice to Rene Sykes.

Her early life is difficult to trace as her correct name is unknown.  However prior to coming to Queensland in the late 1930s  Rene had been in trouble in Victoria and New South Wales with convictions ranging from  Vagrancy, Theft, Drug Possession and Assault.  All in all, twenty two prior charges.   She had lived on the streets and sadly had sold her body to support her habit of alcohol, then Cocaine and finally Heroin.

In Queensland, Rene was under the watchful eye of the police from the beginning, word being given that a woman matching her appearance was thought to have been travelling with or under the influence of opium.   Of course, this was proved to be true and Rene would do several stints inside the walls of Boggo Road Gaol right through into the 1950s.  Her time inside could not have been easy as an addict, she would have suffered terribly from withdrawal symptoms.

One cannot help but wonder, who was it that informed on her?  And how exactly did this girl of barely 19 get in trouble with drugs in the first place? What pain was she trying to hide?  Was she too a victim of circumstances?


Come and get locked up in Boggo Road Gaol for Queensland Women’s Week! Experience what life was like for the women from the earliest times of the female division in our fully immersive tour experience Join us for a History Tour on the 3rd, 6th or 8th of March to be a part of our very special Queensland Women’s Week events.

Tickets for Queensland Women’s Week are strictly limited so get in quickly to secure your spot.  You do not want to miss this! Click here to book now! 

Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol