Prisoner Stories 1
“Zim” Arthur Sully
14 Years 9 Months
1977-1984 and 1986 – 1992
D16, E3, E7, E24 and F25
Arthur Sully known as Zim was born in Tubu, Papua New Guinea (then an Australian territory) to an English father and a Papuan Mother.
His father having been in the British Navy and part of the Pacific War had settled in Papua just at the end of the Second World War.
Zim was raised in Tubu up until he was ten years old. Having made a few trips to Brisbane, his father decided to relocate the family in 1970, Papua having moved towards becoming an independent state (officially granted in 1975).
On a holiday to Brisbane in 1968 the family were residing at Venner Road in Annerley. Driving down Annerley Road one morning, riding in the back of the family car a then eight year old Zim spied Boggo Road from the top of the hill.
Dad! Is that a castle? Who lives there? His father simply replied: Son, that castle belongs to the Queen, and you don’t wanna go there!
Little did he know, less than ten years later Zim would be visiting “The Queen’s Castle” for the very first time…
Zim describes himself as an adventurous kid not having ever been much for watching TV or indoors activities. He had learning difficulties as a child, what we would now be known as ADHD. Though back then there was no such thing.
The adventurous kid found himself outside all the time. Never being out of trouble in school, He was fidgety and just didn’t want to be there. In fact, he didn’t particularly want to be in Australia at all. He never understood why the family had moved from a peaceful, beautiful spot to the big smoke. Really, it was complete culture shock.
Zim started rebelling, and before you know it, got swept up in the wrong crowd. He began stealing bikes at school. Not really knowing what he had got himself into, he was smoking and drinking at a young age and generally playing up.
Zim was arrested at 17 years of age having tried to snatch a purse from a lady. She fell and received injuries. His first charge was Robbery with Violence. He was subsequently convicted and was to sentenced serve seven years in Boggo Road.
His first few minutes inside the gaol were just as you would expect – one of complete shock. First moment out of the prison van he was made to face a picture of the Queen and salute (Zim had never seen a picture of her before) so he had no idea what he was doing. The prison warders, having none of this, immediately labelled him a potential trouble maker; where, he was just a kid, with no idea!
First placed in the boys’ yard, he was soon taught a few lessons! Though being a cheeky kid, he certainly figured out how best to keep from doing as much as possible.
My first eighteen months inside, I basically carried a clipboard around, I bluffed my way past guards asking to go to this section or another, for a particular “job” I never actually was meant to be doing any of those things. Eventually, they caught up with me though and I got into quite a bit of trouble for that one. I ended up being put in a yard with some of the “worst” trouble makers until I begged a guard to give me a job. My first official “job” inside was in the tin shop. Task number one was to make 500 rubbish bins. You know the ones with the little foot peddle! I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully some of the other older inmates quickly sorted me out… and taught me a few things.
I learned a lot from those blokes, but the best thing I learned was to play the guitar. I didn’t much like the card games, I referred to them as “Bored games” I found them boring. I made a request for a guitar, I loved music. It was denied. I tried again. – It only took me three years before I was finally granted a guitar… under the condition that it was only played in my cell. I suppose this was around 1981. Of course, I was a rule breaker and quickly figured out how to get my guitar into the yard. I never actually knew how to play the guitar, but some of the other inmates taught me a few things. And I quickly picked it up. I still play the guitar to this day.
Zim was released in November 1984. It was a complete culture shock. Brisbane had changed so much. “It had electric trains! It was certainly not the town I knew.”
He didn’t stay out of trouble for long. Having difficulty getting back on track and finding a job, Zim quickly found himself in with the “wrong crowd” once again. He and a mate decided they should get some serious money and get out of town. This began the first of ten bank robberies. They stole a car, held up the bank, went on the run, dumping the car and hiding out. One after the other, they quickly got a name for themselves. Eventually they lead police on a chase and shoot-out that would rival a scene out of any Hollywood movie. Thankfully no one was injured.
He was tried and convicted on five of the ten charges against him (the others failing due to lack of evidence). He received a sentence of 10 years for each of the first four and 12 years for the final charge involving the shoot-out with police.
As I was tallying it up in my head… I was thinking… that’s close to 60 years!! Holy hell! And then the judge ordered that they be served concurrently. I sighed a breath of relief and was sent off again to Boggo Road
My second stay inside was different. There were drugs, and the prison itself was going through lots of riots, troubles and protests. I was there for all of them. I unfortunately became involved in drugs and had a heroin addiction. It was everywhere. Drugs came in over the walls, in through the mail; and were even brought inside by people. Heroin was cheaper and easier to get inside than it was on the street. The easiest way for anything to come in… and therefore the best job you could have is the reception store. Just like in the movies, there was an underground prison economy. But, for the most part I tried to stay away from all that.
I was in both divisions of Boggo Road. Number 2 gaol was harder for the officers to control and therefore the easiest for us to move stuff around. I was moved around a lot in 2 Div. My cells were, D16, E3, E7, E24 and F25 as well as time in the dormitories. We had the night cans, and the showers were just as they are now, in the yard. It was a filthy, horrible place to be for sure.
Zim was moved from Boggo Road Gaol when it closed and released from Woodford Prison in 1993.
I served a total of eight years and five months of my sentence, and have been clean ever since. I learned a lot while I was inside, perhaps more than I ever would have out in the free world. Boggo Road taught me so many lessons.
Since I have been released, I have been involved in various community orientated projects. Mostly, I am working with former prisoners and youth on back to work programs and drug rehabilitation. I am a sought after public speaker in political circles and university programs talking about life inside prison, and the ongoing drug problems. My life has since been researched for a Philosophy PhD Thesis. Prior to all that the only public speaking I had done was that I had been part of the debating team at Boggo Road; in 1982 we actually won the B Division Championship. I find it amazing that a kid that never finished the 9th grade can possibly be talking to people at a University. Boggo Road taught me to talk like that.
After serving parole, in 1999, I went back to Tubu. I was welcomed into to the village. It was overwhelming. I had served my time, and now I was home.
Tubu has many problems, just like other places in the world. But the one that stood out to me the most was that none of the kids could speak English. They had no school to teach them. In the last eighteen years I have helped to build a school there. I am proud to have a house in Tubu. I feel like my life has come full circle.
I often get asked, Zim, if you could turn back time, would you do anything different? The answer is truthfully “No, I wouldn’t. I believe that everything that I have done or that has happened in my life happened to bring me where I am today. I believe I was meant to help people.
As I said before, I think Boggo Road taught me a lot more than I would have learned in the free world. I only want to give back. I will continue to work with people with drug addictions and people that have been released to help bring back peace in the community.
This interview was completed by Research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen as part of the research program being undertaken by Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd. The primary goal in completing these interviews is to make these stories available to the wider community for review and study. Parts of these stories are also used to bring authenticity to our tours and publications. Want to submit your story? You can do this via our website! Click here.
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