An Analysis of early juvenile prison architecture in New South Wales and Van Diemen's land

Cameron Nunn

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In 1820, Carters' Barracks in Sydney was the first boys-only prison built anywhere in the world. Between 1820 and 1834, 500 convict boys, mostly fourteen to sixteen years of age, were trained as apprentices before being assigned to tradesmen and settlers. In Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) another institution was opened at Point Puer, adjacent to Port Arthur in 1834, where over the next fifteen years more than 3,000 boys were sent to be reshaped into useful colonial workers. Research has focussed on the organisational structures of these institutions, including routines, punishments and labour practices. The physical and spatial structures, as an embodiment of juvenile penal ideology, has been substantially overlooked. This article explores the ways in which the ideology of juvenile penal reform shaped spatial choices at Carters' Barracks and Point Puer. It argues that authorities made conscious choices regarding the symbols, placement and usage of space in order to promulgate specific values. It also investigates the tensions between Australian and British ideological regimes that unfolded at Point Puer, before considering space as a contested area where control and resistance are both enacted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-64
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Australian Colonial History
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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