IN 1974, Bathurst Jail burned as inmates rose up against living conditions inside the correctional centre.
Overcrowding, poor management and brutality by prison officers were just some of the reasons inmates rioted in February 1974, culminating in large sections of the jail being burned, 11 inmates shot, an officer being taken hostage and history being made.
As a result of the riot, Justice John Nagle was appointed to conduct a Royal Commission to oversee reforms to the Australian penal system, and 40 years on academics from Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Law and Justice are reviewing his legacy.
The university is hosting From Nagle to Now 40 Years of Prison Reform and Rehabilitation on Thursday, August 23, at CSU Bathurst, in building 1292.
A panel including Luke Grant, Assistant Commissioner NSW Corrective Services, Debbie Kilroy OAM, former prisoner, lawyer, CEO of Sisters Inside, John Paget, former NSW Inspector of Custodial Services, Uncle Vic Simms, a Bidjigal man and Deadly Award winner, and Bill Walsh, an Orange based barrister, who as a young police officer responded to the Bathurst Gaol riots will all speak about their experiences.
While the event is being held at CSU, Dr Kath McFarlane, Deputy Director, Centre for Law and Justice, said it is relevant to the wider Bathurst community, and encouraged all interested people to attend.
READ MORE: Bathurst Gaol Riots, 1974 | Photos
“The jail and the riots are a significant part of our history. What happened in Bathurst was pivotal to cultural changes in corrections.”
In the aftermath of the riot prisoners went to court and spoke about what happened.
“They put the spotlight on something that wasn’t talked about,” she said.
Dr McFarlane said, given the recent announcement of Bathurst Jail’s expansion, a riot last year and a spiraling prison population, some of the conditions which gave rise to Nagle appear to be resurfacing, making the lecture highly relevant today.
Dr McFarlane said the panel draws from people with different experiences.
“It will look at what we’ve learned from Nagle. We’ve had 40 years to fix it up, let’s look at how we are going,” she said.
Dr McFarlane said the university also wants the community to tell the story.
“We will have sheets on chairs to fill in. We want to capture the stories…. there is so much history, but the stories disappear as people die.”
People interested in attending are asked to register their attendance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
The event begins in building 1305 at 5pm, with light refreshments, before moving into building 1292 at 6pm.