Fremantle Prison showcasing history of protests and unrest

Eleanor Lambert (Asst Curator) at the Protest and Unrest exhibition at Fremantle Prison. Photo: Andrew Ritchie. d492962 communitypix.com.au.
Eleanor Lambert (Asst Curator) at the Protest and Unrest exhibition at Fremantle Prison. Photo: Andrew Ritchie. d492962 communitypix.com.au.

COMMUNAL underwear and battery machines are just two objects showcasing a dark history in a new exhibition at Fremantle Prison.

The Protest and Unrest exhibition opened on May 6 and highlights protests and prisoners riots from 1930 onwards.

Assistant Curator Eleanor Lambert said they wanted to show the 1988 riots wasn’t the only one to occur.

“Most people in the area and Western Australia remember the 1988 riot, it was probably the biggest one and it had huge consequences,” she said.

“There were smaller forms of protests prisoners would do, usually against the conditions they were living in, the food was a big one and treatment by the administration.”

The exhibition, which has been in the working for a year, includes footage from news reports from the 1988 riots.

Ms Lambert said the footage had been overlayed with oral histories from people who were there during the riot.

“We’ve had oral histories of ex-prisoners, ex-guards and the administration overlaying that footage,” she said.

“We want people to gain the idea that it is a sight of contested history.

“It became very obvious early on we couldn’t interpret it for them because the administration had one point of view, the guards and officers had another, the prisoners had a third and you bring in the media as well who their own opinions.”

Ms Lambert said one of the objects to look out for was the electric battery machines which they always had at the prison.

“We knew it was used as a legitimate form of medicine up in the hospital, a more darker side of the history come out in the research phase,” she said.

“The other objects to look out were probably the toilet buckets and the communal underwear which really shows was the condition was actually like in the prison.”

Protest and Unrest exhibition will run for the next 18 months.