Parramatta Correctional Centre

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Parramatta Correctional Centre
Parra jail, nsw.jpg
Location North Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia
Coordinates 33°47′57″S 151°00′00″E / 33.79905°S 151.0°E / -33.79905; 151.0Coordinates: 33°47′57″S 151°00′00″E / 33.79905°S 151.0°E / -33.79905; 151.0
Status Closed
Security class Medium security (males only)
Capacity 580
Opened 1 January 1798 (1798-01-01) (in Parramatta)
Closed 9 October 2011 (2011-10-09)
Former name Parramatta Gaol
Managed by Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council
Building details
Former Parramatta Gaol is located in Sydney
Former Parramatta Gaol
Former Parramatta Gaol
Location in Greater Sydney
General information
Opened 2 January 1842 (1842-01-02) (current site)
Owner Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council
Technical details
Material Sandstone, stone slab floors, ashlar walls and timber roof trusses
Grounds 8.743 hectares (21.60 acres)
Design and construction
Architect George Barney and Mortimer Lewis
Architecture firm Colonial Architect of New South Wales
Official name Parramatta Gaol (former), 73 O'Connell St, North Parramatta, NSW, Australia
Designated 14 May 1991
Reference no. 3090
Criteria a., c., e.
Designated 2 April 1999
Reference no. 00812
A prison guard on lookout in the watchtower at Parramatta Gaol

The Parramatta Correctional Centre, a former Australian medium security prison for males, was in operation between 1798 and 2011. Located in North Parramatta, New South Wales, the centre was initially called Parramatta Gaol until its name was changed to Parramatta Correctional Centre in 1992. When in operation, the centre was managed by Corrective Services NSW, an agency of the Department of Attorney General and Justice of the Government of New South Wales. Immediately prior to its closure, the centre detained short term sentenced and remand inmates, operated as a transient centre, and was the periodic detention centre for metropolitan Sydney.

Designed by George Barney and Mortimer Lewis, the complex is listed on the Register of the National Estate[1] and the New South Wales State Heritage Register as a site of State significance with the following citation:[2]

Up until its closure in 2011, the Parramatta Correctional Centre was the oldest gaol in original use in Australia. It is the most intact of the pre-1850s gaols of Australia. The constructional character and quality of the early buildings, in particular the stone slab floors, ashlar walls and timber roof trusses, are exceptional. It is significant in its physical and spatial quality as an enclosed complex. The fabric reflects the shifts in penal philosophy and changes in use from the 1830s to the construction of Long Bay in the early twentieth century.

— Statement of significance, New South Wales State Heritage Register.


Correctional facilities were first established in Parramatta in 1798, being "a strong logged gaol of 100 feet in length, with separate cells for the prisoners ... and paled around with very high fence", housing eight prisoners.[3] In 1799, a fire destroyed this facility and it was rebuilt in 1802 on the same site (now occupied by Riverside Theatres).[4] A more substantial stone structure was built between 1837 and 1843 by James Houison and Nathaniel Payten on the North Parramatta site. Parramatta Gaol was formally proclaimed on 2 January 1842 with progressive opening of wings up until approximately 1910. It was closed in 1918 and was used as a mental hospital.[5] Re–established in 1922, the centre became a major industrial prison with inmates working in the fields of tailoring, bookmaking and carpentry, tin smithing and bakery. The centre closed briefly between 3 September 1997 and 1998.[3]

In 2004, there were calls for the centre to be closed after two inmates escaped by scaling the prison wall using ladders without being seen by guards.[6]

In July 2011, Corrective Services NSW announced that the Parramatta Correctional Centre would close, which took effect on 9 October 2011.[7][8][9] State Property Management Authority administered the site until 2015,[2] and has now been returned to the Deerubin Local Aboriginal Lands Council as part of a historic lands grant. [10]

Notable prisoners[edit]

The following individuals have served all or part of their sentence at the Parramatta Correctional Centre:

Inmate name Date sentenced Length of sentence Currently
Date eligible for release Nature of conviction / Notoriety Notes
Darcy Dugan Life imprisonment Deceased 1991 Released on parole in 1984 Bank robbery and a notorious prison escape artist. [11]
William Henry Eyes July 1884 3 years Deceased 1907 Pardoned in 1885 and released without parole. English-born Australian convicted for the sexual assault of a young girl; later a successful politician in New Zealand. [12]
George Freeman 1954 Deceased 1990 n/a Convicted of theft. An organised crime figure and illegal casino operator. [11]
Kevin John Gallagher Convicted murderer and armed robber, who stabbed a fellow prisoner to death in Parramatta Gaol in 1981. [13]
John Frederick "Chow" Hayes Underworld figure, standover man and convicted murderer. [14]
Len Lawson Life imprisonment Deceased 2003 Died in custody Rapist and murderer. [15]
Jim McNeil 17 years Deceased 1982 Released on parole in c. 1974 Playwright, armed robbery [16]
Neddy Smith Life imprisonment Armed robbery, murderer and heroin dealer, accused of being a hitman, served life. [14][17]

Current use[edit]

During 2012 the centre was used for the setting of a film, The Convict, and has been used in filming for Home and Away, Underbelly,[18] Packed to the Rafters, Rake, Redfern Now, and Housos television series.[14]

On 24 February 2012 the NSW Aboriginal Land Council lodged a land claim on the former jail site (as decommissioned Crown Land);[2] and it was reported that management of the property was transferred to the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council in 2015.[19]

The Gaol also runs "Ghost Hunts" and tours fortnightly[20][21].

In popular culture[edit]

The song "Tomorrow", recorded by Australian rock band Cold Chisel on their 1980 album East, portrays the desperation of a Parramatta Gaol inmate on a life sentence who escaped three days earlier, and is facing imminent recapture.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Parramatta Gaol (former), 73 O'Connell St, North Parramatta, NSW, Australia". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government. 14 May 1991. Retrieved 20 September 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Parramatta Correctional Centre". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "Parramatta Correctional Centre". State Records. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Criminals and Parramatta Pirates" (PDF) (Press release). Riverside Theatre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Parramatta Gaol". State Records. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Call to close prison over escape 'farce'". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Prisons to close" (PDF) (Press release). Corrective Services NSW. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Smith, Alexandra (27 July 2011). "Budget cuts will force Parramatta jail closure". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Bartok, Di (8 August 2011). "Drop in crime, budget cuts close Parramatta Correctional Centre". Parramatta Advertsier. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Walsh, G. P. "Freeman, George David (1935–1990)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "Sydney". Hawkesbury Courier and Agricultural and General Advertiser. 2. Windsor, NSW. 18 July 1844. p. 1. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  13. ^ Ryan, Stephen (10 February 2012). "Prisoner to stay in jail". Newcastle Herald. p. 15. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c Gorman, Ginger (15 November 2016). "Inside Parramatta's creepy abandoned prison". Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  15. ^ Sutton, Candice (30 November 2003). "Killer Lawson dies after 50 years in jail". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  16. ^ Neill, Rosemary (23 June 2012). "Prison playwright Jim McNeil's inside jobs get a fresh outing". The Australian. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Sutton, Candace (23 February 2003). "Neddy the fun family man - by his ex-wife". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  18. ^ "Old jail sets the scene for silver screen". Parramatta Holroyd Sun. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  19. ^ "Parramatta Gaol". Parramatta Heritage Centre. Parramatta City Council. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Lyrics of Cold Chisel song 'Tomorrow'". Cold Chisel. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 


 This article incorporates text by New South Wales State Heritage Register available under the CC BY 3.0 AU licence.

External links[edit]

  • McCormack, Terri (2008). "Parramatta Gaol". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 3 June 2016.