Old Melbourne Gaol – Crime & Justice Experience
The Old Melbourne Gaol is situated on Russell Street, in Melbourne’s CBD and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Here you can learn a bit of history about some of Australia’s most infamous criminals who were held within these walls, many executed by hanging. The most famous of all these criminals was Ned Kelly and the gaol focuses a lot about the life and times of Australia’s legendary bushranger.
We took our boys (aged 8 & 10) during the school holidays and were expecting to just walk around the Gaol for about an hour but we were pleasantly surprised by just how much there is to see. We did in fact spend quite a few hours taking in all that the Gaol has to offer.
The main cellblock was built in the 1800’s and inside the actual cells are different prisoner stories told by storyboards, death masks, written letters and other various memorabilia. The hanging gallows still remain as well as a whipping triangle used to lash prisoners. The kids can also try on replica Ned Kelly armour here. Since 1972 the cell block has been run as a museum by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). For an additional $5 per person on top of your general entry ticket, you can take an escorted tour by one of the guides to help understand a bit more about the Old Melbourne Gaol’s grim past.
Your general entry ticket for the Old Melbourne Gaol also includes the Watch House Experience which is run regularly during school holidays. The tours are held every half hour or so and groups are limited to 60 people. Here the group all get a taste of being arrested and locked up in the neighbouring police station that was still in operation up until 1994. It can be quite confronting, especially for younger kids. Our 8-year-old did get a little intimidated, so probably wouldn’t recommend it for kids under that age. The Watch House Experience takes about 30 minutes and don’t forget to get your mugshots taken at the end!
You also have the opportunity to participate in the Ned Kelly Courtroom Drama which is a scripted re-enactment of the Ned Kelly Trial set in 1880. This is actually quite fun as well as informative. It runs for about 45 minutes and is limited to groups of 75 people. Here they require 10 volunteers from the group to play the scripted roles, 5 main roles and 5 smaller ones. Our 10-year-old was very excited to play one of the smaller witness roles and I must say he did very well! The rest of the group becomes the public gallery for the trial and are separated into two groups – the Kelly supporters and the Kelly haters. At the end of the trial you can form your own opinion on whether you think Ned Kelly was guilty or innocent.
The Old Melbourne Gaol is the site of 133 hanging executions and is listed as one of the most haunted spots in Australia. For any paranormal enthusiasts out there, be sure to try the night tours that are available – you might be lucky enough to see a ghost or two. We will definitely be waiting for the kids to get a bit older before trying that one with them!
For more information go to www.oldmelbournegaol.com.au