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Sunrise Little Bay 10_December 28_2009 (1) | by Michael Dawes
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Sunrise Little Bay 10_December 28_2009 (1)

Established in 1886, Trial Bay Gaol is the only example of a state prison specifically built to carry out public works. The intention was for prisoners to construct a breakwater in Trial Bay and create a safe harbour between Sydney and Brisbane.


The gaol and the breakwater were built using locally quarried pink granite, which is exceptionally hard and caused many problems throughout construction. The plans to build the breakwater were abandoned after 17 years, as the rough surf continued to wash away what progress was made.


After the failure of the breakwater scheme in 1903, the gaol closed for several years, as the prisoners were no longer needed there. However, in 1915, during the First World War, Trial Bay Gaol re-opened and was used as an internment camp for citizens of German descent until 1918.


Today, the gaol stands quietly on Laggers Point, creating a dramatic backdrop to the lovely beaches of South West rocks. The gaol’s mystery intrigues many people, attracting visitors to this historic site all year round.

Trial Bay Gaol was established as a public works prison in the 1870s. It was built to house prison labourers, brought here to build a breakwater designed to make Trial Bay a safe harbour between Sydney and Brisbane.


Regrettably the scheme was a failure. The breakwater was difficult to maintain and was repeatedly washed away, and what remained of the stone wall acted on the ocean currents to produce a build-up of sand along Trial Bay. As a result, the former 19th-century shoreline is now located where the historic Arakoon House stands today.


During World War I, the gaol was used as a camp for people of German descent, interned by the government as possible 'enemy' sympathisers. For more information, please see the information from the Migration Heritage Centre.external link


Today, the gaol is a solitary picturesque ruin with an atmosphere of timelessness and mystery.


Graves and a granite memorial overlooking the gaol remind visitors of the internees who died during their confinement. In the gaol museum you can see an extensive photographic record of the area's use as an internment camp - a unique insight into this period of Australia's history.

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Taken on December 28, 2009