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Pentridge Voices


A collection of oral and written history of Pentridge Prison

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Stories of Pentridge

Many people passed through Pentridge's bluestone walls. Inmates, prison staff, teachers, chaplains and the families and friends of prisoners. All of them shaped the prison’s history. 

Every story is important to us. Imprinted memories, stories that changed your life as well as short anecdotes and photos help preserve Pentridge's history. 

Community participation is essential to preserve an important part of our history, not just for Pentridge Prison and the surrounding suburb of Coburg, but for Australia too with Pentridge being one of the country’s original and most infamous prisons.

We are looking to talk to anyone who has a connection to Pentridge:

  • Did you ‘do time’ in Pentridge or were you a ‘screw’?

  • Do you know someone from inside the Bluestone College’s walls? 

  • Did you live in Coburg during Pentridge’s time of operation?

We would love to hear from former inmates, family members and people who worked in Pentridge Prison.

Our aim is to collect as much first hand evidence as possible - from the past and the present.

By sharing your story with us - whatever it may be - you will become part of Pentridge Voices.

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Let's collect and preserve stories of Pentridge Prison together.

The big ones and the small ones. The great, bad and sad ones.

Let us record the voices of Pentridge before they are forgotten and lost forever.

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John, 79
former prisoner

In the afternoon he (the prisoner) had to sit on a stool and, using a smaller hammer, break the fist sized rocks into pieces the size of his fingernails. If they weren't the required size the threat remained that he would be either charged or bashed. 
Sometimes both.

former prison officer

We were given training about 'how to do it' and had 20 months induction course. We were told you could not judge someone because they had a bad day in their lives.

Paul, 52
former prisoner

We didn’t have a fridge and milk was off in no time, especially in summer. We wrapped wet toilet  paper around the container and tried to keep the milk cold for a couple of hours.

Micheal, 62
Coburg resident

Every so often our football landed on the other side of the wall. We were frightened. There was silence. After a few seconds the ball came back. Mangled.

preserving Pentridge's history

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about us

Pentridge Voices is made up of Katrin, Atalanti and Adrian who share a passion for history and have a strong interest in preserving Pentridge's stories.


Katrin Strohl


If you want to fully understand Pentridge Prison and its history you need to listen to stories and memories of those who knew the former prison. From both sides of the walls.

I consider it a privilege to have people share their personal stories about Pentridge. 

Katrin Strohl is an Art Historian/museum curator/writer/editor/researcher/interviewer.

She published the photo book Pentridge Prison - Inside out together with Adrian Didlick and Don Osborne, who taught at B Division in the 1970s. She is a member of Oral History Victoria and the Coburg Historical Society (past President).


Adrian Didlick


My interest in Pentridge goes back to my childhood. I was always fascinated about what was going on behind those bluestone walls.

When the prison officially closed it was the perfect opportunity to record and examine the divisions, and to learn of the people held in them.

What followed was an intense interest in the history, good and bad of the gaol from 1851 to 1997. For me it has got to be one of Victoria's most interesting subjects to study.

Adrian started taking photos of Pentridge Prison over a decade ago. Pentridge Prison - Inside out. He is a member of the Coburg Historical Society. Adrian's permanent photo exhibition is on display at the Bluestone Cottage Museum.


Atalanti Dionysus


Raised in Coburg, and still living here, Pentridge Prison formed part of my personal psychogeography. I walked past it almost weekly during the summer months, on my way to the Coburg outdoor swimming pool, intrigued by what lay behind the bluestone walls.

Atalanti Dionysus is an interdisciplinary creative writer, director, producer & researcher exploring interactive storytelling through immersive technologies virtual and augmented reality. Her research interest is in bringing people closer to historical moments at site-specific locations by virtually taking them there. She is a multi-award-winning filmmaker, with over 20 years experience as a screen practitioner.

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Your stories are in good hands with us.

We understand that sharing your stories can be a very personal experience. It might seem intimidating or difficult.

Please rest assured that our passionate team are members of Oral History Victoria, dedicated to ethical oral history practices and methods.

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The Bear    

Prison Officer Dennis Bear's time in D Division 

On his first day in prison service, Dennis

Bear witnessed a shooting at the Supreme

Court in Melbourne, where people were

killed. He was awarded a commendation

for his courage and ability to think on his

feet helping people to safety. This would

be an introduction to the next 16 years,

where he served as a prison o  icer at the

Metropolitan Reception Prison.

Called the ‘Bear’, 85% of the prison

population respected him and looked out

for him. The other 15% gave him hell.

These stories are first-account

recollections, as told by Dennis in his own


78 pages, softcover, $15 plus postage

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Early Days at Pentridge Prison

Pentridge Prison was established first as a stockade in 1850 and largely constructed in the period 1858-64. 

It is the largest prison complex built in Victoria in the 19th century and operated as the central establishment in the wider prison system from the early 1860s. With the closure of Melbourne Gaol in 1929, Pentridge became the state's most-used prison until its closure in 1997, hosting some of the country’s most notorious prisoners.

Early Days at Pentridge Prison includes a great collection of illustrations from the archives. It takes the reader on a journey from how and why Pentridge was built, stories of the floating prison hulks, the purpose of the panopticon airing yards, a system designed to rehabilitate prisoners by punishment, and some of the characters who both worked and were imprisoned here.

Articulated through the texts of Don Osborne, a teacher at Pentridge for several years.

70 pages, softcover, $15 plus postage

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Lifeof Brian 

Brian Vallance's time in Pentridge Prison

Brian Vallance was not even 17 years old when he was arrested for the first time in 1983. He spent 16 years in different Victorian prisons. Brian shares his stories and memories of his time in Pentridge Prison. His recollections are a mix of blunt and shocking stories of drugs, stabbings, and escapes, but also funny and human ones, like the one of his unsung hero, Mr. Glassy.

52 pages, softcover, $15 plus postage

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A bank robber's return to Pentridge Prison

In 1966 John Killick was on the run, wanted for numerous bank robberies. Arrested in Melbourne he spent over six years in Pentridge Prison, most of them in the notorious H Division. 

John details the brutality of H Division, the riots there and the trauma of being in prison when Ronald Ryan was hanged. 

self published by John Killick

210 pages, softcover, signed by John Killick

$30 (+ $6 postage) 

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D Division Tour

Take a step back in time on a Locked Up D Division Tour, and learn about the history of the former female Prison/Remand centre.

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Become part of Pentridge Voices

No matter how small or big your story is, it is of value and worth preserving for the future. 

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interactive Pentridge documentary

- in production -

Pentridge Voices is currently in production of an interactive documentary which will bring the stories of those connected to Pentridge to life. 

You will be able to explore B Division along with other Divisions at your own pace and listen to stories from ex-prisoners, ex warders, visitors, chaplains and those who worked at the prison site. This documentary will immerse you in the rich history that formed part of the Melbourne landscape for many years.  

We are still collecting stories. If you would like to be involved in any way, please contact us

We respect your privacy and can offer many other ways in which to preserve your story.

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Who can take part?

Anyone who has a story of or about Pentridge and wants to share it. 

We are looking to talk to anyone who has a connection to Pentridge:

  • Did you ‘do time’ in Pentridge or were you a ‘screw’?

  • Do you know someone from inside the Bluestone College’s walls? 

  • Did you live in Coburg during Pentridge’s time of operation?

We would love to hear from former inmates, family members, people who worked in Pentridge Prison and lived in Coburg.

What happens with my story?

Your stories are part of Pentridge's history. We collect these stories in order to preserve this part of history. 

Our aim and vision is to share some of them in a publication and/or exhibition that is dedicated to the former prison and the people who worked, lived and died there.

Can I share my story and remain anonymous?


You are telling your story - so you can choose what you want to share.

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