A tale of two convict sites

WHILE Willow Court was under attack from vandals last weekend, the Female Factory at South Hobart was secure in the news that its management had been taken over by the State Government.

Premier Lara Giddings and Heritage Minister Brian Wightman last Friday announced that “two of Australia’s most important convict sites” had been united under shared management. This announcement came 13 months after former premier David Bartlett’s promise that the government would resume responsibility for Willow Court – but his successor was not talking about Willow Court.

Ms Giddings said responsibility for managing the Cascades Female Factory had been passed to the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and was supported by government funding of $610,000 this financial year. “Last year the Female Factory and Port Arthur were among 11 new Australian sites named on the World Heritage List, in recognition of their international historical and cultural significance,” Ms Giddings said. Willow Court – older and more intact than Port Arthur and the Female Factory – was not added to the list.

Ms Giddings said the Female Factory was “vitally important” in telling the story of female convicts and their children. “Combining the world class management expertise of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority with the historical significance of the Female Factory has obvious synergies. It opens up greater opportunities for joint marketing and tailored World Heritage visitor experiences. It will also give the Female Factory access to the significant heritage management and conservation expertise based at the Port Arthur Historic Site,” Ms Giddings said.

The premier’s announcement coincided with Australian Heritage Week, which included an opportunity for community members to visit the preferred convict sites last weekend to have their stories, associations and memorabilia included on the historic record. Willow Court was not included in the “Collecting Memories” project, but a number of people attended the site on self-guided tours, selecting souvenirs and making structural alterations to the abandoned buildings.

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