In November 1913, twenty prisoners were sent to the Tuncurry Reafforestation Prison Camp in an experiment which was the first of its kind in NSW. 1The prison camp was not so much a gaol as the prisoners were serving out the last months of their sentence. Their job was to plant out acres of pine trees for which the area was once famed. Each prisoner had their own little hut with a bunk and sleeping net. Within three years the prisoners had planted out over 110, 000 pines, erected a windmill and more huts, and created a garden which supplied the camp with most of its vegetables. 2
For many years the camp was upheld as an enormous social success with very few prisoners attempting to escape and only a handful of confinees reoffending. Politicians and arborists from across the nation came to inspect the camp.3 One reporter commented it was like walking into a Christmas village with little huts surrounded by pine trees.4An air of respect between prisoners and wardens was evident.
The camp was tucked away just behind the current Tuncurry Tip.5 It had close access to the beach and prisoners were able to surf and fish.
In 1937, however, the Forestry Commission declared the prison camp an economic failure and by February 1938 the last prisoner was transported out.6 While the camp might have been a financial failure, the prisoners perhaps grew healthier in body and mind, which was certainly confirmed by past prisoners.7 After the closure of the camp the area was used as a holiday destination called ‘The Pines’.8
Author: Janine Roberts
Further information: Visit the Great Lakes Museum for more information and to view artefacts from the Tuncurry Reafforestation Prison Camp. 1 Capel Street, Tuncurry.
1 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 22 November 1913; Sydney Morning Herald, 29 March 1938.
2 Sydney Morning Herald, 29 February 1916.
3 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 16 October 1922.
4 Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, 3 November 1922.
5 Land and Property Information, Lot 7053, DP plan number 96645.
6 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 5 February 1938.
7 Sun, 17 August 1937; Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 3 November 1933.
8 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 August 1952.