Who was sent to the Gaol?

Hardened criminals were not the only people to serve time at the Melbourne Gaol. Dramatic changes taking place in nineteenth century society caused upheaval that left many people struggling. Gaol was an institution in which the poorer classes were highly represented.

- So who did get sent to gaol?
- Why might someone be imprisoned because of what they were, as much as for what they did?
- And how does this reflect the social and economic realities of the era?

Scroll through the narrative galleries below to explore the reasons why many different types of people might end up in gaol in the second half of the nineteenth century. Hover your mouse over an image to reveal further information.

Please note that images of deceased Indigenous people are contained within this webpage.

Things to think about

  • Compare Ned Kelly’s Irish family’s experience of marginalisation to the challenge faced by modern Australia’s cultural diversity.
  • Comment on how the reasons for placing marginalised citizens into the prison system, reflected the government’s management of the growth and prosperity in 19th Century Victoria.
  • Empathise with the motives behind the actions taken by the Aboriginals which resulted in them being hanged at the Melbourne Gaol, under a British system of justice.