Tuncurry Afforestation Camp

I’ve been researching the great-uncle of a client. We started off with a notice in the NSW Police Gazette that he had been arrested for stealing money from the Government Savings Bank. A Sydney Morning Herald report of the trial at the Sydney Quarter Sessions showed that he had worked for the bank for 17 years and was sentenced to two years hard labour in Goulburn Gaol ‘to be made an example of’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Aug 1925, p.12).

For more information I needed a trip out to State Records NSW at Kingswood.

The Goulburn Gaol Entrance Book [7/13506] is an enormous volume requiring three pillows to support it. The Entrance Book gives:

  • Entrance date
  • Entrance number
  • Name
  • Gaol Number
  • When, where and by whom committed
  • Offence
  • Sentence
  • Where born (with date of birth in this case)
  • Ship and Year if born out of the colonies (it’s an old book)
  • Religion
  • Trade
  • Age
  • Height in feet and inches
  • Colour of hair and eyes
  • Education
  • Remarks, which appeared to indicate whether this was a first imprisonment
  • How and when disposed.

Our former bank employee was admitted to the prison on 10 September, along with some other prisoners. He’d been a bank manager, aged 36, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was disposed ‘To Tuncurry’ on 4 November 1925.

Tuncurry? I hadn’t realised there was a gaol at Tuncurry.

It turns out that Tuncurry hosted the first ‘Afforestation Camp’ in New South Wales. Tuncurry Afforestation Camp was a 6,000 acre property where prisoners were provided with ‘a modified form of prison life and the opportunity to acquire skills which could be used on release’. It makes sense – he was never going to be a bank manager again.

There are a number of volumes generated by the camp in its history from 1913 to 1938. The Entrance book shows some of the same information as the Goulburn book, without the physical description or birth date, and the final column shows that he was disposed ‘On license’ on Christmas Eve 1926. I imagine this was an early release for good behaviour, since his two years wasn’t up yet.

Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]

Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]

I had high hopes for the Visitors Book [5/1620] but I guess Tuncurry is a long way for family members to travel. Visitors weren’t as common as they are now. Few of the pages were actually used and the visitors were usually chaplains and surgeons, although there was a visit from the Governor of New South Wales and his entourage during my bank manager’s inprisonment. What a day that must have been!


Visitors book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1938 [5/1620]

I would love to know how this ex-bank manager got on after his year of planting trees. I do, however, know what happened to the prison camp:

Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8

Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8



  1. Matthew Sciacca says:

    This prison site has always been known by locals (long time locals generally of a number of generations in Tuncurry) as ‘The Pines’ this was common knowledge to me and my friends and we often drove out there in later years to access the beach to fish of just to muck around in the bush there. This site was straigth towards the beach from the old ‘refuse tip site’ or ‘dump site’ for Tuncurry. I even remember when the local RSL Club used to host the annual Christmas parties out there at the Pines, which was a free day for all RSL club members.

  2. Matthew Sciacca says:

    Further Comment:

    During WWII Italian locals like my Great Uncle Antonio (Tony) Sciacca were also interned at ‘The Pines’, as they were considered a risk as they were Italian Immigrants and may (in the minds of the Australian Government at the time) have been a risk to Australia, as Italy was not one of Australia’s allies during this war. All the interns were released again after the war to resume their lives locally, for Uncle Tony and the rest of my family, this was back to fishing and oyster production in Wallis Lake and the river system. Also at this time all small local boats were forced to be moored further up in the more remote areas of the lake and rivers, in case ‘the enemy’ arrived locally and used such boats to get access further inland across the lake.

  3. Thank you Matthew for sharing your family connection to this place.

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