NPWHF0691 - Patricia Muldoon, colour copy of photograph, 1955

Inkjet printed copy of colour photograph of Patricia Muldoon.

The Muldoon family lived in the Superintendant's house at the Gaol. The original photograph was taken in 1955. Patricia, aged 17, is seated in her debutante dress in the courtyard of the Alice Springs Gaol. The Debutantes Ball was held inside the Catholic Hall, Alice Springs. 

Sometimes called ‘Muldoon’s Guest House’, the old Alice Springs Gaol in Stuart Terrace, was a friendly place, for its female guests in particular. This is according to Mrs Phillip Muldoon, otherwise known as Bertie, short for Bertilla, or “Matron” to the ‘guests’, wife of the superintendent, Phillip Muldoon.

Appointed to the role in 1938, Muldoon was renowned as a kind man, and according to Mrs Muldoon, wanted his guests to be happy. When it was hot, the prisoners were allowed to sleep outside their suffocating cells. He had the buildings painted in bright colours – red, yellow and green – and moved the prisoners around every few months to provide some variety to their surrounds.

To keep boredom at bay, he had them work on a garden, growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. It was all so neat and well-developed it gained the nickname “Vatican City” from the townsfolk (also responding to the Muldoons’ Catholicism), while the prisoners called it “Greenbush”, a name that lives on for the art group active in the present-day gaol.

Inmates ate the produce and were often better nourished than their relatives on the outside.

Mr Muldoon also allowed corroborees, though he “didn’t  tell Darwin”.

If he bent the rules, it was fair enough as much was expected from him, well beyond the normal call of duty. He furnished the gaol himself, including all utensils and was on call without a break for 10 years.

“His only friends were his guests,” according to Mrs Muldoon.

She concerned herself with looking after the “lubras” in the women’s wing. Most of them were regulars, locked up for short periods for drinking alcohol. One long-term prisoner, who had killed her partner, would help Mrs Muldoon look after her children and the others assisted with her housework. Otherwise they just had to look after themselves. The men did the cooking and all the other work around the gaol: “The lubras loved that. They loved it so much they called the gaol home,” Mrs Muldoon said.


Object ID: NPWHF0691 - Patricia Muldoon, colour copy of photograph, 1955

Date Made: 1955

Materials: Inkjet print on semi gloss paper

Dimensions: 15.3 cm x 18.4 cm