{ carceral amnesia }


“A development like no other, Pentridge is a true Melbourne icon reimagined for the 21st century. Unique F&B and specialty retail opportunities are now available to join Pentridge’s retail hub, surrounded by stunning heritage listed bluestone buildings.”
This is the beginning of a real estate ad by the global property firm Colliers, who are responsible for the current scheme to redevelop Pentridge Prison and attract business investors to buy space within the precinct. To examine the concepts of colonial quaintness and carceral amnesia, the language of real estate seems apt in reflecting how these ideas are perpetuated to benefit systems of colonialism/capitalism within Australia.

To diminish the history of this site simply as a “stunning” building – solely with the intention of attracting investors and capital, and to further the process of gentrification within the suburb – is a case of amnesia over the realities of colonialism. What should the future look like for this place, one which is directed towards decolonisation? How can the legacy of colonial methods of incarceration and punishment be dispelled in the contemporary context? How can a movement be built to never repeat such a crime as Pentridge reflects, but to construct momentum towards transformative justice and prison abolition?

Pentridge is the materialisation of the domination of Wurundjeri lands by British Imperialism, a legacy which has been kept alive well into the contemporary Commonwealth country, guided by a continual reproduction of colonial structures. It is a manifestation of a violent and brutal system of Indigenous land theft and appropriation, coupled with an industrial system of mass incarceration which utilised enslaved convict labour for its construction and reproduction. It is a spatialisation of colonial ideology.

The prevailing amnesia of this reality is revealed in the uncritical perception that even one of the most violent colonial prisons, which closed only 23 years ago, can be reduced to decontextualised architectural elements, thus regarded as a quaint piece of history. With the case of Colliers, this reduction clearly benefits the status quo, with its overt objective being to add value to the site within global real estate markets.


Mark Romei