From Nagle to now: 40 years of prison reform and rehabilitation

Approximately 250 people recently braved a chilly Bathurst winter evening to attend a free public lecture and expert Q&A Panel.  Hosted by the Centre for Law and Justice and sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC), the event commemorated the 40th Anniversary of the Nagle Royal Commission into NSW Prisons, which was initiated to investigate the brutal reprisals following riots at Bathurst Gaol in the mid-1970s.

Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of the CSU Centre for Law and Justice Dr Kath McFarlane said, “We heard from the experts – former prisoners, prison administrators, lawyers and the former head of the watchdog agency – as they debated Justice Nagle’s legacy and the role of law against the backdrop of a rapidly increasing prison population, increasing sentence length and the privatisation of prison services in NSW.”

Following the Q&A Panel, former Bathurst Gaol inmate and Bidigal Elder Uncle Vic Simms and his band took to the stage for rousing renditions of classic hits from his seminal album ‘The Loner’, which was recorded in just 1 hour in Bathurst Gaol in 1973.

Featuring a Welcome to Country by local Wiradyuri Elders, the event was a keystone event of the Centre for Law and Justice’s law degree residential school program and was attended by students, members of the public, and the legal profession.

Teaching resources

To expand upon the issues discussed at the Nagle public lecture, a suite of learning and teaching resources is being developed by the Centre for Law and Justice, funded by the FOBJBS and supported by the CSU Creative Hub. These will feature in-depth interviews with Silverwater Gaol helicopter escapee John Killick, Human Rights (Community) Award winner and FOBJBS student John Murray, CSU Adjunct and barrister Bill Walsh, CSU Adjunct and former Inspector of Prisons Dr John Paget, Australian Human Rights Award winner Debbie Kilroy OAM, and Uncle Vic Simms – musician, Deadly Award winner and former prisoner whose album, The Loner, was recorded inside Bathurst Gaol.

You can find out more about the public lecture at

Story by Kath McFarlane