Freedom! Stories of Great Escapes WEA Sydney

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The human need for both freedom and connection, despite authoritarian censure, has resulted in the punishments of imprisonment and exile for those willing to take the risk. Australia, with our history of convicts, prisoners, and Aboriginal Reserves, has been the setting for many, many escapes and escape attempts, demonstrating the ingenuity and determination of both prisoners in the attempts and guards in defence. Overseas, politics has created another context for keeping people trapped - but always, they will seek freedom.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Convict escapes from Sydney: Mary Bryant’s early success, John Wilson and the Blue Mountains, The Cyprus sails to Japan, The Venus and the first Australian female pirate, The pirates of the Frederick, Alexander Pearce the cannibal, Escaping Vaucluse House, Escaping Cockatoo Island
  • Prison escapes: Moondyne Joe the bushranger, Escape on the Catalpa, Jundamurra the liberator, Croker Island Exodus, The Magnificent 7 of Maitland Gaol
  • Outside Australia: Red Hugh O'Donnell and Dublin Castle, Lord Nithersdale and the Tower of London, Charles II from Worcester to France, Yoshie Shiratori, The Acre Prison break, Checkpoint Charlie


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Know stories of escapes and attempted escapes from Australia and around the world
  2. Know historical contexts of convicts, 19th and 20th century prisons, European prisoners of war and political prisoners
  3. Discuss issues of imprisonment and freedom