Ross Female Factory Explores History of Women Convicts Mon 21 May 2012 Brian Wightman Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage Tasmanians are being given a new opportunity to explore the compelling but brutal history of female convicts in Tasmania's northern midlands. A $240,000 interpretation and conservation project at the Ross Female Factory has been completed, after almost three years. The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said the 'Ross Community and the story of Convictism' project was made possible through the Tasmanian Community Fund. "Many of the smaller communities across Tasmania were touched by our convict heritage, and still bear its influence," Mr Wightman said. "The Tasmanian Wool Centre and the Parks and Wildlife Service are to be commended for this excellent conservation and interpretation project at Ross. "It highlights how a partnership between a committed community group and the Government can help preserve and present Tasmania's unique heritage," he said. The new interpretation includes a boundary wall for the site and signage around the archaeological remains, as well as displays inside the Staff Quarters, which is the sole standing building at the site. It gives visitors an insight into how the factory was set-out and operated, and an appreciation of the conditions and lifestyle there. Conservation works on the Staff Quarters were integral to the project, and included repairs to the roof, internal plasterwork and finishes. The site was originally used to accommodate male convicts for hire. However, it's particularly significant for the period between 1847 and 1854, when it was one of only five workhouses, or 'female factories' used for female convicts in Tasmania. "The Ross Female Factory is a nationally significant site in the story of female convictism," Mr Wightman said. "Of 74,000 convicts transported to Tasmania, about 12,500 were women. At some point, most of them were incarcerated in one of the five 'factories'," he said. The manager of the Tasmanian Wool Centre, Debra Cadogan-Cowper, is proud of the centre's ongoing partnership with the Parks and Wildlife Service. The centre has conducted guided tours of the Ross Female Factory for 22 years, with the support of the local community. "There have been many improvements to the site since the early days," Mrs Cadogan-Cowper said. "Artefacts discovered at the site have added value to the convict women's story, providing a richer experience for visitors. "The upgraded interpretation has brought colour and life to the stories of the women and their gaolers," she said. The $240,000 Tasmanian Community Fund grant was provided to the Tasmanian Wool Centre at Ross in 2009. The 'Ross Community and the story of Convictism' project opens on Wednesday May 23rd, at 10.30am, at the Ross Female Factory, on the corner of Bond and Portugal Streets.