Rottnest Walks : Colonial Buildings of Thomson Bay

When I left the museum, honestly I thought that I will go straight to the jetty and will just wait there until boarding time. But while walking, I found information boards not far from buildings. And I saw a couple of them. When I approached one of it, I realized that the building it describes are historical building. Then, I remembered that I had a brochure about Rottnest Colonial Buildings, I took it out from my bag. Then, I checked the time, I knew I had at least half an hour to spare for a walk to see the historical buildings in the island before the scheduled boarding time. I was time conscious or else I will be left behind by the ferry and most likely to miss my flight back to Manila that night. But, it did not happen as I quickly stride from one building to another. Below are some if not all colonial buildings that I was able to see as fast as I can while in the island.

Since I came from Rottnest Island Museum, the first building that I was able to recognized as colonial building in Thomson Bay Settlement area was Old Mill and Hay Store.

Old Mill and Hay Store (1857) – Rottnest Island Museum






The building was constructed after previous farm buildings were destroyed by fire as part of the complex farm buildings alongside with General Store. The building was first converted into staff accommodation for the Island’s hostel in 1911 when the prison was closed, it also housed the Rottnest Literary Institute and Club until it finally became a museum in 1979.

Then I walked along Digby Drive towards the bay and turned left and went inside the General Store to buy post cards as my souvenir in the island.

Hay Store (1857) – General Store



The island’s current shopping mall was part of the complex that includes two-storey prison/workshop building, stables, barns, and a piggery. The General Store was a former hay store and converted for commercial use in the early 20th century.

With the arrival of the first holiday makers in early 1900s, The General Store and Bakery were the first to welcome the public, followed by a greengrocer, butcher, laundrette and hair salon.

From General Store, I walked along Somerville Drive and turned right at Maley Street where I found the Military Barracks and now serve as accommodation units for guest and visitors in the island.

Military Barracks (1844)  – 3 Flats (“E”,”J” & “H”) or Room 339, 338, & 337



Originally a military barracks and accommodated soldiers that guarded Aboriginal prison. When a new prison built in 1864, the soldier replaced by resident  prison warders. This building consisted of 3 rooms and modified later for Prison wardens and their families. It was altered again and extended  to provide accommodation for the Island’s School Teacher in 1898. Then it divided again into 3 Flats in 1917.

Then, I turned left in Vincent Way while facing the bay. The next building that I saw was the Second Superintendent’s House, which serve as another accommodation unit in the island.

Second Superintendent’s House (1848) – Sullivan or Room 336




This building built in 1848 when Governor Fitzgerald expressed interest in taking over the First Superintendent’s House. The building also accommodated the Island’s store keeper (1898), the Colonial Secretary (1908) and the Officer-In-Charge (World War I & II). It later became the Island Manager’s House.

I was still walking along Vincent Way, when I found the Pilot’s Quarters or Pilot’s Cottage which now serve as additional accommodation unit.

Pilot’s Quarters / Cottage (1847) – Room 335 & 334



Mr. Francis Armstrong arrived at the island in 1847 as Storekeeper and Moral Agent to improve the habits and morals of the prisoners. He lived in the cottage for less than a year to avoid conflicts with Henry Vincent – the Superintendent of Aboriginal Prison. After Armstrong, the chief pilot occupied the cottage, that is why it was called as Pilot’s cottage.

Another building that I found along Vincent Way was Coxwain’s Cottage. I was not able to capture the photo of the next building beside which called as Pilot Crew Kitchen

Coxswain’s Cottage (1871) with Photo – Room 333 & Pilot Crew Kitchen (1867) No Photo – Room 332



Coxwain which was an Assistant Pilot stayed in the cottage and was built in 1871. Between 1848 and 1903, pilot crew were needed for guiding ships between the island and Fremantle Port. Cottages are need for Coxwain and other pilot crews. Pilot Crew Kitchen was built inn 1867.

The last building that I saw along Vincent Way before I turned left to Cusack St was the Pilot’s Crew Quarter but was not able to capture a photo of it. But currently the quarter is now served as guest accommodation too.

Pilot Crew’s Quarter (1846-1852) No Photo – Room 301


Pilot Service was stationed in the island as guide ship due to treacherous reefs and the Pilot Crew Quarters became their accommodation.

While taking the Cusack Street, I had a chance to see the Orchard.

The Orchard




The Orchard showcases that during the colony period, vegetable yards was very important for the early settlers, until the said industry became big and this enabled them to trade to the mainland. The orchard shows the fencing style and plantings during that time.

While I was checking the Orchard, I was lucky so see Quokka for the second time (the first was while I was in Parker Point). This time, I realized how these animals are so cute and charming when up close with them.

Then, I walked along Kitson Street until I found what I was looking for, the School House.



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Pilot Crew Quarters & School House (1890) – Guest House / Accommodation




The building was built in 1890, to be used by Leading Hand of the Pilot Crew. Then, became island’s first designated school-house from 1910 to 1962 when the Pilot Service was closed in 1903. Until it finally became staff and holiday accommodation.

Not far from School House, I saw information board telling the readers that the land is a sacred site.

Wadjemup Burial Ground – A sacred Site







When I read the information boards across burial ground area, it was a relief that there was a ground dedicated and recognized as sacred site for the aboriginals throughout the island. After learning that a lot of aboriginals were buried somewhere within the island and yet unidentified was somewhat a sad story for the natives. And having this kind of site returns respect to Aboriginals after a tragic history that happens in Rottnest.

Then, I looked again on the brochure map that I was holding and following the location of the other colonial buildings. But before I found another one, I saw again a familiar flag while I was traveling in Western Australia, an Australian Aboriginal Flag. Not far from where the Australian Aboriginal Flag stands, I found the Lomas Cottage.

Australian Aboriginal Flag



Lomas Cottage (1871) – Exhibition Space




Lomas Cottage or commonly known as “Buckingham Palace” a named it received in 1880s when Warder Buckingham lived in the cottage. Formerly it was built for John Lomas, ex-convict and became “Imperial Pauper”. The cottage served many different purposes. Right now, it servers as an exhibition space.

Next to Lomas Cottage, the vast space or grasssed area now with trees is known as Heritage Common.

Heritage Common





These place witnessed the men whom crossed here from 1864 to 1903 as over 3000 Aboriginal men came to Rottnest’s infamous Quod.

The Quod (1863-1864) – Karma Rottnest












Quod is an old English slang word for prison. And the Quod served as prison in Rottnest island for Aboriginal men. When the prison was closed, it was converted into a hostel or lodge as holiday accommodation today as Karma Rottnest.

After passing “The Quod”, my walk continue until I saw another board information which signifies another historical colonial building, where I saw “The Chapel”.

The Old School and Chapel (1856 – 1857)



The building was originally built as school by aboriginals and became local point of the island’s community. It was used as school during weekday and chapel on Sundays. It has been venue for tea dances and meetings of the Rottnest Island Institute. When the prison was closed, it was stopped as school and converted back as chapel.

Just beside “The Chapel”, another colonial building is still standing, it is called Boy Reformatory and now additional accommodation for guests in the island.

Boys Reformatory (1880-1881) – Accomodation Hostel



The building was designed by Public Works Department, it was completed in 1881. Before, the juvenile prisoners sent to Perth Gaol, but when this was built, young prisoners sent here so that they can be separated to adult criminals to be able to change their way of life and not to be influence of prisoners in gaol. Now, the building was converted into “Accommodation House” for the State Hostel and the dormitories were divided into bedrooms.

Then, as I look into the map, the last building that I can visit to see before I walked towards the jetty to board a ferry was “The Salt Store”. One of the buildings that easy to see since it is standing not far from the jetty. But because, of the time the building was already closed, where the volunteers in the picture took care the Australian flag.

The Salt Store (1868) – Gallery and Exhibition Centre


Capture before boarding the ferry


Captured when arrived in the island

Salt which crystallizes on the beds of the salt lakes when dried were brought to Salt Store since 1830s by the settlers and then later by aboriginals. Salt Store supplies the salt to the whole Western Australia during its early years.

There is one and probably the most charming building of all colonial buildings that I should see but I missed was Governor’s Residence as it is separated to most of the colonial buildings that I saw. Because of limited time, I had to run to jetty not to missed my ferry.

Until then.

Notes :
1. Plan to visit Rottnest Island ? Please check latest information here.
2. Location : Rottnest Island, WA 6161, Australia
3. Directions to Rottnest Island :
Transportation :
a. Join Day Tours from Perth or
b. Go to Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay terminal and take Rottnest Express
c. Go to Hillarys Ferry Terminal and take Rottnest Fast Ferries boat
d. Go to Northport Rous Head Harbour or  B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and
take Rottnest Express ferry or
e. Go to B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and take Sealink Rottnest Island ferry
4. Directions to Thomson Bay Settlement area
a. From Main Jetty go to Rottnest Island Visitor Centre and get a brochure for
Colonial Buildings of Thomson Bay to follow the historical walking trails of the
Official Website : Rottnest Island









Rottnest … Island Museum

After visiting Wadjemup Lighthouse, our bus tour in the island ended when we returned to Thomson Bay Settlement area where most of the accommodations in the island can be found. When I checked the time, I knew that I still have more than an hour to explore other parts of the island, before boarding the ferry to return to Hillary’s Terminal. While walking around the settlement area, I found a small building and realized that it was the island museum.



Because of limited time to spare for the museum visit, I just quickly scan and browse the displays that can be found inside the museum. And honestly, with a short period of time, I learned a lot of things about Rottnest.

Rottnest Island Museum were able to show historical purpose of the land starting from the colonization period up to present time. It displays historical artifacts from being a prison island, a military defense station, an internment camp, reformatory camp to becoming an island playground. The museum opened my mind, that the beauty of the island is not the only thing it has but a history that deserves to be known by people whom visited the island to be able to appreciate not only its natural beauty but to be able to respect the people that made the island a livable one.

Rottnest … As Island Playground

Here are some artifacts that shows Rottnest Island as Holiday Paradise.



Because of the beauty of the island, the governor at that time were interested to have holiday residence in Rottnest which materialized in 1864. Historically, because Rottnest was used as prison island, holidaying here was exclusive only to governor, his family and guests. And their favorite pastimes were fishing, swimming and shooting.


Even though that a permit to land in the island is required, still the urge to visit the island for people were very strong, there were evidence that yachtmens and visitors camping in the island from 1890’s and earlier. Then, in 1902, the rules were relax and permission was granted to ferries to bring excursionist on Sundays. In 1907, more allowances to visitors were given, that’s why basic facilities were built for day trippers and campers.


Then, the decision to close the island as prison and convert Rottnest to holiday and recreation use was made in 1904 but the development was a slow one. In 1907, the plan for development was drafted and carried out.



Here’s other displays that showcases the island as recreation haven.





Rottnest … As Island Military Defense

Since the island was used as military defense for the Perth and Fremantle port, the significant role that contributed by the island happened when the 9.2 Inch Battery was installed in the middle of it which started in 1936. I had a chance to visit the Gun Room and Platform (Oliver Hill), as well as the Tunnel where the pumps, magazines and engine room can be found that support the defense. The Rottnest Island earned its title as the ‘gatekeeper’ as it was able to defend the port when Darwin and Broome was bombarded in 1942 during World War II.





Rottnest … As Prison Island

If I witnessed the island as haven for recreation and vacation activities nowadays, the island before serves different purpose for almost a century. While traveling across Northern Territory and Western Australia, I had learned a lot of things about the life that Aboriginals started to experience when the country became European colony. And Rottnest Island witnessed more, how cruel the life it was for the natives when colonizer arrived in the land and they were not spared for it.





There were worst times for the native prisoners. There were periods where number of prisoners increased too much which directly affects the social and health conditions in the prison. But even, these issues were raised as concerns in the council, no actions were done to alleviate or resolve the problem. This made the aboriginal prisoners lived in harsh conditions with inadequate of food and shelter that most of the time leads to lots of deaths.



But because of the plan to convert the island from being prison land to holiday location, the prisoners arriving to the island became lesser and lesser until the prison closed in 1931.



One thing that to take note as an important thing to learn while exploring the museum is the understanding of the significant role of aboriginals towards the development of Rottnest Island that we see today. It was considered that the aboriginals played a key role in the history of development of the Swan River Colony and the State of Western Australia. Reminiscing how beautiful the island at this time, why like me were able to appreciate and enjoy the island was mainly because of the natives whom sacrificed a lot for the island.

Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground

There is a portion of the museum where it displays historical facts about the aboriginals and Wadjemup or Rottnest Island. Here, it shows the darkness history that natives experience while being prisoners in the island. It is a sad story that people should learn and moving forward help to make a better world for them to even at least respect their rights to live properly in their own land with their own culture to embrace.


“Greeting from Rottnest” by Sally Morgan












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Rottnest … As Boys Reformatory Camp

Aside from being Aboriginal Prisons, Rottnest Island became a location for reformation of young boys that had conflict with the law. Before they were sent to the island, these juvenile sent to Perth Gaol together with adult prisoners. The created boys reformatory in the island with the objective to separate the young from adult prisoners to avoid bad influences from the old ones.




Rottnest … As Island Internment

There was a time that the island was used for confinement of the foreign nationals during World War I and II because they were alleged as ‘enemy aliens’. These were Germans, Austro-Hungarian, Croatians, Czechs, and Slovaks citizens that were detained in Internment Camp during first World War, while Italian internees detained during second World War.




Rottnest … As An Island of Limestone

The most ancient rocks underlies on the Swan Coastal Plain are 10 km below the surface and believed to be at least 280 million years old.

The oldest rocks that can be seen at Rottnest form a low cliff at Fairbridge Bluff, Salmon Bay. Here is a well-preserved fossil coral reef, known as the Rottnest Limestone, which stands nearly 3 m above modern sea level and overlies older dune limestones.

Most of the limestone present on Rottnest was formed from dunes of limesand, blown inland from beaches during Late Pleistocene time.




Laminar form of Staghorn Coral and Branching form of Staghorn Coral


Colony of Brain Coral and Pocillopora Reef near Parker Point


Tamala Limestone


Tamal Limestone at Salmon Bay



Before I left the museum, I had a chance to see what Dugite look like, the only venominous snake that exist in Rottnest Island which displayed as a preserved one inside the glass.

Until then.

Notes :
1. Plan to visit Rottnest Island ? Please check latest information here.
2. Location : Rottnest Island, WA 6161, Australia
3. Directions to Rottnest Island :
Transportation :
a. Join Day Tours from Perth or
b. Go to Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay terminal and take Rottnest Express
c. Go to Hillarys Ferry Terminal and take Rottnest Fast Ferries boat
d. Go to Northport Rous Head Harbour or  B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and
take Rottnest Express ferry or
e. Go to B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and take Sealink Rottnest Island ferry
4. Directions to Rottnest Island Museum
a. From Main Jetty of the island, turn right and walk along Digby Drive road
Official Website : Rottnest Island






Arts and Craft : “Greeting from Rottnest” By Sally Morgan

Arts and Craft (Post#27) : “Greeting from Rottnest” By Sally Morgan

Photos of the day are all about the painting entitled “Greeting from Rottnest” made by Sally Morgan that is being displayed in Rottnest Island Museum. At first that I found this banner, I thought that it was just nothing but, it caught my eyes because it shows modern people above and people’s bone at the bottom. Then, when I read the excerpts included at the bottom of the banner, then I realized that it shows the reality even at the time of my visit in the island, because even myself, if I did not visit the museum is most likely ignorant to the Rottnest dark past.

“Greeting from Rottnest” was painted in 1988 as response to bicentennial of the colonization of Australia. In summary it depicts tourist visiting Rottnest Island standing above the unmarked graves of Aboriginal prisoners which forgotten. The tourists are smiling for photographs and underneath the buried aboriginals and showing their shield eyes from the sun and metaphorically from island’s history.  Morgan, the painter is a local artist and author where she frankly look at the history of the place. These photos are part of Rottnest Island Tour October 2016.


Notes :
Photo : painting, “Greeting from Rottnest” By Sally Morgan
Location : Rottnest Island WA, Australia
Transportation :
1. Join Day Tours from Perth where different options are available or
2. Take cruise to the island with your own or rented boat
Official Website : Rottnest Island

Reflections, Inspirations and Perceptions : Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground

Reflections, Inspirations and Perceptions (Post#4) : Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground

Photos of the day are all about the thoughts behind “Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground” that I was able to read when visiting the Rottnest Island Museum. It’s been a while since my last post that tackles my thoughts and opinions about something. While looking at photos that I can publish that related to Rottnest Island, I found photos that shows a heart breaking reality about it. This somewhat reminds me when I visited Center for Civil and Human Rights museum in Atlanta which made me cry while exploring it.  And reading the texts and notes again breaks my heart. The dark history contradicts the beauty of the island. These photos are part of Rottnest Island Tour October 2016.



Western Australia … jails its Indigenous population at a higher rate per capita than any other country in the world

— Amy McQuire 2011

This really a disturbing information that I discovered about Western Australia history.


… we have in Western Australia a king-sized problem in this respect. Until the community solves that problem it is useless to expect that it will not be reflected in an institution such as Fremantle Prison

— Royal Commission into the Treatment of Aboriginal Prisoners at Fremantle Prison, 1973

Another notes that support that indeed there were issue on treating aboriginals in the prison.


Come read the loneliness and confusion
On the walls of this cell of seven by eleven
Yeah, okay, I’ll be honest: I ain’t no saint.
But then again, I wasn’t born in Heaven.

– Okay, Let’s Be Honest by Robert Walker, Inside Black Australia: an anthology of Aboriginal poetry 1988.

They didn’t have to be cruel by beating us or anything else,
it’s just the isolation. I think that was the pain. The pain was the isolation … I can see prison as more of a mental strain than anything else. More mentally. It sort of broke people

— Aboriginal Prisoner 1980

Discovering the thoughts of the aboriginal prisoners that time who experienced reality and brutality of prison in Rottnest are more eye-opener than any other historical facts that are published at that time.


At eight o’clock the first two of the condemned made their appearance on the scaffold, yelling and moving, the ropes were adjusted about their neck, the caps drawn over their features – when one of the poor fellows spoke loudly to his companion. “M…..are you dead?” “No, not yet” replied M…

–The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times


Chains in the northern, not the southern, portion of this state are fixed to the necks instead of the wrist of the nation prisoners … Children from 14 to 16 years of age are neck-chained

Both photos above showcasing how the colony brutalized the native people of the land, a heart breaking history.


Rottnest … is called the “Black Man’s Grave”, and may not after all be such a delightful spot in which to pass an idle hour as one might fancy. It is indeed a place of painful memories

Herald 29 May 1875

This thought about the island made me realized that it was not perfect because of its past history but the people today should be able to be thankful to the aboriginals to have such wonderful island, its because of them that is why we have a place to get relax and appreciate the beauty of nature in a more comfortable and relaxing way.


The prisoners will sit down and weep most bitterly, particularly old men, or those who have left wives and children on the main … they seem most intensely alive to their lost Freedom, and lamentably bewail their captivity.

–Description of male Aboriginal prisoners on Rottnest Island in 1842 Government Gazette, 11 February 1842

This is historical reality that we understand that native people whatever their color and culture is, must be respected specifically this time, aboriginal and non-aboriginal people must have equal rights in our world today.


Midgegooroo, on seeing that preparations were making to punish him, yelled and struggled most violently to escape … in fewer than five minutes he was pinioned and blindfolded, and bound to the other door of the jail … they then fired and Midgegooroo fell …

–The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal 25 May 1833

A cruel reality that honestly, I cannot imagine and do not want to think of. But learning this historical facts must influence the people right now that all people have rights to live not only according to laws of the land but according to the culture that they have. We have to respect that all people have their own ways of living, as long as we do not take away the rights of others.


This is not the place to grow up from being a teenager to becoming a man

–Aboriginal prisoner, End of the Road documentary, 1991

Reading these notes about the life of the aboriginal prisoners in Rottnest Island made me felt uneasy as these were historical facts. The beauty that surrounds the island contradicts its past and that is true, but it was not bad to appreciate the island of its serenity, for me, we just have to remember and be thankful that the aboriginals made a huge contribution to the island why now it is so charming, a contradicting tranquility that it offers in our time that does not exist when the island was still a prison land.

Notes :
Photo : history, facts, thoughts, Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground
Location : Rottnest Island WA, Australia
Transportation :
1. Join Day Tours from Perth where different options are available or
2. Take cruise to the island with your own or rented boat
Official Website : Rottnest Island

Arts and Craft : “A Glimpse of Thompson’s Bay” & “The Sea Wall Thompson’s Bay” By Axel Poignant

Arts and Craft (Post#26) : “A Glimpse of Thompson’s Bay” & “The Sea Wall Thompson’s Bay” By Axel Poignant

Photos of the day are all about photographs that were hand-coloured bromide prints displayed inside Rottnest Island Museum made by Swedish Axel Poignant whom moved to Western Australia in 1926 which also became a leading society photographer in Perth. In these photos, Poignant portrays Rottnest Island by featuring Thompson’s Bay (Thomson Bay). These photos are part of Rottnest Island Tour October 2016.


“A Glimpse of Thompson’s Bay”


“The Sea Wall Thompson’s Bay”

Notes :
Photo : hand-coloured photographs, “The Sea Wall Thompson’s Bay” By Axel Poignant, “A Glimpse of Thompson’s Bay” By Axel Poignant
Location : Rottnest Island WA, Australia
Transportation :
1. Join Day Tours from Perth where different options are available or
2. Take cruise to the island with your own or rented boat
Official Website : Rottnest Island