Volunteer Caretakers at The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame

We were very excited to arrive at our long awaited destination and home for the next three months.  The museum is located in the Heritage Precinct of Alice Springs which also houses the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility (RFDS) and the Reptile Centre. A variety of tour buses base themselves outside the RFDS and their passengers don’t have to walk far to see all three attractions.

The museum is located in the old Alice Springs Gaol and Labour Prison. It is heritage listed and like most gaols, is surrounded by barbed wire along the perimeter fences. We were going to be staying inside the facility and had to pull the caravan through two sets of gates to get to our site.  When we first enquired about the position we had to measure the height of our van.  It had to be under 4 metres high to fit under the barbed wire that went across the top of the first gate.  Even the barbed wire is heritage listed and therefore cannot be cut or removed. So unless we could drive under without dragging the wire with us, we would not have been able to apply for the role.

Entry gateIn the picture above you can see the sliding gate in the brick wall. Above that is the roll of barbed wire.

Gateway inIn this next photo you can see the two padlocked gates into the grounds of the museum.

img_20180716_201028_0715038817467861321999.jpgThanks to the brilliance of Ray’s driving skills not only did he get through the first and second gates, but he reversed in to the site in one go! He breathed a huge sigh of relief!


After a few days to settle in and have our orientation we jumped into our roles with gusto. The staff and other volunteers have made us feel very welcome. Ray is in his element keeping the grounds tidy and doing odd jobs. He even has access to a man shed! He is also a whiz at covering library books with sticky contact! Jude is enjoying her role as a Volunteer in the Old Gaol Shop. This involves greeting visitors, processing admission fees, giving people a brief overview of the museum and selling merchandise. We are meeting so many interesting people from all around Australia and overseas.

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame is one of two women’s museums in Australia. It is dedicated to preserving the place of women in history for their special contribution to Australia’s heritage.  It was founded in 1993 by a lady called Molly Clark who lived at Old Andado Station, south east of Alice Springs.  Molly was disappointed that the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland, was only about men. The museum has been based in the Old Alice Springs Gaol since 2007, and also explores the history of the Gaol which was in operation from 1938 to 1996. We would highly recommend you make a special trip to Alice Springs and come visit the museum!

From Julia to Alice….Alice Springs that is!

In August last year whilst caretaking in Tasmania, we saw a job advert in the Grey Nomad Times asking for Volunteer Caretakers in Alice Springs.

Caretaker Advert

The line that caught our eye and our attention was “Have you ever wanted to stay in an historic gaol?” Well of course we did and in fact we had already done so. In 2016 we stayed in Fremantle Gaol in the converted Women’s section for our wedding anniversary. Ray and I made contact with the Business Manager and had a good chat about the role. We didn’t have to think twice before filling in the application form and emailing it off. Referees were contacted and a few days after applying we were delighted to find that we had been accepted to start in July 2018.

So over the next eleven months we carried on travelling and attending various events that we have written about in earlier blogs. But throughout that time, hardly a day passed where Alice wasn’t mentioned. So many people told us that we would love the town and gave us ideas of things to do and places to see whilst there.

Mid July, we left Julia Creek, Queensland, and continued along the Overlander’s Way, passing though Cloncurry, Mount Isa and Camooweal, before finally making it over the border into the Northern Territory.  We had finally made it into all the six states and two territories of Australia!NT sign

It was another 966km from the border to Alice Springs, so we only drove 457km to Tennant Creek. We broke our journey there and stayed for two nights. Tennant Creek is an interesting town and we had heard many stories from various folk we had met on the road. Half the people said to avoid it due to issues with the local indigenous population, and the other half said it was worth exploring. We can only go on our experience, but we would stay there again. We stayed at the Tennant Creek Caravan Park which is on the highway and next door to the BP Service Station. We had a drive thru site, the amenities were good, staff friendly and we felt very secure. We walked downtown and had no problem with the locals. We wouldn’t walk around at night time but then we wouldn’t walk the streets at night in Perth or any other major city! We do acknowledge that there are many social issues and problems with the locals and alcohol is probably a big cause. The media has also documented many problems including domestic violence and child abuse. However on the days we visited we did not experience any discord ourselves.


The stories of the Warumungu people and their culture are showcased in the Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre. The Warumungu and other Aboriginal groups including the Warlpiri, Kaytetye and Alyawarra people have a history in the area spanning 40,000 years. Unfortunately we were too late to visit the centre on the day we were in town but will definitely check it our on our return.

The European history of the town began in 1860 when the explorer John McDouall Stuart came through during an attempt to cross the continent from South to North. The town was also home to one of the Overland Telegraph Stations which was constructed in the 1870’s and in the 1930’s it was the site of Australia’s last gold rush and at that time was the third-largest gold producer in Australia.


We left Tennant Creek and headed the 509km south to Alice Springs. On the way we passed the Devils Marbles; Aliens in flying saucers, Anmatjere Man, Woman And Child and wild camels.

And then there was the iconic sign to show that we had finally made it to our long awaited and highly anticipated destination!!dsc_24875623992878927110029.jpg