Sunday, 23 March 2014


Found this little snippet about the first Computers and Genealogy Conference in October 1997 whilst looking at material for a piece on VicGUM's upcoming 30th Anniversary in July.  You can also check out the pictures Tom took with his SLR, pre-digital camera days.


One hundred and twenty eight tired prisoners were released on good behaviour bonds following their incarceration at VicGUM's first Computers and Genealogy Conference held at Old Castlemaine Gaol in October.

To ensure that there was not a gaol breakout the prisoners were well fed, if not over fed, and in most cells ladders were not provided to assist in getting over the walls, let alone into the top bunk!!!  The thought of a soft mattress however did not deter the less agile from bedding down. 

A tour of the Gaol introduced most of the prisoners to what they could expect for a long stretch and to their plot six foot under if they overstayed their welcome.

A busy schedule during the daylight hours kept the prisoners from entertaining escape plans, though many were seen lurking in the hallways during the breaks - no doubt planning their name in print under various disguises or discussing how to finance their next project.

Hitches were thankfully few and far between and hopefully disguised.  Starting the day without a microphone to keep the prisoners in line was quickly rectified and improvements to further incarcerations have been noted.  The Prison Warder was able to keep even the most unruly prisoners in line for the duration of the conference.

The on-line Internet searching promised to be very popular, particularly with the available telephone line being barred to outside calls and Telstra offering a 5 day callout wait, despite being offered bribes.   The longest cable to be found in Castlemaine proved that you too can be connected no matter what the distance!!  Setting up the Internet connection was not without a few hiccups and our free connection for the weekend was with the compliments of Castlemaine Internet who can be found at / 

The prospect of being captured on digital camera however did not deter the attendance of any prospective bank robbers and most prisoners were seen to be plotting how to scan and even print money to pay for their planned excesses in family history.

Mini workshops proved to be very hectic, both in choosing the workshop to attend and finding the location.  Choosing your workshop within the confines of the hallway proved to be, even for those agile of mind, an intriguing contest. The tight time frame meant that the Prison Warder was again very active in ensuring the constant movement between workshops by the inmates.  When several refused to move on he was noted to be most unfriendly threatening further incarceration for bad behaviour.  Such was his influence with the threat of further incarceration, he even managed to obtain the services of several inmates (at short notice) to assist in demonstrating the virtues of their favoured family history program - no broken arms or legs were to be seen!!!

Night time reading was well catered for with the Genealogical Society of Victoria and Gould Books of SA providing the opportunity for good bedside reading material for those on long term sentences.

Lack of contact with the outside world was certainly impressed upon with the production of a newsletter, if only to make arrangements for the inmates planning their escape to contact relatives outside the Gaol walls!

The weekend interment was extremely successful with many prisoners willing to be incarcerated again!

I would like to personally thank:

Speakers (in order of appearance):
Ken McInnes      Introduction to Computers and Genealogy (VicGUM)
Irene Fullarton    How to Research our Family History on the Internet (VicGUM)
Clive Nixon         Captured....(Michael's Camera and Video)
Allan Phillips      Getting it into Print...(Gould Books)
Tim Dolby          BDM's on CD Rom - Now and the Future (Informit, RMIT Publishing)
Kathy Baulch      So You Want to Write a Family Newsletter (VicGUM)
and for the unscheduled, but extremely relevant talk, on how to look after our bodies whilst indulging in Computers and Genealogy by Peter Richardson, Physiotherapist, Acupuncturist and Masseur (Castlemaine Holistic Therapies).

Workshops speakers - Meg Bate, John Nathan, Irene Fullarton, Ken McInnes, and Carl Miller, who together with unsolicited but most welcomed, fellow inmates - Bruce Tweedley, Tom Luke, and Peter Beckett, who obviously had hoped for early release and had planned for their early escape by arriving with laptops, all happily elicited their experiences and expertise to encourage the inmates to get it down in print and shorten their sentences.

Conference Papers which were prepared by:  Irene Fullarton, Kathy Baulch, Alexander Romanov-Hughes, and Ken McInnes, and printed by Bookaburra Press.

Conference Sub-Committee of: Heather Hardwick and Bruce Fullarton for their support - both of whom were unable to attend due to family commitments.  Bruce's and wife Anne's excuse for not wishing to be incarcerated was the imminent birth of their daughter, Tessa, who arrived on the Wednesday following the Conference!!  Not sure what the Gaol authorities would have made of a birth in custody.

My thanks, must also go to the rest of the VicGUM committee who conceived the idea of a VicGUM Computers and Genealogy Conference and who over the last two years have included:  Bill Gunther, Ken McInnes, Graeme Simpson, Bruce Fullarton, Penny Mercer, Merv Leeding, John Nathan, Colin Lewis, and Irene Fullarton, without whom VicGUM's first Computer and Genealogy Conference would not have been as enriching to all who were incarcerated!

Andrew and Kaye Duncan of the Old Castlemaine Gaol must also be congratulated on the ideal venue for our first Conference, who together with their friendly staff made the enforced stay most enjoyable, and it was a pleasure to be in their company.

Finally, I must also thank my husband, Tom, for his support over the past 18 months whilst I have been otherwise occupied with VicGUM, and have left the our two young daughters in his capable hands on a regular basis!

Robyn Fisher
President VicGUM Inc

1 comment:

  1. Some photos: