Prisoner Cell Block H: Watch ya step!

Thursday evenings. Settle down and enjoy a visit to Wentworth Detention Centre. Once inside, who can you trust? Maybe you’ll be safe working in the kitchen. Maybe you can’t stand the heat of the kitchen and you’re thrown onto laundry duties where it’s not much cooler. Once you’re on laundry duties, best watch your step. The top dog operates the steam press – get on the wrong side of her and who knows what part of your body will be flattened!

Many of us tuned in to find out about the happenings on the inside. Who was top dog? Who wanted to be top dog? Who’s planning to make an escape? Which warden is a wolf dolled up as a sheep?

Prisoner Cell Block H was essential late night viewing. What made it essential? Well I remember having this discussion some years ago. The conclusion was it was so bad it was actually very good! The set was a bit cardboardy, but this TV series won quite a few Logie Awards (annual Australian television industry awards) and was fun late night viewing. PCBH achieved cult status as viewers tuned in to grab their late night fix behind bars.

So who were the characters?

  1. Bea Smith. Top Dog and chief operator of the steam press. Inside for shooting her husband. You would cross her at your peril! Get on her wrong side and prepared to be beaten to a pulp. A bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character – nice as pie one second but will smash an inmate up the next. There’s only one Bea Smith.



2. Vera Bennett. Hard faced, emotionless and cold warden who did things by the book. She would tell the inmates sternly to ‘Get back to your cells!’ She displayed ‘that’ mischievous smile once she had got her own way by putting an inmate in their place. Not sure how she got her nickname ‘Vinegar Tits’ but her face certainly swayed towards the sour side at times.



3. Lizzie. Fun old lady and a good mate of Bea Smith. Her laugh was unmistakeable. The fact is that she loved it on the inside. She once had the opportunity to be released but deliberately jeopardised it so she could be back with her inmates. Lizzie was fun, had bags of energy and could not resist a drop of alcohol!



4. Joan Ferguson. Miss Ferguson was the warden none of the inmates would want to cross. She was wicked … she was evil … she is the kind of person who would make the devil tremble and dampen his fierce flames! Smuggling, dodgy dealings, double crossing, bullying, organised beatings – the list could go on. Keep clear!



5. Doreen. A good friend of Lizzie. When it came to Doreen you would catch yourself saying ‘Aww’ or ‘Bless’. Doreen was a vulnerable soul who needed chunks of advice from Bea and Lizzie. One bit of advice she did not get was regarding the use of a garden fork – it’s for gardening only … not for ramming through your foot!



Do you have fond memories of Prisoner Cell Block H? Well you don’t have much more time to dwell on them as it’s time to get back to your cell! Soon the prison cell door will slide shut followed by the rattling of keys as you’re locked in. Shortly afterwards the lights will go out. Darkness and a cell mate will be your companions until the morning. You may hear some screams, some snoring or  your cell mate revealing their darkest secrets whilst sleep talking. Hold onto your sanity, survive each day and keep your enemies close – survival tips for being a resident of Wentworth Detention Centre.



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