woman dressed as a convict kneeling over a wooden crib

A story of hope

Our tour group shuffles into Yard 1 at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site. We look out into the shell of a building to see a woman.

As she walks closer, we’re told to forget everything we know about modern life – the cushioned soles of our shoes, the food in our bellies, our right to love and our right to freedom.

She comes face to face with us. Her name is Sarah Mason and she’s one of the 7000 convict women who were sent to the Female Factory in the 1800s. Sarah was given seven years for stealing a pair of boots. And that’s just the beginning of her story.

Sarah is one of six characters we meet in The Proud and The Punished, a new one-woman performance by Karissa Lane-Irons and playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer.

Giving new life to the convict ruins.
Tours run regularly at 12pm.

Although the remains of the Female Factory are bare, Karissa’s performance brings them to life. She takes us on a heartbreaking journey with each character, sharing stories of loss, illness, brutality and injustice.

But weaved so beautifully throughout the story, is a sense of hope.

‘People find it really emotional whether they have ancestry here or not,’ Karissa said, reflecting on her own family connection to the Female Factory.

'It's special to work in here every day and to know that she was here,' Karissa said.

‘To keep her memory alive, and [the memory of] all of these women is really lovely.’

Karissa encourages everyone, especially younger Tasmanians, to learn about this important part of our history, to take pride in it, and to share these incredible stories. 

'I think it's been ignored for so long and it's been swept under the rug,' Karissa said.

'This is a part of history and who we are.'