Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

In conjunction with Fremantle Heritage Week, the City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle hold the Fremantle Local History Awards.

The Awards are open for anyone to submit a non fiction entry in either the unpublished, published or multimedia categories. The work must focus on either the history of Fremantle or the history of East Fremantle and can be either indigenous history, personal memoirs, family history, environmental history, community history, migrant or ethnic history, sporting or social club history or building, house or street history.

The entry had to meet certain criteria and was judged by three independent judges.

Back in February (after seeing a Facebook post about the Awards) I decided to submit an entry. I don’t have a lot of family members who lived within Fremantle but there were three options and one option stood out the most. I decided to write about Matilda Maria Hurst (Tilly), her time in Fremantle Asylum and the history of Fremantle Asylum throughout the time she was there.

It is with great happiness and pride that I can now announce on Finding Family that last night I was awarded equal first place in the unpublished category for the 2014 Fremantle Local History Awards.


I’d like to thank all my wonderful family and friends for their lovely congratulatory messages on Facebook and I’d also like to thank Matt and Chris for reading the draft and giving their suggestions and support.

Most importantly of all, I dedicate this award to my Great Great Grandmother, Tilly. I would not have a story to tell if she hadn’t lived it. In the very beginning I wondered whether I should be sharing such a well-kept family secret (only my Aunty knew the truth) but it didn’t take long for me to decide that it needed to be told. The world needs to see just how badly people with mental illnesses were treated in the past so that we can learn from it and hopefully breakdown the stigma that is associated with people who have mental health issues today. We’ve come a long way but I believe we still have a lot more work to do.

If you’re free sometime between now and the 18 May 2014 I thoroughly recommend visiting Fremantle and checking out the Fremantle Heritage Festival. Information about the events is available in their program:

Finally, I would like to share my Fremantle Local History Awards entry. Many of you already know Tilly’s story but may not know the horrible history associated with Fremantle Asylum. I hope you find it both informative and interesting.

My entry: Committed

10 thoughts on “Fremantle Local History Awards

  1. Ian A says:

    Really well done Jess. You deserve it!

    1. Jess says:

      Thank you Ian! 🙂

  2. Dad & Mum says:

    Well done Jessica All the hard you have done you deserve it we are very proud of you it was a good night

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Mum and Dad! 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    Congratulations Jess – I knew you’d win! You are a very deserving winner because not only is your research meticulous but you write with so much empathy for the people whose story you tell. You did your great great grandmother Tilly proud. Well done!

    1. Jess says:

      Thank you Heather. 🙂

  4. Map of Time says:


    1. Jess says:

      Thanks JG! 🙂

  5. Jodi Wain says:

    A great piece of research – well done! I came across your article while doing a google search on history of the Freo Asylum. It’s wonderful that you have given Tilly a voice and have highlighted what life was like for people living within the asylum.

    1. Jess says:

      Thank you Jodi. 🙂

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