Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-pftt2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-26T16:36:19.315Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Queensland's Black Leper Colony

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2016

Get access

Extract

[T]here is an uneasy feeling in the north that the Spotted Terror is slowly spreading. Its tentacles may have gripped even deeper than dreamed of … whites may have become infected. An odd one might even be a victim now and not know it. Even if our generation escapes. will the scourge die when the blacks die?

Courier-Mail, 22 February 1934

An increase in the incidence of leprosy among North Queensland Aboriginal people in the late 1930s gave rise to fears that the disease might spread and threaten the white population. This concern resulted in an uninhabited offshore island being selected as a leper colony that was exclusively for blacks: it became a place to which Indigenous people suffering from leprosy were forcibly transported, isolated and treated. Queensland's right to take such action was enshrined in law by the Leprosy Act of 1892 and subsequently by the Public Health Act of 1937 which, while repealing the Leprosy Act, retained the main elements of the earlier legislation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Notes

1 Cook, C.E., The Epidemiology of Leprosy in Australia (Canberra: Australian Government Printer, 1927), 4.Google Scholar

2 Cook, C.E., ‘The Natives in Relation to the Public Health’, Medical Journal of Australia, 30 April 1939: 569–70.Google Scholar

3 Cilento, R., ‘A Brief Review of Leprosy in Australia’, in Report of Federal Health Council 1934, Appendix III.Google Scholar

4 Rogers, L., ‘When Will Australia Adopt Modem Prophylactic Measures Against Leprosy?Medical Journal of Australia, 18 October 1930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Report of Director-General of Health (hereafter DG Health) for 1926, in Queensland Parliamentary Papers (hereafter QPP), 1927.Google Scholar

6 During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some Queensland hospitals refused to admit sick Aboriginal people under any circumstances, with the result that Aboriginal patients were often housed in sheds attached to hospitals, or as a last resort in police lockups. See ‘Reports of Northern Protector of Aborigines’ in Queensland Votes and Proceedings and Queensland Parliamentary Papers, 1898–1905.Google Scholar

7 Cilento, R., ‘Leprosy in Australia and its Dependencies’, International Journal of Leprosy 5 (1937): 50.Google Scholar

8 Maguire, J., ‘Catholic Missions to the Aborigines in North Queensland’, in Lectures on North Queensland History No. 4 (Townsville: James Cook University of North Queensland), 65.Google Scholar

9 It is possible that this rise reflected increased reporting and searches for Aboriginal people showing signs of the disease by Health Department officials and police.Google Scholar

10 The choice of Fantome Island was hardly surprising because in the 1920s Cilento had used this location for the site of a lock hospital for Aboriginal people found to be suffering from sexually transmitted infections.Google Scholar

11 Saunders, S., A Suitable Island Site: Leprosy in the Northern Territory and the Channel Island Leprosarium 1880–1955 (Darwin: Historical Society of the Northern Territory, 1989), 27.Google Scholar

12 Maguire, ‘Catholic Missions’, 168.Google Scholar

13 Cited in Maguire, J., Prologue: A History of the Catholic Church as Seen from Townsville 1963–1968 (Toowoomba: Church Archivists’ Society, 1990), 45.Google Scholar

14 DG Health reports do not record the name of this order.Google Scholar

15 See Reports of the DG Health post-1941 until 1960 in QPP.Google Scholar

16 Report of DG Health in QPP, 1941.Google Scholar

17 Report of DG Health in QPP, 1947.Google Scholar

18 Report of DG Health in QPP, 1958.Google Scholar

19 Report of DG Health in QPP, 1959.Google Scholar

20 Interview of Mary Bees by the author. Mary Bees was the daughter of a deceased Aboriginal patient in Fantome Island leprosarium.Google Scholar