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brisbane immigration office

Immigration Office Brisbane - Yungaba, Kangaroo Point

A forgotten building that played and important role in Queensland's History

John James Clark, colonial architect for Queensland designed the immigrant depot in 1885 "Yungaba" as a two-storey brick institutional building. The plan was further developed by Edward Henry Alder and Robert Henry Mills and constructed by William Peter Clark at Kangaroo Point

The origins go back to the subdivision of Kangaroo Point in 1843-44. Lots 21 and 22 were purchased by Judah and Isaac Solomon and Thomas Adams and later by John "Tinker" Campbell, who purchased a share in both lots and transferred his boiling-down works to that location.

The land was eventually purchased by Robert Douglas in 1853 for £400 who constructed a house on lot 21 and named it "The Willows". Douglas was a prominent person and some scandal arose when he sold his Kangaroo Point property to the government for £14,000 in 1884.

The deprivations of the immigrant to the colony can be gained thorough an early pioneer Thomas Dowse who immigrated to Moreton Bay Settlement in 1848. Click to read accounts: A Travellers Troubles What a Man Found When He Got Here

The immigration facilities at William Street were becoming inadequate and the decision to acquire the land was justified by the need to provide 'pleasant surroundings' for the newly arrived in the colony.

William Peter Clark, the builder of Yungaba house, ran into difficulties with the construction and resulted in almost a year's delay. Designed by William Hodgen the interior layout was arranged in a manner typical of the time. Married quarters were separate cubicles on the ground level, and single quarters on the upper level. Equal pairs of laundry and privy facilities were to the rear of the building.

'Emigration to Queensland'. A broadsheet poster designed by J. O'N. Brenan, Immigration Agent from the Immigration Office, Brisbane, 6th March, 1899. The poster outlines the types of emigrants, who may obtain passage under the provisions of the Immigration Act. It describes living conditions in Queensland, and the types of wages that servants can command per annum.

William Edward Parry-Okeden (Bio) was the first administrator with a reputation for fair-dealing was a highly competent and practical man. He moved to Brisbane from Blackall to take up his appointment at the Immigration Depot.

He went on to be appointed Under Colonial Secretary and to played an active role in the management of Aborigines, Native Police and the resolution of the shearers' strikes. "The Willows" continued as their residence during his four years as immigration agent.

Parry Okeden saw a number of serious issues needed to be addressed before the depot could operate efficiently. Difficulties were experienced due to poor drainage and subsequent drainage works had degrees of success. The building was plagued with rising damp caused by the poor quality bricks used during construction. Gas and water outlets were poorly planned, there was no wharf to disembark the immigrants and no quarantine facility for contagious diseases.

The damp problem was explained as a result of rain beating on the sides of the building other than to poor site drainage. Verandahs on the eastern and northern sides were extended to shelter the walls from the rain in 1891. Matching verandah extensions at the western end were constructed in 1899 and were made to regain the symmetry of the facade.

Wharf facilities and a large luggage shed were constructed in 1887. At high tide the wharf was separated from land by an expanse of water while at low water the wharf was inaccessible by water craft due to the shallow water.

The need for isolation wards became paramount in 1889 with the outbreak of scarlet fever. A facility was erected, but had no facilities for the provision of gas or water or for the disposal of waste and storm water.

When immigration was low, Yungaba served as temporary accommodation in 1900 for the inmates of the Dunwich Asylum. In the years following 1904 it was appropriated as accommodation for South Sea Islanders being repatriated. On the arrival of an immigrant ship the islanders were relocated to rented accommodation as it was inappropriate at the time to expect the "two races" to co-habit.

During World War I, the building was requisitioned for use as a military hospital. Few alterations occurred but two single-storey wards were constructed to the southeast of the building. The building provided an ideal reception area for returning servicemen at the end of the war.

Throughout the 1920s, immigration increased but the Great Depression of the 1930s led to a decrease which was caused by the cancellation of the assisted passage scheme. In 1938 assistance to immigrants was reinstated and numbers rapidly increased, tapering off with commencement of World War 2.

Yungaba was used as a base for the team working on the construction of the Story Bridge. J. J. C. Bradfield was provided accommodation in the eastern room on the ground floor of the north wing. The entire upper floor of the north wing contained offices and drafting rooms for the works. The bridge building was undertaken by Evans Deakin and they converted the grounds into an industrial site with workshops and storehouses.

The hostel was used to accommodate evacuates from Hong Kong in1940. In 1941 the depot was once again converted into a hospital, treating general patients. The buildings along the river frontage were occupied by Evans Deakin, but most of the other structures were used for the treatment of patients.

Post war, the building was now named Yungaba State Immigration Office and Reception Centre. The name "Yungaba" comes from the Gubbi Gubbi Aboriginal language from the Maroochy area and means "place of sunshine". Post-war immigration made the hostel unsuitable to cope with the new arrivals, and the bulk were redirected to the many empty military camps around the city.

During this time remodeling occurred with the kitchen enlarged and refurbished and the exterior lime washed. The removal and reconstruction of the verandas in 1990 had a major impact on the building's fabric. The various internal subdivisions negated the effectiveness of the internal ventilation designed into the building.

In 1993 the building was refitted to provide office accommodation for the Department of Family Services. This involved the demolition of the partitions in the North wing along with the demolition of the sheds occupied by Evans Deakin.