Wednesday, March 25, 2009


New York is undoubtedly an exciting city. "The city that never sleeps" is recognised as being the centre of the financial world - yet on my visit there a few years ago, the most memorable part of my stay was visiting Ellis Island in New York Harbor (hey -that's the way that they spell it -who am I to argue? Just so long as they spell Sydney Harbour the way we spell it!). Ellis Island was the portal through which America's immigrants passed on their way to the Promised Land. I suppose, given that I'm responsible for inflicting a history-based blog on the public-at-large, that it's not so surprising that I should find all of that history and the heart-rending personal stories extremely interesting. We should be doing something like that here in Brisbane - but we're not.

The photo below, from 1907, is of Queensland's Immigration Hostel, Yungaba, at Kangaroo Point. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #48341)

Yungaba was the first port of call for many thousands of the migrants who came to Queensland. Built in 1887 by the Queensland Government expressly for that purpose, it is situated right on the tip of the Kangaroo Point peninsula and with three-sided river views, it is a marvellous location for such an establishment. Yungaba was also co-opted for other duties at various times - it housed the workers for the Story Bridge project, it has acted as an employment agency during times of economic hardship, and it was converted to a military hospital during both world wars. The picture below shows some returned WWI soldiers who were hospitalised there.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #158559)

Yungaba ceased to operate as a migrant hostel in 1993. Sadly, and despite the actions of a dedicated conservation group, successive Queensland Governments have failed to see the potential in retaining Yungaba as a museum. It has been decided instead to allow private developers to buy the site and refurbish it into apartments. I believe that the intention is to keep some of the features of the hostel, but full details are not yet available.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

On my recent visit to the site to take this image (above), Yungaba looked sadly neglected. There was temporary wire fencing everywhere, with warning "KEEP OUT" signs liberally scattered around. A partly demolished building and a huge mound of dirt spoils the entrance to the hostel from Main St. My picture was taken at the rear of the building, and orange tape and warning signs can be clearly seen. Compared with the way that, for example, Newstead House has been cared for and preserved for future Queensland generations, what is happening at Yungaba is a disgrace. Just like the sign on the road in the foreground indicates, we seem to be going one way - but in the wrong direction.

EDIT: The makeover is complete, and despite my reservations above it seems like a well planned and executed transformation.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Anyone for bowls?

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