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Introduction

The history of gaols, penal settlements and corrective services in Queensland is the longest strand of land-based European history in the State.

It began when the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, instructed the colony's surveyor-general, John Oxley, to find a suitable location for a northern penal settlement. As a result, convicts were sent into the isolation, heat and hardship of Moreton Bay.

So it was that Queensland's first settlers were 30 twice-convicted criminals and their guards, all of whom found the hardships considerable. But it was the brutality the unfortunate convicts experienced that gave the Moreton Bay penal settlement a notorious reputation.

Today, Queensland focuses on a humane approach to prisoner confinement and offers world class corrective rehabilitation in both custodial and community-based environments. The old gaols and settlements are closed, some still standing though to remind us of what it might have been like, back in the 19th Century.

Prison hulk
Prison hulk (No. 5487524-1, National Library of Australia)
Sir Thomas Brisbane
Sir Thomas Brisbane, Governor of New South Wales (1820 - 1825) (courtesy, State Library of Queensland)
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1824 - 1842

Convict barracks
Convict barracks, near Queen and Albert Street (courtesy, State Library of Queensland - no 31216)

The first Moreton Bay penal settlement was established at Red Cliff Point.

On September 1824, Lieutenant Henry Miller, 15 soldiers and their families, and 30 convicts arrived on the brig Amity to set up a penal settlement in the area now known as Humpybong, an Aboriginal word meaning 'dead house'.

The settlement was not a success. Within two months, Aboriginal attacks, mosquitoes and the lack of a safe anchorage were causing so much discomfort that Humpybong was declared unsuitable.

John Oxley
John Oxley (courtesy, State Library of Queensland)

In February 1825, Miller established the new settlement at Queen's Wharf, near William Street.

The life of a convict was extremely harsh, and when Captain Logan arrived, things only got worse. Acting in accordance with Governor Darling's harsh ideas about punishment and discipline, in just nine months Logan ordered 200 lashings with a total of 11,000 lashes - an average of 55 lashes per person sentenced to be lashed. He also designed barracks that enforced solitary confinement, which, along with the treadmill, was seen as alternative to corporal punishment.

Also built during this period were a hospital, a convict trans-shipment base at Dunwich on Stradbroke Island and the Wickham Terrace windmill, built in 1828. This doubled as a grinding mill to feed the colony and as a punishment - while it usually required 30 men to operate it, for severe punishment, manpower would be reduced to as few as twelve; and they would have to work it for up to 14 hours at a time.

Logan also established St Helena Island as a penal settlement. The convicts at Moreton Bay were not just men. In 1829, a women's gaol - known as a Female Factory - was built in Queen Street on the site of the present GPO.

Female factory building
Female factory on the site of the present GPO, c.1850 (courtesy State Library of Queensland, no.153725)

Female convicts and their children were housed in communal accommodation and employed doing needlework, washing and picking oakum, which involved the unravelling of old rope to produce loose fibres that were used in the caulking of the seams of wooden boats.

In 1830, the first trial was held at Moreton Bay and in the same year, the settlement conducted its own executions.

During this period, the convicts were guarded and punished by soldiers. There were few free citizens - just a few administrators and their families and servants. In 1824, there were two convicts for every soldier, but by 1832, the convict population had reached more than 1000, and they were guarded by 100 soldiers.

After 1832, however, convicts began to complete their sentences and return to Sydney. Their numbers declined rapidly to 400 by 1835 and less than 200 by 1842.

In 1837, Andrew Petrie was sent to the settlement to supervise the building of Brisbane Town.

Wickham Terrace
Engraving of Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, showing Alexandra House, the Windmill and the Flagstaff (courtesy, State Library of Queensland, no. 1952)

He arrived in 1837 to supervise the building of Brisbane Town. In 1839, the Moreton Bay Penal settlement was closed. A few weeks later, transportation of convicts was officially abolished, even though it did not cease entirely until 1850.

In 1841, female convicts were taken to Sydney and in 1842, the penal status of Moreton Bay was officially rescinded.

On 10 February 1842, Governor George Gipps declared the area open to free settlement.

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1843-1859

SS Fortitude
Photographic negative - ship SS Fortitude. The Fortitude arrived in Brisbane from England on 21 January 1849, with 256 free settlers, many of whom settled in an area they named after their ship - Fortitude Valley. (no J2364/17, National Library of Australia)

The early prison system

As Brisbane was now a free settlement, the nature of punishment and confinement changed.

The few prisoners that remained in Brisbane were no longer used as a source of free labour, but were locked away in the barracks.

However, the nature of prison officers remained the same - they were soldiers and were not trained to work as prison officers.

In 1847 the first Brisbane gaol for males was built in Queen Street, on the site of the old Town Hall, and in 1848 the Female Factory was converted into a gaol for male and female prisoners. Mr Martin Freney, a former Sergeant-major in the mounted police, was appointed Gaoler. His wife Maria was appointed as Matron. They retired in 1856.

In 1848 the Northern Native Police Force was formed to help repress Aboriginal resistance and aggression.

Despite the fact that transportation had officially ceased, Brisbane was still receiving some convict ships. In 1849 the Mount Stewart Elphinstone arrived with 232 male convicts and in 1850, the Bangalore arrived with 297 male convicts.

Managing prisoners

Native police
Native Mounted Police, Rockhampton 1864 (Queensland Police Museum, no 0305)

The first attempt at a basic prisoner classification system was based on the prisoners' legal status (eg: whether they were awaiting trial, sentenced to imprisonment, or sentenced to hard labour) rather than the type of crime they had committed or their mental state.

In 1855, an inquiry into prison discipline recommended that gaolers be given the power to impose punishments of up to three days in the cells.

On 10 December 1859, Queensland became a separate colony with its own representative government. Sir George Bowen was its first Governor.

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1860-1887

St Helena
St Helena - field workers and crops (1914 Comptroller-General's report)

New ideas and more gaols

During the 1860s and '70s, there was a rapid expansion in the number of prisons in Queensland and these reflected new theories and approaches to punishment and the management of prisoners.

The new Brisbane Gaol on Petrie Terrace opened in 1860 with a capacity of 138 male and 36 female prisoners. It was based on the "Auburn system" of discipline, which allowed prisoners to associate with each other in silent labour during the day but confined them in isolation at night. This was believed to be the best way for criminals to reflect on their crimes and reform themselves.

The focus on reform marked the end of convictism and the beginning of official commitment to contemporary methods of imprisonment. The new gaol cost about 26,000 pounds and was intended to ease accommodation and security problems at the old Female Factory.

The female convicts were relocated to the Eagle Farm barracks and the old convict barracks on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets were used as a court house.

Overcrowding at Brisbane Gaol led to the use of a prison hulk, the Proserpine, anchored at the mouth of the Brisbane River. Its 30 male prisoners went each day to work on St Helena Island which became a Penal Establishment in 1865.

During this period, there were other important developments:

  • Young offenders were separated from adult offenders. Many juveniles, often neglected children, were housed on the Proserpine.
  • Prisoners could earn remission for good work and received a gratuity - a small amount of money - upon their release.
  • Female prisoners received special attention following a police commissioner's report identifying an urgent need for a girls' reformatory. Until this time, girls were placed in orphanages or in colonial gaols. In 1882, a disused courthouse in Toowoomba was converted to an Industrial and Reformatory School for Women and Girls.
  • Probation was established in 1886, and in the first seven years 1096 prisoners were released under this scheme. This system was based on a probation system introduced in Boston (USA) in 1878, which employed probation officers. In Queensland police had the initial responsibility, although in 1887 the police magistrate told the Gaols Inquiry that inspectors should be employed to supervise offenders on probation because they needed a "friend" to help them lead honest lives.

Other gaols to open during this period were: Fortitude Valley (1863), Rockhampton (1864), St Helena Island (declared a penal settlement in 1867), Toowoomba (1869), Roma (1872), Rockhampton (second prison, 1882), Industrial and Reformatory School for Women and Girls (1882), HM Prison Brisbane, No 1 Division (1883) Boggo Road and two wings added to Boggo Road Gaol (1886).

On 10 February 1887, following criticism of the inadequacy of the prison system and its administration, the Government set up a Commission of Inquiry into the general management of the gaols, penal establishments, and lockups of the colony of Queensland. The Inquiry led to a number of important reforms to penal and corrective services including:

  • a new penitentiary for 300 prisoners serving less than six months, to be erected on the mainland;
  • division of Brisbane Gaol into three sections for remand prisoners, female prisoners and short sentence prisoners; and
  • expansion of Stewart's Creek Penal Establishment and Rockhampton Gaol.

On 13 June 1887, while the inquiry was in Townsville, the only woman executed in Queensland, Ellen Thompson, was hanged in Brisbane for the murder of her husband. The inquiry also led to the drafting of the Prisons Act 1890.

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1888-1900

Stewarts Creek
Stewart's Creek Prison, Townsville (Comptroller-General's report, 1915)

Reform, Protection and Education

The 1887 Commission of Inquiry resulted in the Prisons Act 1890, which came into force on January 1 1891 and laid the foundation for the establishment of all future prisons in the colony.

Almost immediately, pressure was put on the newly completed Rockhampton Gaol as striking shearers in central Queensland were arrested and tried for various acts of protest against the pastoralists' employment of "free labour".

A number of their leaders, who were tried at Rockhampton, were sent to St Helena Island.

HM Prison Townsville was opened in 1893. Originally this gaol was known as Stewart's Creek and its first prisoners came from the old Townsville Gaol and the Mackay Gaol, which closed in 1893.

The Sheriff of Queensland, William Townley, described it as "superior in its construction ... and ought ... minimise the great evils of association", while Comptroller-General, Captain Charles Edward de Fonblanque Pennefather claimed it to be "the best constructed prison in the colony".

In 1895, Pennefather advocated the construction of a new prison in the south of the colony, stating that St Helena was unsuitable for the appropriate classification of prisoners.

At this time Queensland had 587 prisoners in custody: 538 males and 49 females. Of these, 540 had been convicted, 42 were awaiting trial, three were lunatics and two were debtors. They were accommodated at St Helena and Townsville penal establishments; prisons in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Roma, Blackall, Thursday Island, Normanton and Cooktown; and police gaols in Fortitude Valley, Herberton, Ingham, Ayr and Charters Towers.

At the same time, 176 juveniles were housed in industrial and reformatory schools. Of these, 64% had been neglected by their parents and 31% had committed crimes such as theft. These institutions did not accommodate children on remand. Juveniles held on remand were kept in adult gaols.

In 1896, education for prisoners was introduced - firstly at St Helena - with the intention of having similar programs in several gaols.

Two years later, the Salvation Army established Industrial Schools for Girls at Riverview and Yeronga. This brought the number of institutions for juveniles in the State to four, the others being government operated facilities at Lytton and Toowoomba. When the Lytton Reformatory closed in 1900, its 88 juvenile male residents were transferred to the Farm Home for Boys at Westbrook near Toowoomba.

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1901-1929

Female prisoners
Tailoring and garment making in the female division of Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1913 (courtesy, State Library of Queensland no 33783)

Following Federation on 1 January 1901, the new Australian Constitution allowed by inference for the States to retain their colonial powers. In Queensland, those powers included making laws for the peace, welfare and good government of the colony (Constitution Act 1867). This enabled the new State of Queensland to make its own laws pertaining to corrective services.

In October 1903, the Brisbane Prison (Female Division) opened at Boggo Road and prisoners were transferred from the Toowoomba Prison and the Fortitude Valley Police Gaol, which were closed. Staff at the Brisbane Women's Prison comprised a Matron, a Senior Female Warder, and four or five female warders. Only the gatekeeper and tower sentry were men. The first Matron was Sarah Browne who held the position until 1908.

The women's editor of The Queenslander newspaper was left with little hope that prisoners would be reformed: "The faces ... were hard, some were evil ones, others reckless, scarcely one expressed any feeling of shame or remorse, and one's instinct tells one that once the term of imprisonment ended, the majority will return to their old mode of life, and probably sooner or later incur a fresh sentence."

In 1904, an industrial school for girls convicted of sexual offences was established by the Sisters of Mercy at Wooloowin. Industrial schools for girls were also established at Nudgee and Clayfield.

The Industrial and Reformatory School for girls at Toowoomba closed.

At Boggo Road, the women's prison had electric lights installed in 1912.

Juvenile institutions all provided programs offering schooling for younger children, domestic work for girls and agricultural work for boys.

However, by 1913 there was a greater emphasis on the use of probation for juvenile offenders, resulting in a decreased number of State Institutions and an increased number of denominational facilities.

The last execution in Queensland was carried out on September 1913, when Ernest Austin a "despicable" child murderer was hanged.

Austin had been found guilty of murdering an 11-year-old girl and reports stated that:

Throughout the trial he maintained a callous indifference to his crime. On the gallows, Austin proclaimed "I say strait (sic) out that I highly deserve this punishment. I ask you all to forgive me. God save the King. Send a wire to my mother and tell her I died happy."

Also in 1913, the practice of burying bodies of prisoners hanged at Boggo Road Gaol on site in unmarked graves ceased.

Capital punishment was not formally abolished until 1922.

During the 1920s, the workshops and most of the prisoners were moved from St Helena to the Brisbane prison. St Helena gaol was converted to a prison farm with the few remaining prisoners being detained under an honour system.

By the end of the decade, prisoners throughout Queensland were engaged in a range of trade and farming activities that made a profit for the State. They received visits from chaplains of various denominations and had access to prison libraries and occasional entertainments, such as musical performances like the Salvation Army band.

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1930-1949

Palen Creek
Palen Creek

St Helena Penal Establishment was closed in December 1932, with only three escapes in its 65-year history. The island became a National Park in 1979 and was gazetted as Queensland's first Historic Area in 1980.

Prisoners from HM Prison Brisbane were used to clean up the old ruins to make them suitable for public access. In 1934 HM Prison Palen Creek, near Rathdowney, was established. This was the first prison in Australia to rely on the prisoners' word of honour that they would not abscond.

Prisoners erected their own buildings and sold produce from their market gardens. In 1937, there was a daily average of 23 male prisoners at Palen Creek.

The Parole Board was established in 1937 to examine applications for early release and make recommendations to the Governor-in-Council. Paroled prisoners were supervised by the local police.

Brisbane Prison
Entrance to Brisbane Prison, c.1936 (Courtesy State Library of Queensland, image 62056)

During World War II (1939-45), the use of some prisons changed. The Rockhampton prison built in 1882 was closed and sections of it were used by the American army as a training and defence establishment. It was demolished in 1947. In Townsville, Stuart Gaol (the name of which had been changed from Stewart's Creek) was used as a holding facility for Italian and Japanese residents being moved to internment camps.

The Americans also used it as a detention facility for troublesome military personnel and for the safe storage of flour, in case the Japanese attacked. Given that it was still being used as a prison, there were some serious overcrowding issues at the Stuart Gaol during the war.

During the 1940s, a number of centres were opened. In 1940, Numinbah was proclaimed a State Prison Farm; Whitenbah prison farm near Nerang operated from 1943-1949 and Stone River prison farm near Ingham operated from 1944-1962.

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1950-1974

A feature of this era was a concerted effort to help prisoners succeed in life through programs of community-based supervision after release, a concept supported by the Prisons Department in its 1953 annual report.

Finally enacted in 1959, the Offenders Probation and Parole Act placed parole in the hands of a Parole Board comprising five public officials and outsiders and chaired by a Supreme Court judge.

Not everyone in the government believed it would work. One Member of Parliament said he was: "...disturbed by the decision of the government to hand over to the Parole Board the right to release a prisoner. This is a very serious, retrograde step ... the decision for the release of a prisoner is the responsibility of the government, not a board."

Despite such concerns, Queensland's first probation and parole office opened in Queen Street, Brisbane, heralding the beginning of the community corrections service.

The issue was still controversial in 1962. A letter to the Townsville Bulletin described probation as a "sickly joke" and widespread resistance in the community led one exasperated magistrate to observe that; "There is an erroneous, apparently widespread sentiment that probation does not constitute punishment ... it seems that probation can be regarded as a let-off."

Townsville's Probation and Parole regional office opened in 1965.

HM Prison Brisbane - Boggo Road - was still making headlines. In 1952, Slim Halliday - the Houdini of Boggo Road - became the only person to escape from 2 Division.

Convicted of murdering a Gold Coast taxi driver, Halliday also made four unsuccessful escape attempts during his life sentence. His escapes were short-lived: he spent 36 years in prison and died shortly after being released on parole.

In 1951, the Women's Prison relocated to a former hospital building near Annerley Road and in 1954 a new men's division for prisoners sentenced for vagrancy or drunkenness was completed at the Boggo Road Gaol.

In 1957, HM Prison Wacol (later known as Moreton A) opened as a transfer prison with all prisoners having served part of their sentence elsewhere.

Prison life was also changing in other ways: the Prisons Act 1958 forbade prison officers to talk to prisoners except for official purposes. Then, in 1960, the original Black Hole punishment cells at Boggo Road Prison were closed.

Juvenile offenders were still a matter of concern and in 1961 the Dewar Committee was formed to review all laws relating to children. Its report formed the basis of the Children's Services Act 1965, which separated children in need of protection from those who had committed the offences.

Two distinct orders were created: Care and Protection and Care and Control.

With Community Corrections becoming an integral part of an offender's return to the community, prisoners needed to have skills that would enable them to function outside the correctional centre environment.

The Prison Service 1975 annual report highlighted the need to "...provide prisoners with a broad range of activities designed to encourage them in the acquisition of knowledge, skills and behaviour consistent with current community standards."

Added to this was the need in many cases for judges and magistrates to be able to sentence an offender to perform community service.

In 1981 an amended Offenders Probation and Parole Act established the Community Service Order program, which would allow offenders to make reparation to the community rather than be given a custodial sentence. By the late 1980s, community corrections was supervising 74% of all offenders.

To support community corrections programs, the first "Release to Work" hostel was opened.

A Home Detention Scheme project was also established. These programs provided different types of supervision, but both assisted prisoners to gradually rebuild their lives in their communities.

During the 1980s, a number of initiatives were introduced to professionalise prisoner and offender management and rehabilitation.

They included:

  • opening the Prisons Department Staff Training College at the Wacol precinct
  • regionalising Probation and Parole services
  • implementing a performance monitoring system for each prison
  • locating program units in each prison to provide education, welfare, psychological and activity services to prisoners
  • introducing Australia's first compulsory AIDS testing for prisoners
  • producing a Prisoner Handbook, which was given to prisoners on reception
  • opening the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville as a remand, assessment and education facility
  • decentralising the Queensland Probation and Parole Service into four districts.

In 1982, a Female Division opened at HM Prison Brisbane, replacing the old women's prison. In 1990 it was renamed Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

Riots broke out at Brisbane Prison (Boggo Road) in November 1983 as prisoners protested over inadequate food and "harsh treatment". They took over the Industrial Division for about 24 hours and damaged 129 cells, which were uninhabitable for almost six months.

As a result of the riots, Sir David Longland was appointed to enquire into management practices at the prison. His report provided a performance benchmark for all areas of the prison system.

In 1986, the construction of three new prisons was approved:

  • HM Brisbane Industrial Prison, Wacol (now known as Sir David Longland Correctional Centre and currently being redeveloped to reopen as Brisbane Correctional Centre)
  • HM Prison Chewko, near Mareeba (later renamed Lotus Glen). In 1988, it was praised for its treatment of Indigenous prisoners.
  • Borallon Prison, the site for which was selected in 1987.

In Townsville, the prison farm and a small women's prison opened.

The latter's existence led to northern magistrates handing down more custodial sentences to north Queensland women.

At Boggo Road, the Black Hole was reopened, a decision labelled as abhorrent and barbaric by the Human Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It closed again, for good, in 1988.

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1975 - 1988

With Community Corrections becoming an integral part of an offender's return to the community, prisoners needed to have skills that would enable them to function outside the correctional centre environment. The Prison Service 1975 annual report highlighted the need to

"...provide prisoners with a broad range of activities designed to encourage them in the acquisition of knowledge, skills and behaviour consistent with current community standards."

Added to this was the need in many cases for judges and magistrates to be able to sentence an offender to perform community service. In 1981 an amended Offenders Probation and Parole Act established the Community Service Order program, which would allow offenders to make reparation to the community rather than be given a custodial sentence. By the late 1980s, community corrections was supervising 74% of all offenders.

To support community corrections programs, the first "Release to Work" hostel was opened. A Home Detention Scheme project was also established. These programs provided different types of supervision, but both assisted prisoners to gradually rebuild their lives in their communities.

During the 1980s, a number of initiatives were introduced to professionalise prisoner and offender management and rehabilitation. They included:

  • opening the Prisons Department Staff Training College at the Wacol precinct
  • regionalising Probation and Parole services
  • implementing a performance monitoring system for each prison
  • locating program units in each prison to provide education, welfare, psychological and activity services to prisoners
  • introducing Australia's first compulsory AIDS testing for prisoners
  • producing a Prisoner Handbook, which was given to prisoners on reception
  • opening the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville as a remand, assessment and education facility
  • decentralising the Queensland Probation and Parole Service into four districts.

In 1982, a Female Division opened at HM Prison Brisbane, replacing the old women's prison. In 1990 it was renamed Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

Riots broke out at Brisbane Prison (Boggo Road) in November 1983 as prisoners protested over inadequate food and "harsh treatment". They took over the Industrial Division for about 24 hours and damaged 129 cells, which were uninhabitable for almost six months.

As a result of the riots, Sir David Longland was appointed to enquire into management practices at the prison. His report provided a performance benchmark for all areas of the prison system.

In 1986, the construction of three new prisons was approved:

  • HM Brisbane Industrial Prison, Wacol (now known as Sir David Longland Correctional Centre and currently being redeveloped to reopen as Brisbane Correctional Centre)
  • HM Prison Chewko, near Mareeba (later renamed Lotus Glen). In 1988, it was praised for its treatment of Indigenous prisoners.
  • Borallon Prison, the site for which was selected in 1987.

In Townsville, the prison farm and a small women's prison opened. The latter's existence led to northern magistrates handing down more custodial sentences to north Queensland women.

At Boggo Road, the Black Hole was reopened, a decision labelled as abhorrent and barbaric by the Human Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It closed again, for good, in 1988.

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1988-1998

From Commission to Department

In February 1988, Cabinet approved the terms of reference for a Commission of Review into corrective services and appointed Mr J. J. Kennedy to lead it.

The Kennedy Report led to major changes in the way sentences of imprisonment were managed and the way prisoners and offenders were housed and treated.

Legislation

Separate Acts dealing with prisons and probation and parole were replaced by more integrated corrective services legislation.

Prisons became known as correctional centres and the Probation and Parole Board was replaced by the Queensland Community Corrections Board and four regional boards.

Responsibility for prisoners, offenders and correctional centres was administered by the Queensland Corrective Services Commission (QCSC), which was established on 15 December 1988, with Keith Hamburger as its first Director-General.

Managing prisoners

The term "corrective services" signified a shift in the way prisoners were to be managed under the QCSC.

The first new prison commissioned following the Kennedy reforms was the Sir David Longland Correctional Centre at Wacol. It was the first correctional centre in Queensland whose prisoners were not required to address officers as "Sir" or "Ma'am". It was also the first centre to employ staff specialising in sentence management, structured rehabilitation and education.

In 1991, the first treatment program for sex offenders began at Moreton Correctional Centre (formerly the Security Patients Hospital at Wacol).

In 1992, Number Two Division at Brisbane Prison closed and the prisoners were transferred to the new Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol.

Work camps

In 1990, low-risk prisoners helped clean up Charleville after serious flooding.

The project was deemed so successful that the Commission established the Western Outreach Camp (WORC) program, which provided significant work experience for prisoners and benefits for numerous towns.

In 1992, the program was renamed the Work Outreach Camps (WORC) Program in recognition of the fact that the camps also operated in urban and regional areas of the State. In 2006, this was then shortened to the Work Program.

Privatisation

Two of Queensland's correctional centres are managed privately. Borallon Correctional Centre was privatised in 1989 with Corrections Corporation of Australasia winning the contract. The first prisoners arrived in January 1990. It is currently managed by Management Training Corporation. Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre was privatised in 1992.

Female prisoners

In 1992, the QCSC granted female prisoners "special needs" status. This gave them access to women's health services and to counselling that dealt with issues prevalent among their population, such as dealing with domestic violence and drug issues.

In 1997, the Numinbah Correctional Centre began taking women, creating a prison farm option for suitable "low risk" female prisoners.

In 1998, the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Boggo Road was closed and the prisoners were transferred to a new centre at Wacol. On this site, a "residential" unit for eight mothers and babies was established to allow suitable prisoners to care for their babies. Children are able to remain in this centre, under certain circumstances and if it is in their best interest, until school age.

Community Corrections Community corrections was also changing, with the opening of a number of low security facilities for prisoners released on parole.

Juvenile Offenders

Responsibility for Juvenile Detention Centres - for accommodating offenders under the age of 17 years - was transferred to the QCSC from the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care in August 1996, however it was returned to the Department of Families in 1998.

Meanwhile, the evolution of the administration of corrective services continued.

In September 1997, QCSC was corporatised and divided into separate purchaser and provider agencies: QCSC continued to exist in a regulatory and purchasing role, while a new government-owned corporation, Queensland Corrections (QCORR) was created to deliver custodial, community and juvenile correctional services.

In 1999, the Queensland Corrective Services Review recommended the abolition of both QCSC and QCORR, with a government department in its place.

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1999 to Today

Department

The report of the review of the QCSC was finalised in January 1999. The report made 58 recommendations relating to the organisational structure, accountability, Community Corrections, issues for Aboriginal and women offenders and the need to urgently revise legislation (57 of these recommendations were accepted).

The major recommendation was to abolish the independent commission structure and return to that of a government department. A major emphasis of the report was on the provision of services to assist in the reduction of recidivism, with emphasis on rehabilitation programs, skill development through prison industries and implementation of culturally appropriate needs based services for indigenous offenders.

The Queensland Corrective Services Review, through its report Corrections in the Balance, recommended the abolition of QCSC and QCORR and the establishment of the Department of Corrective Services. The Department was subsequently established on 1 May 1999 under Public Service Departmental Arrangements Notice (No 1) 1999. Frank Peach was appointed as Director-General.

A new women's prison was opened at Wacol, enabling the closure of the Boggo Road prison. This marked the end of incarceration at the Boggo Road site - a period of 116 years.

As well, the Wolston Correctional Centre for male prisoners was opened. Condom trials commenced at Borallon and Moreton B Correctional Centres and on the WORC program.

Construction commenced on a new correctional centre at Maryborough. A new residential block was opened at Rockhampton. This will become open custody accommodation for the new centre.

2000 Construction began on the Capricornia Correctional Centre, the fifth replacement prison at Rockhampton.

The Moreton A Correctional Centre (previously known as Wacol) which was established in 1957, was closed.

2001

The Corrective Services Act 2000, which repealed the Corrective Services (Administration) Act 1988 and the Corrective Services Act 1988, commenced on 1 July 2001.

2003

Capricornia Correctional Centre (Rockhampton), providing facilities for remand, reception and sentenced prisoners with a total capacity of 496 male prisoners, opened.

This facility was constructed to replace the Rockhampton Correctional centre that had opened in 1968.

Maryborough Correctional Centre opened as a multipurpose, secure custody facility for high and medium security male prisoners with a total capacity for 320 male prisoners in secure accommodation and 180 in residential accommodation.

The facility provided a remand and reception function for offenders from Bundaberg to Gympie.

2004

The Business Model Review of the Department recommended wide ranging structural reforms of the agency.

The new organisational arrangements arising from this review commenced on 7 March 2005.

2006

The Department of Corrective Services underwent a name change to become Queensland Corrective Services and Community Corrections was restructured into Probation and Parole.

Since 1995, the State has engaged in a significant construction program to meet the demands of increasing prisoner numbers and to replace outmoded facilities.

The State has built 3800 new cells, spent in excess of $530,000m and now arguably boasts the nation's most modern facilities.

The average age of secure custody correctional centre cells is 5.27 years, with more than half of all cells having being built since or during the year 2000.

The State also offers innovative intervention programs and vocational education and training to offenders to improve their chance of rehabilitation and successful integration into the community.

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A Convict's Life

Punishment - hard labour and empty stomachs

19th century criminology was based around the theory that harsh punishment was an effective deterrent. As lack of food was considered an appropriate form of punishment, convicts' food rations were meagre, and were often specified by the magistrate when handing down a sentence.

Regardless of their meagre diets, convicts had to wear chains of up to 8kg for the first nine months of their sentence and were expected to perform 'hard labour'. Many would pull ploughs from sunrise to sunset with time off only for lunch and dinner.

Convicts were also required to build their own prisons. From 1827-1830, they built the convict barracks on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets, which had been designed by Captain Logan. They also built their own hospital.

Uniforms: Shirts, shoes and broad arrows

Convicts wore uniforms issued by the government. In the early days these comprised two pairs of trousers, which had studs down the side to enable leg irons to be attached; two shirts; two pairs of shoes; two frocks (a type of jacket) and a leather cap.

This clothing ration was not replaced if stolen or damaged. In 1829 regulations referred to a jacket which was to be painted with the word "felon" and the broad arrow.

In 1831, the convict uniform was increased to include three shirts, three pairs of shoes and a straw hat.

Good behaviour: From tobacco to a ticket-of-leave

Convicts who had been placed on the "first class" list for good behaviour after a nominated period of time were allowed one ounce (28g) of tobacco a week and were also allowed extra rations and different clothing.

Male convicts could also apply to have their wives and children brought to the colony and they were allowed to live in separate huts. They could also become 'overseers' and as such had to ensure that the convicts under their supervision completed enough work.

Good behaviour could even lead to freedom. The first step on the road to freedom was a ticket-of-leave. It granted convicts the right to work and live within a given district of the colony before their sentences expired or they were pardoned.

Convicts with a ticket-of-leave could seek employment or be self-employed and acquire property. Few women convicts would have had the skills to be self-employed: the colony expected them to be dependent on a man, either within some sort of relationship, or as a domestic servant.

Ticket-of-leave convicts had to attend church regularly and appear before a magistrate when required.

Permission was needed before moving to another district and 'passports' were issued to those convicts whose work required regular travel between districts. A convict could apply through their master to the Bench Magistrates for a ticket-of-leave and needed to have served a certain portion of the sentence, as follows:

  • A 7-year term required 4 years service with 1 master, or 5 years with 2 masters
  • A 14-year term required 6 years service with 1 master, 8 years with 2 masters or 12 years with 3 masters
  • Convicts with a life sentence needed 8 years service with 1 master, 10 years with 2 masters or 12 years with 3 masters

Convicts granted a conditional pardon were not allowed to return to England or Ireland. Those granted an absolute pardon could return to England or Ireland when the sentence was completed.

An absolute pardon was often earned but the Governor could grant the pardon for several reasons. The Certificate of Freedom was introduced in 1810 and was issued to a convict at the completion of the sentence.

Leaving the Colony

A convict could only leave the colonies after the sentence was completed or after being granted an absolute pardon.

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Aborigines and Indigenous Issues

It was not long after the establishment of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement that Aborigines were being formally charged and punished.

In the early days, the main form of punishment imposed on Aborigines for minor offences was imprisonment and this was due to their inability to pay fines. Members of the judiciary observed that Aborigines found incarceration a "more agonising" experience than did whites, and frequently suffered depression and mental breakdown.

Aborigines were also subjected to public execution. The first public execution in Brisbane occurred in 1841, when two Aborigines, Meridio and Ningavil, were convicted of murdering a surveyor named Stapylton. They were hanged at the Wickham Terrace windmill.

Deaths in custody

In August 1988 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made a number of recommendations about precautionary methods to prevent suicides in prison. It was followed by an investigation into Indigenous Deaths in Custody 1989-1996, a report that revealed an alarming increase in the number of Indigenous Australians in the nation's prisons and which criticised all State governments for not supporting the first inquiry's recommendations. As a result, a number of physical changes were made to Queensland correctional centres.

Among them was the removal of bars on cell windows. These bars had been a common "hanging point" for suicidal prisoners and in order to save lives, non-opening windows were installed so that the bars could be removed.

Other improvements for Indigenous prisoners included the employment of Indigenous staff to implement culturally appropriate activities, including art programs and special events.

Recognising Indigenous needs

In 1990, the Queensland Corrective Services Commission (QCSC) appointed Indigenous staff to fill roles of Senior Adviser, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues and to manage the implementation of the recruitment and retention of the 10% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruitment policy.

Cultural programs, including indigenous art programs, were also introduced into correctional centres.

NAIDOC week has become one of the most eventful weeks in Queensland's correctional centres, with Indigenous prisoners entertaining their families and guests with traditional dance, cooking, painting and ceremonial activities. Indigenous issues were at the forefront of thinking with the opening of a number of community corrections reporting centres across the State.

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Boggo Road

Sarah Browne
Sarah Browne - first Matron at HM Prison Brisbane, Female division

HM Prison Brisbane, No. 1 Division, was opened in 1883 as a reception centre for male prisoners being sent to St Helena Island. While a Brisbane newspaper described it as being like a country gentleman's mansion, the 54-cell gaol had two punishment cells in the basement (the original Black Hole), and was overcrowded from the start.

In 1886 two new wings were added to the gaol, providing an additional 72 cells. A few years later, there were 48 more.

A fumigation chamber for prisoners' clothing was also built in response to a plague outbreak the year before.

Women at Boggo Road Boggo Road's first Female Division opened in 1903, and prisoners were transferred from the Toowoomba Prison and the Fortitude Valley Police Gaol, which were closed. Staff comprised a Matron, a Senior Female Warder, and four or five female warders. The only men employed were the gatekeeper and one tower sentry.

The first Matron was Sarah Browne who held the position until 1908.

Courtyard, Number One Division, HM Prison Brisbane
Courtyard, Number One Division, HM Prison Brisbane (Courtesy, Bill Kearney)

In 1921, Brisbane Prison was reorganised into three Divisions: two men's Divisions (the original prison and the 1903 Women's prison) and a female Division which was moved to a wooden house and compound at the southern end of the prison reserve. It was moved again in 1951, this time to a former venereal infections hospital building at the rear of 1 Division.

In 1982 a female division opened at HM Prison Brisbane to replace the women's prison which was described as a number of old brick and timber and corrugated iron buildings.

In 1990 it became a separate women's facility and was renamed Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

In 1998, the new Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Wacol opened, and Boggo Road was closed.

Slim's cell door
Slim Halliday's cell, with three bolts on the door. (One on the left side, two on the right.) (Courtesy, Bill Kearney)

By 1912, electric lights had been installed in the women's prison and in 1913, an end was put to the practice of burying the bodies of hanged prisoners on site in unmarked graves.

By the 1930s, provision was being made for the teaching of trades, for the establishment of libraries, and for giving lectures and concerts.

In the Brisbane prison, the long-term inmates were kept separate from the short-term, and they were taught trades such as tailoring, boot-making and tin-smithing, the goods made being used in various Government Institutions.

In 1952, Slim Halliday, the Houdini of Boggo Road, achieved notoriety as the only person to escape from 2 Division Boggo Road Gaol - twice!

Convicted of murdering a Gold Coast taxi driver, he also made four unsuccessful escape attempts during his life sentence. His escapes were short-lived: he spent 36 years in prison and died shortly after being released on parole.

The Black Hole punishment cells

The (original) notorious Black Hole punishment cells at Boggo Road Prison were the subject of on-going controversy. The original ones were closed in 1960, and new ones were opened in 1970.

These cells were under the basketball courts and contained no windows or natural light. They were finally closed in 1988.

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Convict and Prisoner Labour

Palen Creek awards
A selection of ribbons won for Palen Creek CC's cattle (Courtesy Queensland Corrective Services photo library)

Convicts at Moreton Bay settlement were generally sentenced to "hard labour" and while many have argued that it is the same as slavery, it was also considered at the time to be a suitable form of punishment. Even today, some offenders are given a "community order" to perform certain work in the community as restitution for their offence; it is a system society generally approves of and gives first-time offenders the chance to mend their ways and stay out of prison.

The sort of labour forced upon the convicts at Moreton Bay was indeed "hard labour". The new settlement had nothing. It needed buildings, food and farmland, there was a great deal for them to do under a sun far harsher than they were used to.

Quarterly reports on the convicts' labours were sent to Governor Brisbane. In 1826, there were 88 convicts who built ships, blacksmiths and carpentry workshops and the Commandant's house. They also cleared ground and worked in gardens.

In 1826, they also started work on building their own hospital, which continued to operate until 1867.

From 1827-1830 they built the convict barracks on the corner of Queen and Albert Streets, which had been designed by their Commandant, Captain Logan.

In 1828, they built the Windmill which included the treadmill, a more dreaded punishment than the lash.

Female convicts were also required to work. At the Female Factory in Queen Street (on the site of the present General Post Office), women convicts were employed doing needlework, washing and picking oakum, which involved the unravelling of old rope to produce loose fibres used in the caulking of the seems of wooden boats.

Unusually, women at Moreton Bay could be forced into hard labour at Eagle Farm. "At the Eagle Farm establishment ... the women, some in irons, were subjected to field labour during the day ... and to incarceration in the stockade at night. The severity ... is attested to by the sheer output of the establishment. Not only did the women cut the road to Hamilton, they prepared and maintained the farm that had 653 acres under maize and 28 acres under potatoes by January 1832." Libby Connors

However, not all convict labour was useful. At Rockhampton Gaol, which was opened in 1864, convicts were made to perform "short drill" - they were forced to move cannon balls from one site to another and back again, for no reason but to inflict punishment.

As early as 1887, the issue of the impact of prisoner labour on the local community was raised.

The police magistrate at Maryborough told the Inquiry "if you are going to bring them into competition with the labour of the district it would raise a good deal of ill-feeling." (Minutes, Board of Inquiry Paragraph 2960)

This issue is still a consideration when establishing prison industries today.

In 1921, after the Brisbane Women's Prison became Number Two Division of a men's gaol, the prisoners from St Helena were transferred there. The island's industry activities were transferred with them and St Helena became a prison farm.

By 1925, Queensland's prisoners were working as tailors, boot makers, tinsmiths, carpenters, bookbinders and makers of mats, hats, baskets and hammocks. Their labour was valued at 15,926 pounds.

"Prisoners who have been actively engaged in productive work are, on their liberation, better fitted to earn an honest livelihood than those who have not been so engaged." Prisons Department Annual Report, 1925.

In 1934, HM Prison Palen Creek was established and, with no security measures except their "honour", the prisoners erected their own buildings and sold produce from prisoner maintained market gardens.

They began a long standing tradition of cattle breeding which won them many prizes at the local agricultural show.

During recent years, a range of prison industries have been developed. A key milestone was the abolition of hard labour as a judicial sentencing option.

This occurred in 1988 following the Kennedy Report.

Kennedy believed that because corrective services had statutory responsibility for managing prisoners and providing them with rehabilitation opportunities, they should also determine the type of treatment prisoners received while in custody.

As a result, today's prison industries are linked with TAFE accredited vocational training programs, so that prisoners can be released with industry experience and a qualification.

Examples of prison industries include agriculture, horticulture, carpentry, upholstering, bakery and laundry work.

Prisoners also have the opportunity to participate in courses that will help them cope in the community when they are released. They may also be able to undertake secondary and tertiary study.

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Early Brisbane

Moreton Bay
Sketch of the Moreton Bay Settlement from South Brisbane, attributed to Henry W. Boucher Bowerman c.1835 (courtesy State Library of Queensland)

Brisbane's early days of free settlement were marked by slow population growth and the gradual construction of buildings to facilitate civic life.

An 1840 plan of the town by Robert Dixon shows the area on the north bank of the river stretching from today's QUT Garden's Point campus (where Old Government House, as it is now known, served as the Commandant's quarters), up to Albert St and west as far as Adelaide St.

The prisoners' barracks were on the south-west corner of the Queen and Albert Street intersection and opposite them, in Albert St, was the road to the dreaded Windmill. Between the prisoners' barracks and the river were the hospital, the doctor's residence and the lumber yard.

The Military barracks and garden occupied the current site of the Treasury Building (the Conrad Casino) and adjacent to them, occupying a large area to the north of the Commandant's quarters, were houses occupied by Rev Handt and John Kent, their large garden, a piggery and stable. Perhaps the convicts would be pleased to know that their garden is today the site of Brisbane's Botanic Gardens.

Queen Street
Queen Street, Brisbane, c. 1872 (courtesy, State Library of Queensland)

On 10 February 1842, Brisbane became a free settlement and on 10 July a sale of land was held in Sydney. Eight allotments in Queen Street, of 36 perches each, were put up for sale.

The Sydney Gazette reported a total sale sum of 1,340 pounds, with the most expensive block going for 250 pounds. The Gazette was also critical of the authorities for selling to an unsuspecting Sydney population a number of allotments south of the Brisbane River that were located in a swamp and under water at high tide.

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Female Convicts and Prisoners

Preparing dinner
Dinner preparations at the new female division of Boogo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1903. (Courtesy, State Library of Queensland)

In New South Wales, female convicts were placed in domestic service from the time they arrived.

Most served out their sentences and earned their ticket-of-leave. Only 144 female convicts were ever sent to Moreton Bay and they, like the males, had been convicted again in the colony. These twice-convicted women were sent to "female factories".

Gradually the number of women sent to Moreton Bay increased and by 1829 the settlement's first "female factory" had been built in Queen Street on the site of the present General Post Office.

Female factories were designed to achieve reform through discipline and order, and the women were employed doing needlework, washing and picking oakum (unravelling old rope to produce loose fibres used to caulk the seams of wooden boats).

They were housed in communal accommodation, sometimes with their children.

"The female prisoners in the Factory, or penitentiary, at Brisbane Town ... are kept under strict confinement, excepting that once in the day they are allowed to walk in front of their prison for exercise, under the eye of the Superintendent. Convict women at Eagle Farm go out to field labour; they are locked up securely at night, and are also vigilantly watched during the day, and such as persist in temporarily absconding, in order to meet the Military or others in the 'Bush', are subjected to irons." Comptroller General

Punishment for transgressions tended to be carried out within the factories. Because lashing women was unlawful, other forms of punishment were imposed: wearing irons, separate confinement, reduced diet and compulsory hard labour. In the 1820s, head shaving was considered a particularly effective punishment.

In October 1903, the Brisbane Prison (Female Division) opened at Boggo Road and prisoners were transferred from the Toowoomba Prison and the Fortitude Valley Police Gaol, which were closed.

Staff at the Brisbane Women's Prison comprised a Matron, a Senior Female Warder, and four or five female warders.

Female factory
Female factory on the site of the present GPO, c. 1850 (Courtesy, State Library of Queensland no. 153725)

The women's editor of The Queenslander newspaper was left with little hope of reformation of the prisoners.

Staff at the Female Division comprised a Matron, a Senior Female Warder, and four or five female warders. The only men employed were the gatekeeper and one tower sentry. The first Matron was Sarah Browne who held the position until 1908.

In 1921, Brisbane Prison was reorganised into two men's divisions (the original prison and the 1903 Women's prison) and a female division comprised of wooden housing. The women were moved again in 1951, this time to a former venereal infections hospital building at the rear of 1 Division.

Described as a number of old brick and timber and corrugated iron buildings, it was replaced in 1982 by a new Female Division, which in 1990 became a separate women's facility and was renamed Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

In 1983 planning began for a small women's prison facility at Townsville and in the early 1990s, "Tudor Lodge" in the Brisbane suburb of Albion (a former private hospital for the intellectually handicapped) was opened as a low security community-based facility for women.

It was first known as the Albion Community Correctional Centre and later named the Helena Jones Community Correctional Centre.

In 1997 a women's unit was established at the prison farm at Numinbah, the only farm available to women prisoners in Queensland.

In 1999 the new Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Wacol opened and Boggo Road closed for good.

Also in 1999, the Department granted female prisoners "special needs status", which resulted in delivering services that better met their needs.

These included access to women's health services and access to vocational training, education and life skills programs, with particular attention to dealing with domestic violence and drug abuse.

Because many women prisoners were the sole carers of young children, a communal residential unit was established at Brisbane Women's where appropriately classified prisoners could live together with their young children. Special programs were also introduced for Indigenous women.

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Legislative Changes

In February 1988, Cabinet approved the terms of reference for a Commission of Review and appointed Mr J. J. Kennedy as Commissioner. The Kennedy Report led to major changes including:

  • replacing the Prisons Act 1958 and the Offenders Probation and Parole Act 1980 with the Corrective Services (Administration) Act 1988 and the Corrective Services Act 1988;
  • creating a Queensland Corrective Services Commission (QCSC) to replace the Queensland Prison Service and the Queensland Probation and Parole Service;
  • referring to prisons as "correctional centres"; and
  • replacing the Parole Board with the Queensland Community Corrections Board and four regional community corrections boards (Brisbane, Rockhampton, South East Queensland and Townsville)
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People of Note

Captain Patrick Logan Commandant, Moreton Bay, 1826-1830

Logan is arguably the most colourful and notorious commandant of the Moreton Bay penal Settlement.

His harsh regime oversaw the settlement's greatest growth period (from about 200 to 1000 convicts), yet he also found time to explore and map the Ipswich area and venture southwards to the Beaudesert area.

Logan was murdered not long before he was to have rejoined his regiment for a posting in India. His remains were sent back to Sydney, where he was given a State funeral. The City of Logan bears his name.

Captain Charles Edward de Fonblaque Pennefather
Captain Charles Edward de Fonblaque Pennefather (Bennett Colletion, Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, Qld. Donated by Mr Wayne Bennett)

Captain Charles Edward de Fonblaque Pennefather

First Comptroller General Prior to joining the Prison Service, Pennefather was an esteemed naval commander who explored the eastern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Pennefather River on Cape York (which was previously known as the Coen River) is named after him.

Pennefather's contribution to the prison service in Queensland was considerable. In 1890, he identified Stewart's Creek in Townsville as the colony's best constructed gaol and said the south of the colony also needed gaols that would allow for separation and the proper classification of prisoners.

He suggested that "should a new gaol be built ... it should be erected on the mainland, say near the railway line between Brisbane and Ipswich. Much inconvenience and expense would then be saved in steamer service, and it would be more convenient in other respects." Pennefather was, in fact, recommending the area now occupied by the Wacol correctional precinct.

Sarah Browne Matron, Brisbane Women's Prison (Boggo Road) 1903 - 1908

Brisbane Women's Prison at Boggo Road opened in 1903 as part of the Brisbane Prison complex and under the control of Superintendent John Williams. The Women's first matron was Sarah Browne, who had been matron at Fortitude valley Police Gaol since 1895.

An elderly widow, she became ill in 1908 and died within a month of her retirement. Apart from the superintendent, the other staff comprised a senior female warder, and four or five other female warders. The only other men employed were the gatekeeper and one sentry.

Slim Halliday Convicted murderer and escapee

In 1952, Slim Halliday, the Houdini of Boggo Road, achieved notoriety as the only person to escape from 2 Division Boggo Road Gaol - twice!

Convicted of murdering a Gold Coast taxi driver, he also made four unsuccessful escape attempts during his life sentence.

His escapes were short-lived: he spent 36 years in prison and died shortly after being released on parole.

Ernest Austin
Ernest Austin, the last man hanged in Queensland. (Courtesy, State Library of Queensland)

Ernest Austin

Ernest Austin was the lst person to be hanged in Queensland.

Described as a "despicable" child murderer, he was executed on 23 September 1913.

Throughout his trial he had maintained a callous indifference to his crime. "I say strait (sic) out that I highly deserve this punishment. I ask you all to forgive me. God save the King. Send a wire to my mother and tell her I died happy." Ernest Austin, on the gallows.

Commandants at Moreton Bay Penal Settlement

Lt Henry Miller - September 1824-August 1825 Captain Peter Bishop - August 1825-March 1826 Captain Patrick Logan - March 1826-October 1830 Captain James Clunie - October 1830-November 1835 Captain Foster Fyans - November 1835-July 1837 Major Sydney Cotton - July 1837-May 1839 Lt George Gravatt - May 1839-July 1839 Lt Owen Gorman - July 1839-May 1842

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Punishment and execution

Discipline tools
Relics of convict discipline. (Courtesy, Australian National Library, an23796165)

The convicts sent to Moreton Bay were those who had already offended twice: their first offence had resulted in transportation from Great Britain to Sydney, and their second offence, committed while serving a sentence for the first, led to transportation to Moreton Bay.

So those convicts who offended at Moreton Bay were committing at least their third crime and were treated very harshly. At first, they were sent back to Sydney to be tried and, if sentenced to death, they were executed there.

James Sullivan was returned to Sydney for trial, charged with murdering another convict, and was executed there on 20 April 1829. The following day, James Brunger, Thomas Matthews and Thomas Allen were executed for murdering two prisoners at Moreton Bay.

In 1830, the first trial was held at Moreton Bay and soon the settlement was conducting its own executions.

Convicts Charles Fagan and John Bulbridge, found guilty of absconding and burglary, were the first to be executed in Brisbane. They were hanged inside the gaol in 1830.

The first public execution in Brisbane occurred in 1841, when two Aborigines, Meridio and Ningavil, were convicted of murdering a surveyor named Stapylton. They were hanged at the Wickham Terrace windmill.

In 1857, William Teagle was executed for the murder of his de-facto wife. Teagle was not permitted visits from his children while in gaol and they were sent to an orphanage in Parramatta.

Boggo Road gallows
Boggo Road Gaol gallows, Brisbane, 1903. (Courtesy, State Library of Queensland)

Executions were not just carried out in Brisbane. At Rockhampton Gaol in South Street, four people were executed by hanging.

In 1867, gold commissioner Thomas John Griffin was hanged for shooting two bank-note and bullion troopers, and in 1869 Jack Williams, Alexander Archibald and George Palmer were hanged for the murder of Patrick Halligan, a gold buyer and landlord of the Golden Age Hotel.

In 1883, a 41-year-old mother of six, Ellen Thompson, became the only woman hanged in Queensland.

She had been convicted of the murder of her husband. Also convicted and hanged for the same offence was John Harrison.

On 23 September 1913, Ernest Austin, a "despicable" child murderer, was hanged. Throughout his trial he had maintained a callous indifference to his crime.

"I say strait (sic) out that I highly deserve this punishment. I ask you all to forgive me. God save the King. Send a wire to my mother and tell her I died happy." Ernest Austin, on the gallows.

Austin was the last person hanged in Queensland, although capital punishment was not abolished until 1922.

Hard Labour and the Windmill

The Windmill, which still stands on Wickham Terrace, doubled as a grinding mill to feed the colony and as a punishment - while it usually required 30 men to operate it, for severe punishment, manpower would be reduced to as few as twelve; and they would have to work it for up to 14 hours at a time.

Confinement Solitary confinement was first used by Commandant Patrick Logan, who ensured it was possible by designing the first barracks to his requirements.

In 1855, an inquiry into prison discipline recommended that gaolers be given the power to impose punishments of up to three days in cells on prisoners.

This punishment could be imposed without reference to a visiting magistrate although all punishments had to be recorded in the gaoler's journal. The major means of regulating these closed institutions was reports from officials to the central government in Sydney.

For the women sent to Moreton Bay, the female factory and the farm (Eagle Farm) were new forms of confinement, as most women sent from Sydney would have been serving their sentences as domestic servants.

At both of these places, the female convicts of Moreton Bay were incarcerated under tight security.

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Soldiers, warders and correctional officers

When Lieutenant Henry Miller established the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, he had with him 30 convicts and 15 soldiers and their families.

Their main concern was not to let anyone escape and to keep their names out of the Regimental Defaulters Book. For "good conduct" soldiers could be rewarded with annuities (which came with a silver medal) or extra pay.

With the end of the convict era, gaolers began to be employed. The first gaoler in Brisbane was Martin Freney, a former Sergeant-major in the mounted police. He was employed in 1848, when the Female Factory was converted into a gaol for male and female prisoners, and his wife Maria was appointed as Matron. They retired in 1856.

The new Brisbane Gaol in Petrie Terrace, which opened in 1860, was designed to reflect contemporary ideological thinking. It marked the end of convictism and followed the "Auburn System" of prison discipline: separate confinement at night with associated but silent labour during the day.

Governor Bowen added to the change by instructing that an experienced gaol keeper be brought out from England.

Following a Parliamentary review, the responsibility for overseeing prisoners was therefore changed from military personnel to the police guard. Initial staffing consisted of one sergeant and 11 constables.

The management of prisoners became much more than simply preventing escapes.

Reform via industry was a popular notion, and reform schools were opened for women, girls and boys.

The establishment of a Prison Service was another development, and its first Comptroller General, Captain Fonblanque-Pennefather, furthered change by advocating that prisoners be classified so that petty or young criminals were not forced to mix with hardened criminals.

This required prison staff to make formal decisions about the nature of the criminals under their supervision, and their treatment.

In his report for 1907, Pennefather reported that officers who had resigned were replaced by 'probationers', so clearly there was an element of expertise expected.

In the early 1990s the Prison Service's training budget was $85,000 - described as farcical and scandalous - compared with $1 million in NSW and almost $600,000 in Victoria, where the staff population was comparable to that of Queensland.

Now, Queensland Corrective Services - encompassing both custodial and probation and parole - boasts the most highly trained corrective services workforce in Australia, with all custodial correctional officers required to have completed training to Certificate III level within their first year of service.

The Agency also employs psychologists, medical staff, teachers, social welfare officers and vocational training staff to ensure prisoners are treated appropriately.

In probation and parole, staff are trained to deal with released prisoners and offenders on community-based orders. All staff are encouraged to pursue professional development in whatever area of correctional specialisation they wish to pursue.

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St Helena Island

Commandant Patrick Logan was the first to use St Helena Island as a prison. In 1826 an Aboriginal prisoner known as "Napoleon" had become too troublesome for the gaol at Dunwich on Stradbroke Island and Logan had him dumped on the as yet unnamed island.

As Napolean Bonaparte was at that time exiled on a remote island off South America called St Helena Island, it was not long before the Officer in Charge of the Branch Penal Settlement at Dunwich named it St Helena.

On St Helena, the Superintendent was responsible to the Colonial Secretary and the Sheriff had no control over the management of the gaol.

In 1866, a quarantine station was established on the island. Work such as well sinking, jetty building and scrub clearing was undertaken by prisoners who were taken to St Helena from the Proserpine each day for work. The cost for the buildings on the island was 2,187 pounds.

The island was declared a penal establishment on 14 May 1867, with John McDonald as its first superintendent. It was intended to be for long term prisoners, however prisoners with long sentences were not sent there until 1869.

At first, prisoners were set to work growing sugar cane, however the cane provided too many hiding places so it was replaced by lucerne and potatoes. By the end of 1867, the island could accommodate 60 prisoners in a 60 by 20-foot building. By March of 1868, it could hold 140 prisoners. Prisoners on St Helena were permitted visits from their wives. These took place under armed guard on the jetty.

There were no solitary confinement cells on the Island, the only punishments being "stopping of indulgences" and the lash.

An education program commenced at St Helena in 1896. The intention was to have similar programs in place in several gaols.

"Most of the uneducated prisoners, when confined to St Helena, avail themselves of the tuition afforded at that establishment, and many of these, including Islanders, make excellent progress." Comptroller General, Captain Pennefather

In December 1932, St Helena Penal Establishment was closed. There had only been three escapes in its 65-year history. The island was subsequently gazetted as a National Park on May 1979 and gazetted as Queensland's first Historic Area on 11 September 1980.

Prisoners from HM Prison Brisbane were used in cleaning up the old prison ruins on the island to make them suitable for public access.

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Ticket-of-Leave

Ticket of leave
Ticket-of-leave (Image reproduced with permission, State Records, New South Wales: SRNSW: CGS 12202 39/879; reel 933)

This ticket-of-leave (pictured right) shows that Thomas Wilson was tried at Montgomery Road on 17 October 1833 and that his sentence was seven years.

He sailed on the convict ship Lady Nugent and arrived in the colony in 1835. It also tells that he was granted his ticket-of-leave on 29 May 1839, six months before his sentence was completed.

The Lady Nugent sailed from Sheerness (a port in the Thames River, London) on 4 December 1834, with 286 male passengers on board, and arrived in Sydney on 9 April 1835. Thomas Wilson must have been one of these men.

Mr Wilson applied for his ticket-of-leave in 1839, only four years after arriving in the colony.

It is therefore likely that he served this part of his seven year sentence with the one master, who probably resided in the Pittwater District, which is where his ticket-of-leave was allowed.

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Last updated: 15 December 2009