QStation is to Sydney what Ellis Island is to New York. This location on the north head of Sydney’s Harbour was the first stop for people arriving in Sydney. From 1932 – 1984 the quarantine station was used to isolate emigrants with contagious diseases. It was Australia’s first, largest and longest continuously operating quarantine station. Here emigrants were checked for disease, monitored if required and then they would set foot into the Australian community. It’s also where some of them never left.
On a gorgeous afternoon we gathered at the Luggage Store Visitor Centre at QStation to celebrate the launch of the book From Quarantine to QStation; Honouring the Past, Securing the Future. (Arbon Publishing). Abundantly illustrated with colour and sepia photos, newspaper articles and anecdotes from detainees, the book is not only readable, but is absolutely fascinating!
The story of QStation, relayed in this intriguing book, weaves Aboriginal occupation, heath management and rigorous conservation. Aborigines were attracted to this site by the abundance of seafood in the harbour. The fresh breezes, clean water supply and remoteness also made it an ideal place for a quarantine area to be set up for the fledging colony. The steady influx of people from far shores meant that medical checks and smallpox vaccinations became mandatory for all prospective emigrants. People on the incoming ships were monitored before and after they stepped off the boats for signs of influenza, smallpox, bubonic plague, foot and mouth disease, scarlet fever, typhoid fever and were quarantined, if needed, to prevent the spread of these diseases on the island continent. The hospital on site and three cemeteries saw some harrowing and traumatic sights
The story of QStation is one of survival, adaption and sustainability. QStation has now been preserved and restored creating accommodation and a function centre with history tours available and absolutely stunning views. The Luggage Store Visitor Centre is where the emigrants stepped off the boats and today it holds a wonderful display of cabins in the boats, a meaningful exhibition of the process of emigration, the journey and quarantine. Who knew that the Wedgwood china which was used at the Quarantine Station was eventually disposed of by being thrown off the foreshore into the harbour? Or that quarantine comes from the Italian word quarantine meaning forty days? I didn’t.
Through my eldest daughter doing work experience in the conservation section of QStation and my father hosting his 80th birthday there, I have come to know more about this important place tucked in the shores of Sydney.
From Quarantine To QStation really is a wonderful reference and a compelling read about the fascinating history and exciting future of this QStation. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.