Saturday 15 November 2014

Old Quarantine Station - Pallarenda

In the 1880s a quarantine station was established at West Point on Magnetic Island for the purposes of isolating sick passengers on passing ships.  This station was damaged by severe cyclones Sigma in 1896 and Leonta in 1903 and owing to a lack of water and the difficulty of the distance from the mainland, the government decided to build an alternative station on the mainland.
Former Quarantine Station, Pallarenda, Townsville, 1976.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection
The new Quarantine Station built at Pallarenda commenced with the construction of a timber jetty, which was completed by early 1914.  Over a period of seven months, commencing in November 1915, buildings at West Point were systematically dismantled and the building materials transported by barge from Magnetic Island to the mainland, for re-use at the Pallarenda station.  

Buildings that were moved included the hospital building, the married quarters, the hospital kitchen and the dining room.  These buildings had new functions at the new Quarantine Station at Pallarenda, which was in use by 1917.

Although materials from the old station at West Point were used at Pallarenda, new buildings were also constructed at the Pallarenda station, including a Disinfecting Block.  This building had tram tracks running through it.  Luggage was brought from the jetty on a trolley via the tracks through to the disinfection block where it was fumigated.  In contrast, the quarantined passengers had to walk from the jetty to the bath house, where they showered and changed.

Passengers were segregated according to the same class system that had divided them on board their ship.  There were separate quarters for men and women and the first and second class passengers had separate living and dining facilities.  In keeping with the racial attitudes of the day, there was a separate area for Asian passengers.  Housed in what was called the “Asiatic Shelter Shed”, these passengers slept in hammocks suspended under a shed with a concrete floor. 

The station was put to good use in the early part of the twentieth century, particularly during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1919 and during sporadic outbreaks of bubonic plague that occurred until the early 1920s.
Signage at the former Quarantine Station, Pallarenda.
Photo:  Trisha Fielding.
In August 1920 the steamer Roberto Figueras was on its way to Noumea when it arrived in Cleveland Bay carrying 1000 Vietnamese, 32 of whom were ill with suspected typhus.  Those who were sick were transferred to the quarantine station, while all others remained on board the ship, which took in supplies of coal and fresh water while it sat idle. 

The illness turned out to be meningitis, and 13 of those who had fallen ill, died at the station, and were buried there.  These were the only deaths to occur at the quarantine station during its use.        

During World War II the Quarantine Station continued its quarantine function, whilst also being used as an army hospital.  At this time a number of fortifications were built nearby, including two gun emplacements, two searchlight installations and a command post. 
The remains of WWII fortifications, Pallarenda.
Photo:  Trisha Fielding.

In 1974 the newly-formed Australian Institute of Marine Science moved into the site, bringing six temporary laboratories with them.  AIMS relocated in 1977 and in 1986 the area became an environmental park.  The Department of Environment and Resource Management have also been housed at the site.


  1. Hi Trisha, I am an Infectious Diseases Physician and interested in researching Australian Quarantine stations. I would like to communicate with you about records of ship visits or other quarantine events at Pallarenda

  2. Hi Damon, thanks for your query. I have replied to you via email.