WOODMAN POINT QUARANTINE STATION

 

Old Quarantine Station

 

GPS 32 07 58 S 115 45 15 E

 

 

 

 

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The first gazetted quarantine station in the Swan River Colony was located on Carnac Island in 1884. It would seem that Carnac was used for quarantine purposes much earlier, as The Perth Gazette wrote on December 26th 1851:

"In our last publication we announced the arrival of the troop-ship Anna Robertson, with a party of Sappers and Miners, and that hooping [sic] cough being prevalent on board, the vessel would be placed in quarantine. His Excellency appointed a board of health, to determine upon what steps should be taken and on Monday last, these gentlemen decided upon landing the actually infected upon Carnac, and all the families upon Woodman's Point, to undergo quarantine, bust strange to say, allowed all unmarried passengers, to land free of restraint."

Unfortunately there is some conflict about dates in various sources so we cannot give precise information on the early years. Wikipedia states that Carnac was gazetted as a quarantine station but was never used, this is clearly incorrect.

The first buildings were erected at Woodman Point in 1886 but it would appear that Carnac Island was still in use as a quarantine station until at least the early 1900s.

Land was first allocated for the quarantine station at Woodman Point as early as 1836. This can be confirmed on the map of The Town of Clarence. Information on the internet states that the allocation was in 1876 but this appears to be incorrect.

The purpose of the station was to prevent communicable diseases present in immigrants and ship's crew from spreading into the general population. Diseases that were treated at the station included scarlet fever, leprosy, small pox, bubonic plague and Spanish Flu.

Ships that arrived with people showing signs of disease were required to fly a yellow flag to indicate the possible presence of contagion aboard. The plain yellow flag was known as the 'Yellow Jack'. Today the meaning has been reversed with the yellow flag meaning a ship free of disease that is requesting boarding and inspection. A flag with diagonally placed black and yellow squares being flown while in harbour, means that the ship is under quarantine.

A similar quarantine station was established in Albany at Quaranup in 1875.

The central section of the Woodman Point station had a stone wall stretching from one side of the point to the other. Today there is only a small section of the wall remaining.

Buildings on the site included passenger and crew accommodation blocks, medical officer's residence, a dining hall with kitchen, scullery and pantries, a laundry, a fumigation block, an ablution block, a recreation building an observation building and isolation hospital. A crematorium was also constructed to aid in the disposal of people who had died from various diseases.

Due to religious reasons, cremation was not viewed favourably in society, so the presence of a crematorium was highly unusual when it was first constructed. Cremations generally took place at night to avoid any disturbance to the local population in Fremantle. The last cremation took place in 1943.

The original buildings were changed from wooden slat style to asbestos cladding but when the site was re-developed, the asbestos had to be removed and Aluminium cladding was installed. The buildings have been fully restored and the site is of very high heritage value.

Due to the nature of the diseases treated at the station, there were a considerable number of deaths and a cemetery had to be established. Most of those interred at the site were exhumed and relocated at Karrakatta cemetery but some scattered graves still contain their original occupants. One of the most unlucky would have to be a member of the nursing staff, Nurse Hilda Williams. Against her parents' wishes she volunteered for service at the station but died just 7 days after arriving. Her grave is one of those that is still intact.

The quarantine station was a small community that was largely self-sufficient. During outbreaks of disease it was completely isolated with nobody allowed out or in.

At one stage armed guards were placed around the perimeter wall to ensure that nobody tried to leave.

You can only imagine the feelings of those who showed no signs of disease but were confined in the station with people who were known to be infected.

During the 1970's the Observation Hospital was used as a Detention Centre for Deportees.

The station closed in 1979.

The site was transferred from the Commonwealth government to the state department of Sport and Recreation. Today the central section of the station is a camp used for community groups and schools.

The isolation hospital has been turned into a museum that is dedicated to preserving the history of the site.

The Friends of Woodman Point is a group of volunteers that care for and maintain the site. They run tours for the public four times a year and tours for groups on a regular basis.

If you would like to find out more about the site, make a donation to assist with maintenance, become a volunteer or find out when you can visit, contact the volunteers via the link below.

Friends of Woodnam Point Facebook page

Our thanks to Gary Marsh for helping us to correct some mistakes in the original information about the station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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