The Peel Island Lazaret, in Moreton Bay, was established for the detention and treatment of suffers from Hansen's Disease, more commonly known as leprosy. Opening in 1907, Peel Island Lazaret was Australia's first purpose-built, multi-racial lazaret in Australia. It was run by the Queensland State government and closed in 1959.
Non-European patients from Friday Island Lazaret and European patients from Stradbroke Island Lazaret were moved to Peel Island when it was established in 1907.
Children were among the patients sent to Peel Island in 1907. Noel (Laddie) Agnew was 11 when transferred to Peel Island from the Stradbroke Island Lazaret. He was diagnosed with Hansen's Disease at the age of eight and died on Peel Island in 1937. While on the island Noel identified 76 species of birds. He published a list of the species in 1913 and 1921.
Charles Hewitt was 12 when he was sent to Peel Island. As the disease progressed, Charles became blind and was barely able to care for himself. He died in 1938 at the age of 29 and was buried on the island in an unmarked grave.
Run by the State government, a lack of funding was a constant problem when it came to the provision of adequate food supplies, medical treatment and weatherproof housing. "Coloured" patients were segregated from "white" patients and housed in sub-standard tin huts. In 1940 the decision was made to move non-European patients to Fantome Island in the Palm Island Group, off Townsville.
It was 20 years before the first purpose-built surgery was erected and the first resident doctor did not arrive until 1947. Electricity was not available until 1948. By the mid-1950s conditions on the island had improved somewhat.
Originally, isolation was considered the only way to contain Hansen's Disease. However from 1947 onwards, patients on Peel Island were successfully treated with Sulphone derivatives and consequently the need for a dedicated lazaret gradually disappeared. The facility closed in 1959 and the remaining patients were transferred to the South Brisbane (now Princess Alexandra) Hospital.
Following the closure of the leprosarium, several proposals were put forward for the development of the island, none of which came to fruition. From 1968 to 1993 the Church of England Grammar School leased some of the Lazaret buildings for use as an outdoor educational camp.
In 1992 the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service took over management of the island. In the same year Peel Island was included in the Queensland Heritage Register and Register of the National Estate. On 18 December 2007 Peel Island was renamed Teerk Roo Ra and was declared a National Park and Conservation Park.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Fantome Island Lock Hospital and Lazaret Sites (former)', in Queensland Heritage Register, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), 30 June 2015, https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602798; Bryce, R , Ryan, T, Van Willigen, G, Opala, R, Venner, R, Friends of Peel Island, Going to the gums: the lazaret on Peel Island, Friends of Peel Island Association Inc, Cleveland DC, 2009, 70 pp; Intended solely for their greater comfort and happiness: Historical archaeology, paternalism and the Peel Island Lazaret, 1999, http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/eserv/UQ:190067/the13923.pdf.
Prepared by: Lee Butterworth
Created: 9 December 2013, Last modified: 18 June 2014