Aboriginal boundary posts

The above image is of the entrance to old Cumbooqueepa, the residence of Thomas Blacket Stephens, South Brisbane. The photograph is from GS-66 William Boag Photograph Albums, held by the John Oxley Library.

I was shown this photograph 15 years ago by a good friend and SLQ colleague, the late Loris Williams. Not knowing which collection it came from, I have been trying to find it again ever since, and finally rediscovered it yesterday (18 January 2012). Loris told me that in Queensland white poles were placed in front of properties to inform Aboriginal people and police that Aboriginals were not allowed to venture further.  These poles were known as boundary posts.

Dr Ros Kid's "Aboriginal History of the Princess Alexandra hospital site” (2000, p.17), provides further insight into the restriction of movements facing Moreton Bay Aborigines.

"During the last decades of the nineteenth century Aborigines were increasingly marginalised on their own lands. Although they were allowed into Brisbane town during the day, they had, since the early 1850s, been the targets of a curfew, which was enforced after 4pm and on Sundays. Rev Henry Stobart, who arrived in 1853, remarked that the blacks seem to leave this town at one regular hour each day, and one of the boundary posts was at Cumbequepa (Somerville House), South Brisbane. The major demarcation south of the river operated along Vulture and Boundary streets. Charles Melton wrote that police were empowered by regulation to drive them out of town at nightfall, but because police were so greatly outnumbered by Aborigines in the town the regulation was difficult to enforce. By 1877 it would appear the curfew was more efficiently applied. Recalling the forced expulsion of all Aboriginal men and women at sundown, one traveller wrote: After 4pm the mounted troopers used to ride about cracking stock-whips to notify the Aboriginals to get out. Those whose lands lay south of the river would have retreated beyond the town boundaries to the camping areas of Woolloongabba, Dutton Park, Fairfield, Annerley and the Coorparoo watercourses."

These boundary posts are a sad reminder of the treatment of Aborigines in colonial Queensland.  Images of these boundary posts are rare and the reason for my search over the past fifteen years.

Tania Schafer, Librarian - State Library of Queensland


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Thanks for this interesting and informative post Tania.I think it is necessary for us to hear about some of the actions that occurred in our past so that we might gain a better understanding of the impact white settlement had on indigenous communities.RegardsTrevorwww.yourbrisbanepastandpresent.com

Original source for the photo: 'Triumph of the Tropics: an historical sketch of Queensland' (1959) written by Sir Raphael Cilento - Plate XV! between pages 72-73. This text has been digitsed as part fo the Q150 Project: http://www.oesr.qld.gov.au/products/publications/triumph-tropics/triump…

Thanks for the post Tania. Do you know if the late Loris Williams published anything about the 'curfew posts'? Be good to read it if she did.Do you know of any other images of 'curfew boundary posts'? This is the only one I've ever come across?RegardsDaryll

Daryll,Loris Williams did not published any documents about the “curfew post” [boundary Posts]. Loris showed me the image.All written documentation was from an internet site that Ros Kidd (author of The way we civilise: Aboriginal affairs: the untold story) had created)RegardsTania

Attention: Tania SchaferHi Tanya,I am a Cultural Capability Officer with Qld Health and would like to have more information or posts on colonial Qld and the way our mobs were treated.

Hi GeneI've passed your question on to Tania.Myles - blog editor

Hi Tania,I'm doing some research on the Boundary Streets as part of a search into QLDs human rights history. Do you have any information about when the curfew came to an end?

The posts were not erected to demarkate an exclusion zone for aboriginals - they were the result of an 1838 legislation pertaining to municipal management and planning in southern towns, which was applied to Brisbane in 1846. As part of the 1846 implementation in Brisbane, the town boundaries were defined and authorities directed to clearly mark those boundaries. Exclusions for Aborignals were introduced in the 1850s, but the boundaries (and posts) were not introduced for that reason - this argument is completely incorrect misses a huge chunk of history relating to the development of municipal authority in Australia.

This is NOT to diminish the impact of the 1850s exclusion zones for the aboriginal population - which were manifestly cruel and demeaning. But no-one is helped by spreading incorrect narratives that can be shot down with five minutes of research. Focus on the real history of aboriginal hardship and suffering in this country - there's plenty of it.

What year was the curfew lifted?

I am unable to tell any information on the Dr Ross Kidds comment about "police regulation to drive Aborigines out of town at nightfall". However, the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld) allowed the police to remove Aboriginal from Brisbane to Aboriginal settlements. Thus, maybe the curfew may not have been lifted, but replaced.

Thank you. Do you know when the enforcement of this curfew ceased?

The white posts in question were actually posts indicating the Town Boundary as required under the Police Towns Act. Apart from the post outside Cumbooquepa on Vulture St, there was also a post on the corner of Vulture St and Wellington Road. The original Brisbane Town Boundary was surveyed by Thomas Wade in 1842 in preparation for being able to describe the town of Brisbane under the Act. Brisbane finally came under the act in 1846.
Under the Police Towns Act the Governor could appoint for each of the Towns a Justice of the Peace who would be or would appoint a Police Magistrate. This Magistrate was required to swear an oath to uphold the Police Towns Act including preventing and removing nuisances within the town. The duty of the Justice was to 'suppress all tumults, riots, affrays or breaches of the peace, all public nuisance and offences against the law and to uphold all regulations established by competent authority for the management an discipline of convicts within each of the said towns respectively.'

Whether official or unofficial the Town Police enforced a curfew removing Aboriginal people outside the Town Boundaries every afternoon. There is also references about requiring Aboriginal people not being allowed in the Town on Sundays.

In 1897 all Aboriginal people were removed from the town to reserves at Deebing Creek, Durundur, Fraser Island and Cherbourg under the 'Aboriginal and Islanders Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act'.