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Yungaba Immigration Depot

  • 600245
  • 102 Main Street, Kangaroo Point


Also known as
No.6 Australian General Hospital; Immigration Barracks
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Law/order, immigration, customs, quarantine: Immigration reception depot
1.2 Peopling places: Migration from outside and within
7.2 Maintaining order: Government and public administration
10.1 Providing health and welfare services: Providing health services
Clark, John James
Clark, William Peter
Construction period
1885–1899, Yungaba Immigration Depot (1885c - 1899)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


102 Main Street, Kangaroo Point
Brisbane City Council
-27.46711458, 153.0365485


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Yungaba is symbolic of the high priority that was placed on immigration during the late nineteenth century and the manner in which the colonial, and then State governments provided for those needs. The government's ambitious and extensive immigration programs established Queensland as the 'immigration colony' of Australia with immigration levels higher than any other colony or state in the country.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

Yungaba is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural place in that it clearly demonstrates the characteristics of institutional buildings of the late nineteenth century in its symmetrical layout and the hierarchy of decoration used to define the various functions of the place. The relatively unchanged quality of the original fabric provides information regarding the status and priority given to immigration during the period in which it was built.

Yungaba provides an example of the form of accommodation provided for newly arrived immigrants to Australia in the late nineteenth century. Its original layout, with gender- separated dormitory accommodation for singles, single-room accommodations for families and shared toilet facilities provides comment on the understanding of privacy, morality and human behaviour current at the time.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Yungaba is important in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics valued by the community or a particular group as it is a distinguished building located on the banks of the Brisbane River with clear views between the site and the river. Its elegant, yet restrained ornamentation softens the potential austerity of its symmetrical plan.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

Yungaba has a special association with a wide variety of communities and cultural groups for social and cultural reasons. It has been used to accommodate generations of immigrants, to welcome soldiers and their dependents on their return from three major conflicts, it has housed South Sea Islanders awaiting repatriation to their home islands under Commonwealth legislation, and it is closely associated with the construction of the Story Bridge, one of Brisbane's landmarks. Its listing as the first building to be protected under the Cultural Record (Landscapes Queensland and Queensland Estate) Act 1987 demonstrates is strong community value within the city of Brisbane.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

Yungaba has a particular association with the works of J J Clark, Colonial Architect and William Parry Okeden, later Under Colonial Secretary, who was instrumental in the settlement of both the shearers' strikes and the problems with the Native Police. Parry-Okeden also had a significant role in the relationship between the colonial government and Aborigines due to his extensive knowledge of Aboriginal languages and dialects.


"Yungaba" is a two-storey brick institutional building designed as an immigrant depot in 1885 by John James (JJ) Clark, colonial architect for Queensland. Following his dismissal shortly after, the building plan was developed by Edward Henry Alder and Robert Henry Mills. Constructed by William Peter Clark, the building is described as being of Italianate/Queensland/ Institutional style.[1]

Following the subdivision of Kangaroo Point in 1843-44, lots 21 and 22 were purchased by Judah and Isaac Solomon and Thomas Adams. Some time later John "Tinker" Campbell, a neighbouring land-owner, purchased a share in both lots and transferred his boiling-down works to that location to gain the benefit of the small stream which crossed the properties. Following a series of financial transactions, the land was purchased by Robert Douglas in 1853 for £400. Douglas constructed a house on lot 21 which he named "The Willows". Douglas was a prominent and popular person in Brisbane society at that time although some scandal arose when it was revealed that he had sold his Kangaroo Point property to the government for £14,000 in 1884.

The government had been aware for some time that the immigration facilities at William Street were inadequate for their needs. The decision to acquire the land at Kangaroo Point was justified by the need to provide 'pleasant surroundings' for those who recently arrived in the colony. The pattern of immigration fluctuated wildly over the years. In the period immediately preceding the construction of the Kangaroo Point depot, immigration had been at an all time high.

William Peter Clark, the successful tenderer for the work, ran into a series of difficulties with the construction which resulted in almost a year's delay in the completion. The interior layout was designed by William Hodgen and arranged in a manner typical of institutional buildings of the time. Married quarters were in the form of separate cubicles on the ground level, and single quarters (segregated by gender, and in dormitory form) on the upper level. Symmetrical pairs of laundry and privy facilities were arranged to the rear of the building.

The first administrator was William Edward Parry-Okeden. Parry-Okeden was already a highly competent and practical man with a reputation for fair-dealing and vigorous commitment to his occupation. Parry-Okeden and his family moved to Brisbane from Blackall to take up his appointment at the Immigration Depot. Later he was appointed Under Colonial Secretary and played an active role in both the management of Aborigines, the organisation of the Native Police and the resolution of the shearers' strikes. Following the floods of 1887, Parry-Okeden and his wife refurbished "The Willows" which continued as their residence during his four years as immigration agent.

From the outset Parry Okeden saw that a number of critical issues needed to be addressed before the depot could operate efficiently. Problems dogged the project throughout its early years. Difficulties were experienced due to poor drainage resulting from the re-direction of the natural drainage into a stormwater drain. Subsequent drainage works had varying degrees of success but the building soon showed signs of rising damp exacerbated by the poor quality bricks used during construction. Gas and water connections were either very basic or completely absent from vital parts of the building, there was no wharf facility at which to disembark the immigrants and, once landed, there was no facility for isolating those suspected of suffering contagious disease.

For a long time it was argued the damp problem was a result of rain beating on the sides of the building, rather than due to poor site drainage. In 1891 the verandahs on the eastern end of the northern side of the building were extended to shelter the walls from the rain. A matching verandah extension at the western end was not constructed until 1899 as the expense was considered too great when the source of the damp had not been proven. The later extension was made to regain the symmetry of the facade, rather than as a means of protecting the walls from the rain.

Wharf facilities were provided at the river bank in 1887 with a large luggage shed on the river bank. Parry-Okeden pointed out that the design was less than practical since a wide gap had been left between the two structures. At high tide the wharf was cut off from land by a twelve foot expanse of water. At low water the wharf was inaccessible from the river due to the shallow water at this point. Repeated requests were necessary before the problems were rectified.

An outbreak of scarlet fever in 1889 lent urgency to the already noted need for isolation wards in which to treat sick immigrants. The same year a facility was constructed, but, due to an oversight in the plans, it had no facilities for the provision of gas or water or for the disposal of waste and storm water. Similar problems dogged the long awaited 'disinfecting plant' which was first vandalised and later inundated due to faulty drainage.

When immigration levels were low, the building was used for a variety of purposes. In 1900 it served as temporary accommodation for the inmates of the Dunwich Asylum which had been appropriated as an isolation ward for plague victims. In 1904-06 it was again appropriated as accommodation for South Sea Islanders being repatriated under new Commonwealth laws. The arrival of an immigrant ship led to the re-location of the Islanders to rented accommodation nearby as it was considered inappropriate to expect the "two races" to co-habit.

The outbreak of World War I led to another change in use, the building being requisitioned for use as a military hospital. Few alterations to the fabric occurred although two single-storey wards were constructed to the southeast of the building. At the end of the war, the building provided an ideal reception area for returning servicemen who, with their wives, were feted at public receptions. Most of the building activity associated with this phase was removed at the end of the war.

From the end of WWI and throughout the 1920s, immigration swelled. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to a rapid fall in numbers, exacerbated by the cancellation of the assisted passage schemes. In 1938 the assistance scheme was reinstated and numbers rapidly climbed, only to fall again with the commencement of WWII.

During the period of inactivity in the 1930s, the building was used to house the team working on the construction of the Story Bridge. Accommodation for the superintendent of works, Jon Job Crew (JJC) Bradfield, was provided in the eastern room on the ground floor of the north wing. The entire upper floor of the north wing was devoted to offices and drafting rooms for the works in progress. Four dormer windows were inserted into the roof of the North wing dormitory to provide additional light for the draftsmen. The team for the concurrent Stanley River Dam project were relegated to a large room on the lower floor

The bridge construction was undertaken by Evans Deakin, who converted the depot grounds into an industrial site with workshops and storehouses. A row of three open sheds cut off the connection between the hostel and the river, remaining in place until some time after the works were completed. The bridge is carried on tall pylons across the site to the rear of the principal building. The danger from falling debris and intentionally thrown objects has resulted in the need to identify an easement across the property on which no buildings can be constructed.

With the commencement of WWII the hostel was used to accommodate a hundred women and children evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940. In 1941 the depot was once again converted into a hospital, treating general patients. In 1942 it was devoted to 'special' cases - those soldiers suffering the effects of venereal diseases. The buildings along the river frontage continued to be occupied by Evans Deakin, however most of the other structures on the site were used for the treatment of patients. Most of these buildings are now demolished.

The post-war immigration boom led to a renewed life for the building which was renamed Yungaba State Immigration Office and Reception Centre. The name "Yungaba" derives from the Gubbi Gubbi Aboriginal language from the Maroochy area and means "place of sunshine". The volume of post-war immigration was such that the hostel was unable to cope with more than a small proportion of new arrivals, and the bulk were re-directed to the many empty military camps around the city. Of these, Camp Columbia at Wacol was perhaps the best known.

The post-war period saw extensive alterations made to the building. Cubicles were provided in the downstairs dormitories, toilet facilities were re-modelled or re-built, the kitchen was enlarged and refurbished and the exterior brickwork was limewashed. Minor alterations occurred until 1990 when the verandahs were removed and reconstructed. In 1993 the building was refitted to provide office accommodation for the Department of Family Services. This refit involved the demolition of the partitions in the North wing. The access to the river was regained following the demolition of the sheds occupied by Evans Deakin and new accommodation facilities erected in the 1970s respected this important axis.

In 1988 Yungaba became the first building entered on the Queensland Estate Register maintained under the Cultural Record (Landscapes Queensland and Queensland Estate) Act 1987. The entry was a result of community concern over the impact of the re-development of Kangaroo Point and the need to conserve significant elements of the community's heritage. In 1992 Yungaba was entered in to the Queensland Heritage Register following the introduction of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

In 2019, the depot building has been adaptively reused as apartments and houses ten apartments over two main levels.


Yungaba is located at Main Street, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. Sited on the banks of the Brisbane River, adjacent to the Storey Bridge the property holds a prominent position on Petrie Bight. The principal approach to the site is directed towards the river frontage however the common access to the site is from Main Street. This point of landward entry passes through the rear of the site and reveals a collection of ancillary buildings associated with different uses the site has had through its history.

Yungaba is constructed as a symmetrical cruciform plan dominated by a substantial central entrance loggia which is flanked by two three-storey towers. These elements define the entry core of the building and the commencement of the two wings which extend to the north and south of the core. The building is a two-storey load-bearing brick structure with timber framed floors and roof. The roof form is comprised of intersecting gable roof forms punctuated by the pyramidal roofs of the two three storey towers. The roof is clad with corrugated metal sheeting and includes a series of ornate metal ridge ventilators.

Verandahs extend along the eastern and western elevations of the wings of the building. The verandahs have timber posts and handrails with decorative cast iron balustrade infill panels. The end sections of the verandahs are also enclosed with lattice screening. Beyond the line of the verandah, windows are sheltered under sunhoods constructed from cast iron wall brackets and timber hood framing, clad with metal sheeting.

The adaptive reuse of the building into ten apartments over the two main levels has left the overall form, central entrance and court intact. Apartment complexes have been constructed as part of the site's redevelopment to the north of the depot building. A Multicultural Centre, opened in 2016, is located to the northwest of the depot building facing Main Street.

On the riverside of Yungaba a ring road sweeps past the entry to the building and out toward the river edge returning to the point of entry at the northern end of the building. A collection of mature and more recent plantings line the ring road with the central area being predominately grass. A swimming pool and associated facilities are located in the southeast corner of the site.

The western grounds contain ancillary facilities associated with the residential development comprising an early brick earth closet adapted as a pavilion building; open and covered carparks; and, covered walkways.


[1] As described in Kerr, James Semple, 1993, Yungaba Immigration Depot : a plan for its conservation, based on research by Greg Tunn and Helen Hamley, Q-Build Project Services, p.8 – “The elevation of the building was Italianate, Queensland and institutional: Italianate because of the character of the decorative motifs introduced; Queensland because of the application of enclosing verandahs, developed galvanised iron hoods to the windows and ventilators to the roofs; and institutional because of the resolutely symmetrical treatment.”

Image gallery


Location of Yungaba Immigration Depot within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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