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Peel Island

  • 601091
  • Peel Island, Moreton Bay


Also known as
Teerk Roo Ra
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 June 1993
Health and care services: Lazaret/leprosarium
Law/order, immigration, customs, quarantine: Quarantine station
7.3 Maintaining order: Customs and quarantine services
10.1 Providing health and welfare services: Providing health services
Construction periods
1873–1900, Quarantine Station Jetty
1873–1900, Quarantine Station Building
1873–1959, Peel Island facilities
1890–1907, Superintendent's Quarters
1907–1940, Coloured compound
1907–1940, Poultry sheds
1907–1940, Stables
1907–1959, White Male and Female compounds
1907–1959, Sheds in administrative zone
1907–1959, Pump House
1925–1947, Surgery
1926, Nurses Quarters
1942–1948, Medical Officer's Quarters
1948, Powerhouse
1948, Matron's Quarters
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century
1900–1914 Early 20th century
1914–1919 World War I
1919–1930s Interwar period
1939–1945 World War II
1940s–1960s Post-WWII


Peel Island, Moreton Bay
Redland City Council
-27.49819132, 153.35524141


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

Peel Island, as the site of a quarantine station, inebriates' home and lazaret, is important in demonstrating several important aspects of Queensland's history, including: how an extensive network of government institutions was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the control and isolation of those who were considered morally, racially and physically unsuitable; how islands in Moreton Bay and elsewhere were used as places of social control and isolation; and attitudes to leprosy patients and the treatment of the disease in Queensland.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The island is significant also for its retention of a rare aspect of Queensland's heritage: the only surviving lazaret in the state, which is also important as one of only two multi-racial lazarets in Australia and the only lazaret purpose built and organised on the isolation method.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Peel Island is important also in exhibiting a range of aesthetic qualities valued by the community, in particular the lazaret site in decay, juxtaposed with the surrounding landscape and Moreton Bay seascape.


Peel Island was known variously to Aboriginal groups as Teerk Roo Ra, Dairkooreeba, Chercrooba. The island was charted by Matthew Flinders in 1799. In 1873 the island was proclaimed a reserve for quarantine purposes. A quarantine station was established on the south east corner of the island and was in regular use throughout the 1870s and 1880s as the colony received a constant stream of immigrant ships. With a decline in immigration in the 1890s and an improvement in public health, the quarantine station fell into disuse. Between 1910 and 1916 the buildings were use as an inebriates' home.

In 1906 an area of 160 acres on the north west corner was gazetted as a reserve for lazaret.

The first case of leprosy in Queensland was discovered in 1855. Little interest was shown in the disease until the 1880s when there was a notable increase in the incidence of the disease. The diagnosis of the first European with leprosy prompted the implementation of the Leprosy Act of 1892. Two lazarets were established, one on Stradbroke Island for white patients, the other on Friday Island in the Torres Straits for non-Europeans. Both lazarets experienced considerably difficulties and in the early 1900s, the government decided to close these institutions and establish a multi-racial lazaret on Peel Island.

The new lazaret, opened in 1907, was designed and organised on the principle of isolation. Patients were housed in individual huts grouped in three separate compounds - male, female and 'coloured'. The huts for white patients were small single roomed, timber buildings, while the huts for the coloured patients were more rudimentary structures of bush timber clad with tea tree bark. Other buildings on the site included bath houses, kitchens, dining rooms, and staff accommodation. In 1908 a church was built by the coloured patients near their compound.

Additional huts were erected as more patients were sent to the island. In the coloured compound, the durability of the bark cladding was short-lived, and in 1909 the huts were reclad with corrugated galvanised iron. During the 1920s major improvements were undertaken, including the construction of a surgery, nurses quarters and new store. Kitchenettes were added to the female huts to enable the female patients to prepare their own meals. Four timber huts were erected in the coloured compound.

The lazaret opened with 70 patients, and reached a peak of 84 soon afterwards. For many patients, being sent to Peel Island was a life sentence. More than 180 patients died on the island and were buried in the cemetery. For other patients the disease did go into remission, and after a series of negative tests were discharged.

The patients were left to devise their own means of occupying each day. Some patients had boats and were allowed to fish off the island. Other patients had gardens, poultry and goats. Some patients were employed doing work on the lazaret as labourers, carpenters and seamstresses.

During the 1930s plans were made to establish a separate lazaret for the coloured patients and in 1940 the coloured patients were transferred to a new lazaret established on Fantome Island near Townsville.

In 1947 patients began being treated with the drug Promin, and the success of the treatment soon became apparent. More and more patients began to be discharged and by the late 1950s, there were less than ten patients. In 1959 the lazaret was closed and the patients transferred to the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

With the closure of the lazaret, various schemes for redeveloping the island were proposed. The lazaret buildings were offered for sale, but only a small number were removed from the island. In 1968 the Church of England Grammar School obtained a thirty year lease over part of the former lazaret.

Peel Island is unique in Australia as the only lazaret designed on the isolation method that survives substantially intact. At Fantome Island no buildings remain, and on Channel Island in the Northern Territory only remnants survive. Other lazarets such as at Derby in Western Australia and East Arm in the Northern Territory were more like a traditional hospital or institution with wards and dormitories.

Peel Island was declared an Environmental Park in 1989. Under its Quandamooka name Teerk Roo Ra (place of many shells), it was dedicated under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 as a national park and conservation park in December 2007. In 2017 the cultural and natural values of the island are jointly managed by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.


Peel Island, situated in Moreton Bay four kilometres east of Cleveland, is a low lying island of approximately 590 hectares. The principal vegetation comprises acacias, eucalypts, and melaleucas, and the island is surrounded by mangroves except for a sandy beach which forms Horseshoe Bay on the southern side.

The south east corner of the island contains remnants of the Quarantine Station. These include a well, concrete slabs, a brick building, cemetery, and stone jetty. Lying to the south of the stone jetty is the wreck of the SS Platypus.

The island contains three main tracks; one from the south east corner of the island to the lazaret, another from the western jetty to the lazaret, while the beach track runs parallel to Horseshoe Bay.

The lazaret is situated on the north east corner of the island. The buildings are grouped in three compounds (male, female and coloured), and four zones (administrative, treatment, recreational and perimeter).

The male compound contains 19 huts and a bath house. The huts are similar in form and construction being one roomed timber buildings with a veranda. A distinctive feature of the huts is a roof ventilator. One hut was modified to serve as the Catholic Church. The female compound contains five huts and a bath house, and remnants of another six huts. The female huts differ for those in the male compound in having a kitchenette on the side.

In the coloured compound, five huts survive. Four of these huts have adzed corner posts set into the ground, concrete floor, and clad with corrugated galvanised iron. The compound also contains several corrugated galvanised iron poultry sheds. The other hut is a timber building (moved from the female compound in the 1930s) and later used as stables.

Adjacent to the coloured compound are remnants of the Anglican Church. Posts marking the boundary of the church yard survive and four of these posts are incorporated with wood carvings executed by a patient in the 1930s.

The administrative zone contains an array of buildings including nurses quarters (1926), matron's quarters (1948), superintendent's quarters (transferred from Stradbroke Island in 1907), medical officer's quarters (former Army hut relocated in 1948), powerhouse (1948) and several sheds. There are also remnants of the kitchen, and other staff buildings.

The treatment zone comprises the surgery (1925 with additions in 1947), and remnants of the hospital (1937) and dispensary.

The perimeter zone includes an incinerator, rubbish dump, pump house and cemetery. Remnants of 'holiday' huts built by patients are found elsewhere on the island.

Image gallery


Location of Peel Island within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022
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