The black page of Australian history

ten kilometers south Darwinin Australiabeauty of nature Channel Island And its surroundings belie its tragic past. From 1931 to 1955, this island was actually a colony for lepers. Although some of the buildings were demolished after their abandonment and others fell into disrepair, they are still visible today. The hospital’s surviving foundations, crumbling shacks, partial wall structures, and rusted sheets of galvanized iron give to the modern observer a grim reminder of the patients once cooped up there.

Leprosy arrived on Australian shores during the migration boom of the Gold Rush. In the Northern Territory, the first cases occurred among Chinese immigrants in 1882. The disease quickly spread to Aboriginal communities. The authorities ignored the situation and leprosy went untreated for decades. From 1889 anyone with leprosy was isolated from A Mud Island In a galvanized iron hospital with an earthen floor. Conditions on Mud Island were so miserable that newspapers dubbed them “Living hell lazarette“.

Move the colony to Channel Island

In 1931 the colony was moved to the old quarantine center at Channel Island. The original 1914 Quarantine Station buildings were repaired and living quarters constructed for the new Secretary and his wife. It consisted of a medical clinic, separate wards for men and women, and a pavement of rubble and concrete. Eight have been createdHuts for lepersincluding private accommodations for future white patients.

The very high incidence of leprosy among indigenous and minority ethnic groups has added to the stigma. The result was harsh containment policies and bad structures that would otherwise not have been tolerated. The inhabitants of the colony went from 14 Patients in 1931 A.N 122 In 1939, since the search for “leprosy is suspectedIn Aboriginal communities it became more systematic. By 1932, no less than two Aboriginal children were living in the leprosy colony. overcrowding It quickly became a problem. Aboriginal patients were confined to poorly ventilated corrugated-iron huts that were heated like ovens in summer. But it wasn’t like that for everyone. A 1938 newspaper article describes:Beautiful house“built for the first”White girland his father’s, with a cement floor and cream walls.

The bodies of at least 60 patients are still buried on Channel Island.
Credit: Heritage Division of the Department of Lands, Families, Housing and Communities.

Management passes to the nuns

In February 1943, the Catholic Sisters of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart took over management of the facility. These women’s efforts were hampered by limited financial resources, as the leprosy colony remained under government control. The Ministry of Health almost ignored it Al Jazeera Leprosy Hospital where is she “The unfortunate patients are still forced to live in the most primitive conditionsHe also denounced the Northern Standard in 1948.

A report issued on October 15 described:Cruel neglect“From the colony, where the sick were dressed”Neglected dirty rags“, feed on “Unbalanced diet – a total lack of vitaminsBut not only. They were invaded by flies that breed huge numbersThe reporter demanded that those responsible for the Ministry of Health be charged with gross negligence. A 1949 newspaper article echoed the details of the circumstances.protozoa“,”unhealthy” And the “terribleFrom a leprosy colony.

The leprosy hospital has been closed since 1955

The leprosy colony on Channel Island was closed for good in 1955. The colony moved to a new leprosy colony on east arm In Darwin, with adequate accommodation, modern kitchens, leisure facilities and large dining rooms. Leprosy patients remained isolated from society until the 1970s, when segregation policies were phased out. L’East arm Leprosarium It closed in 1982 and other patients were treated in regular hospitals.

Earl Warner

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