The History of the Brisbane Town Boundary as the border for the 19th century colonial curfew of Aboriginal people  

- a compilation of references to the use of the colonial Brisbane town boundary,
especially Boundary Street, Spring Hill, Boundary Street, West End, Vulture Street, West End and Wellington Road, East Brisbane
for the exclusion of Aboriginals from the town at night during the 19th century.
- by Daryll Bellingham
© 2000

(This page has been compiled and published in a spirit of reconciliation and in the hope that it will provide useful and accurate information for people working towards that aim. It will be progressively updated as more information comes to my attention. I welcome suggestions of potential additions to the list of references. I would appreciate it if your use of this is acknowledged by publishing the URL for this page to help make its availability known.

It is my intention to compile a similar list of references to actions and statements of support for local Indigenous communities and individuals and would welcome contributions to such a list as well.)

1829 'The 1829 Regulations'

• from 'Brisbane Town in Convict Days 1824 - 1842': J.G. Steele. p. 120
• regulation 35 gives the Commandant the 'full authority to remove at his discretion, any Free person from the Settlement, who's Conduct shall appear to him to render this proceeding necessary for the due maintenance of discipline.'

In other words the Commandant could institute a curfew under this power and this regulation helps set up a culture or expectation that people could be excluded from the settlement. This does not indicate that a curfew was set up at this time however.

1842 Wade's survey of Brisbane, 1842

• MT5 Sunmap
• p. 78 of Brisbane the First 30 Years, W. Ross Johnston

This map shows survey of streets and allotments for sale on north side and on south side around Stanley Quay etc. but not the town boundaries as below

1844 Wade's plan of the environs of Brisbane, 1844, from West End to Eagle Farm.

• MT12, Sunmap
• p. 96, Brisbane the First Thirty Years, W. Ross Johnston

Shows boundaries as described above and surveyed allotments around Montague Rd. and around Stanley St., Grey St. etc.

1844 Burnett's plan of the town limits, 1844

• MT11, Sunmap
• notes on map reads - 'This cancels former Survey by Mr. Wade ......... 18th Dec,1843. Boundaries proclaimed in the Gov. Gaz. for 1846 folio 537.'

Plan shows boundaries as described above in 1) but without the allotments that Wade put in his.

p. 82 Brisbane the First 30 Years, W. Ross Johnston

1846 - p. 83 Brisbane the First 30 Years, W. Ross Johnston

•Johnston states in para three

As early as September 1843 Wade had prepared a plan of the town for police purposes. Burnett followed this up with a further plan six months later; this involved 'tidying up' central Brisbane to give it a clear identity. But almost two years elapsed before the government decided to bring Brisbane within the provisions of the Police Towns Act of 1839. The town limits were drawn roughly into the shape of a square, straddling the river. (45) Today the limits fall with Boundary Street on the north and west, Vulture Street on the south, and Wellington Road on the east. This act was aimed at the removal and prevention of nuisances and obstacles, and 'for the better alignment of the streets'. Wickham had complained in April 1846 that dogs, apparently without owners, were 'constantly prowling about'; pigs and goats were also a nuisance rambling about 'in search of food, destroying gardens, crops'. So the Police Towns Act and the Dog Act came to apply to Brisbane.' (46)

(45) Plans B1110, h.i. COD84, f.111; NSW, GG, 1846, 537 - The Police Towns Act and the Dog Act were extended to Brisbane.

(46) Police Magistrate to Colonial Secretary, 25 April 1846, (2 letters), 4/2735.2,SANSW.

1846 Description of Boundaries

• p. 42 Brisbane 1859 - 1959
• NSW Gov. Gazette, 5 May, 1846

'Commencing on the Brisbane River at the mouth of a small gully opposite Kangaroo Point, and bounded on the north by a line bearing west 91 chains 50 links; on the west by a line being 40 chains west from the centre of the Windmill, bearing south 45 chains 70 links to the Brisbane River, prolonged across that river, and thence south 60 chains; on the south by a line bearing east 140 chains; on the east by a line bearing north 49 chains 10 links to the Brisbane River, by that rivers upwards to the termination of the road running through Kangaroo Point, and thence by a straight line across the Brisbane River to the point of commencement.'

1846 W. Ross Johnston states in 'Brisbane the First Thirty Years' p. 114

'The hostility of the European community was increasing as the blacks made their stand. ............... Europeans put much blame upon the corroborees, the fights, the 'pullen-pullen' between different groups. ............... In July 1846 'one of the most desperate fights' between two Aboriginal groups occurred at Kangaroo Point. This led all 'right-thinking persons' to urge that 'such exhibitions may in future be prevented from taking place in the township'. The blacks needed to be 'checked', to be put in their place. Europeans concluded that these 'pullen-pullen' always ended in violence and depredations, partly because the Aborigines were hungry after fasting. So the cry went out that such gatherings should be stopped by the military, with bayonets on the ready.' (44)

44. SMH, 13 March 1845, p.2, 22 March 1845, p. 2; MBC, 25 July 1846, p. 3; T. Dowse, 'Diaries', 26 February 1845.

SMH, p.2, 22 March 1845

'In my communication per Sovereign, I mentioned the assemblage of numerous tribes of blacks from the sea coast and adjacent country, who had congregated in the vicinity of this township for the purpose of having a pitched battle with the Brisbane and Logan blacks ; as was anticipated they did not separate without committing several depredations on the property of the residents in the vicinity of the settlement. At the German missionary station, about five miles from this, the minga minga (sea coast) blacks, composing a body of fifty or sixty fighting men, surrounded the homestead, and after threatening violence to the white people, deliberately pulled the growing corn, about 300 bushels, and took away a quantity of potatoes, pumpkins, and almost every eatable article about the station. They then ransacked the houses, carrying off blankets, tin pots, wearing apparel, &c, leaving the poor Germans in great alarm for their lives ; their (the missionaries) pacific disposition prevented them from offering any resistance to the poor blacks. Several industrious small settlers at Breakfast Creek, within a mile or two of the township, have been plundered of most of their garden and field produce. One of the white people, it is said, shot at a black fellow whilst in the act of stealing his corn, who subsequently died. Report says the body was conveyed across the river ; and a most singular feature in their habits of disposing of their dead was exhibited. The tribe to which the aboriginal belonged, after various ceremonies being gone through, such as yelling over the corpse, scarifying themselves, &c., the body was dissected and cut up in sundry small portions, and distributed amongst the tribe, who, after eating the flesh from the bones, carefully scraped them, and were ultimately conveyed to the Logan-the district to which the deceased belonged, to be placed amidst the branches of a tree. There is no doubt of the above fact, oí the flesh being eaten, as it is considered a mark of respect to the deceased by his tribe, as blacks belonging to a different tribe will not join in their cannibalism.

As past experience has shewn that whenever an assembly of blacks takes place, either for a corroboree or pullen-pullen, depredations on the white man's property are sure to ensue, owing to their hunger, from fasting the most of the time the dance or fight lasts; it certainly would be advisable for the authorities to put a stop when practicable, to these meetings, and as we have a military guard down here, the sight of a few bayonets, and an explanation through an interpreter of the unlawfulness of their meetings, would cause them to have the fear of the white man's anger in their heads. The Brisbane tribe, generally speaking, from their intercourse with the white population, are pretty honest, and many of them daily frequent the township to perform sundry jobs for the inhabitants-fetching wood, water, &c. ; but the strange tribes are a complete pest-when they are known to be in the vicinity nothing is too hot or too heavy for them to carry away, if in the eating line.'

1847 Kerkow quotes the T.B. Stephens in the Moreton Bay Courier, 16 January, 1847 Vol.1, No.31

'We have secured their country by the right of might, and by the right of might the whites will continue to possess it ........ they ought to be subdued by compulsion.'

I question whether Kerkow has this quote correct. It would seem that T.B. Stephens did not take over the Moreton Bay Courier until 1861. It is more likely that Arthur Sydney Lyon was still editor in January, 1847 although he did leave the paper in 1847. James Swan was printer and publisher and may have been editor of this edition.

1847 10th April, 1847, Moreton Bay Courier, Page 3

Boundary of the Town. - On Thursday the Police Magistrate and Lieut. Blamire, J.P., with their assistants, Mr. Wm. Fitzpatrick, Chief Constable, and James Ramsay and Henry Finlay, constables, perambulated the limits of the town, in accordance with the 44th section of the Towns' Police Act, which enacts that the Police Magistrate shall, in order to uphold the limits of each town, proceed on some convenient day in Easter week, in each year, to perambulate the boundary, and make a record thereof, to be filed and kept in the office of the Clerk of the Peace. This is the first time the ceremony has been performed, the provisions of the Police Act not being in force at the same period last year.

1855 Kerkow states (appearing to quote Perry - 'Memoirs of the Hon. Sir Robert Philp, K.C.M.G., 1851 - 1922' by Harry C. Perry, Brisbane: Watson, Ferguson & Co., 1923.)

'From 1840 to 1855 Aborigines moved quite freely around the settlements, but after 1855 Blacks were prohibited from venturing inside Vulture and Boundary Streets after 4 p.m. or on Sundays.'

Perry however wrote p 21-

'Further on was the One Mile Swamp now the Brisbane Cricket Ground. This locality provided a favourite camping ground for the aboriginals, of whom there was a considerable number about. Because of their predatory instincts they were compelled to withdraw from the confines of the town by 4 o'clock each afternoon.'

1856 The Moreton Bay Courier Sat 16 August 1856 Page 2

From Government Gazette, August I. By his Excellency Sir William Thomas Denison, Knight, Governor-General in and over all her Majesty's colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, and Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the territory of New South Wales and its dependencies, and Vice-Admiral of the same, &c, &c, &c.

Whereas in pursuance of an Act of the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales, passed in the second year of the reign of her Majesty Queen Victoria, intituled, "An Act for regulating the Police in the towns of Parramatta, Windsor, Maitland, Bathurst, and other towns, respectively and for removing and preventing nuisances, and obstructions, and for the better alignment of streets therein," the provisions of the said Act were, by a proclamation of the thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-six, extended to the Town of Brisbane, in the 'District of Moreton Bay; and whereas it was by the said Act amongst other things enacted, that, upon a description of the boundaries of such town being published in the New South Wales Government Gazette, the same should be deemed to be the limits of the said town; ..................'

What follows is a description of the town boundaries. This proclamation by the Governor General establishes the Brisbane Town boundaries in legislation and establishes a use for those boundaries, i.e., 'for regulating the Police in the towns' and 'for removing and preventing nuisances, and obstructions, and for the better alignment of streets'. It would seem likely that a curfew was established shortly after this proclamation.

1857 The Moreton Bay Courier (3/7/1858 p.3) is quoted by Rod Fisher in 'From depredation to degradation. - Brisbane the Aboriginal Presence 1824-1860' p. 35 as saying -

'These savages have been within the suburbs, if not actually within the town boundary at night. It is impossible for our small police force to maintain the regulation, and drive them out. ..................... We understand that the Native Police cannot be employed within the town to drive them out. The Magistrates are therefore obliged to make the best use they can of the Town Police when any disturbance occurs. ................................' (12)

The words 'maintain the regulation' point to the possibility of an actual regulation here. Likewise the reference to Native Police not being able to be employed within the town could be inferring that this is because under a curfew regulation they would not be allowed in the town themselves.

1859 Moreton Bay Courier, 20/12/1859, P2, Local Intellingence

'DRUNKEN BLACKS.-Now that we are fast merging into a highly respectable and responsible state of civilisation, it behoves all to lend their aid in discountenancing by all means in their power, the opportunities af- forded to the aboriginals of obtaining grog. The scenes which nightly take place in the vicinity of the town, when the blacks are wending their way to their camps, are sufficient to make the most demoralised pause before they accept any of the onus consequent upon the violation of propriety. The residents in the more immediate parts of the town are not acquainted with a tithe of the outrages which are committed ; and for the sake of those who live on the outside prompt measures should be taken to ensure the exit of every aboriginal before evening sets in. There are a few blacks, whose long intimacy with the town has not bettered their morals, who are constantly in the habit of seeking their camps long after nightfall; and it is far from from pleasant for the wives and children of the outside settlers to encounter these barbarians when they are in a state of grog. As the town is known to be quiet, it would not be amiss if special service was made by the police for a few weeks in the outside of the town after five or six o'clock in the afternoon.'

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. (1859, December 20). The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861), p. 2. from

In other words some sort of curfew is in place and has worked for the town proper and the MBC was wanting an unofficial extension into the suburbs.

1859 'The Municipalities Act of 1859'
from 'Memoirs of the Hon. Sir Robert Philp, K.C.M.G., 1851 - 1922' by Harry C. Perry, Brisbane: Watson,Ferguson & Co., 1923. p. 19

'After a preamble setting out that the Proclamation was issued under the provisions of the New South Wales Act entitled 'The Municipalities Act of 1859,' pursuant to a petition from the residents, the Proclamation goes on to declare the boundaries of the new Municipality in the following most interesting language.'

What follows is the description of the boundary as previously.

1865 'Slater's Pocket Map of the City of Brisbane, 1865'

• p. 17 'South Bank an historical perspective from then until now' (BCC Lib)
• shows Boundary St. marked as City Boundary, Musgrave Park marked as Res. for Public Recreation, and West End school site marked as Cemetery.

late 1870's Evans in 'Brisbane: The Aboriginal Presence'

p. 88 and Colliver & Woolston in 'Aboriginals in the Brisbane Area' p. 64 quote Carl Lentz as saying
'even in the late 1870's mounted troopers would ride about Brisbane 'after 4pm, cracking stockwhips' as a signal for Aborigines to leave town.' (23)

1875 letter to the editor from Toowong in The Brisbane Courier Mon 3 May 1875

'Treatment of Aborigines.


Sir,-I was somewhat startled on reading the following extract from "Our Brisbane Letter," published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd April :-

We are suffering from the usual annual nuisance created by the distribution of blankets among the blacks. They are congregating in considerable numbers in camps near the city, and as, despite the law, publicans and others will supply them with drink by way of cheap wages for woodcutting and other odd jobs, the unfortunate creatures become noisy and offensive. They are not permitted to remain within the municipal boundaries after dark; but in order to enforce this regulation they are driven out at the point of the whip by mounted troopers. This process is anything but an elevating sight, reminding the onlooker more of the hunting of vermin than of the enforcement of law against human beings ; and the way in which blackfellows, gins, and picaninnies will take to the water when to hard pressed by the horses, makes the vermin comparison still stronger.

It would appear from this that the aborigines of Queensland are hunted from the streets of Brisbane by mounted troopers armed with stock whips, to escape which they take to the water like rats - to the great amusement, 1 presume, of our small boy population. Whcn such fibs as these are vouched for by one of ourselves to the editor of the leading journal of the adjoining colony, it is no wonder that still more extravagant reports should be published and accepted as truths at the other end of the world. We have enough to answer for with respect to our treatment of the blacks, in all conscience, and rejoiced would I and many others be if, by the establishment of reserves or otherwise, they could be kept from the public house, and their position improved. But to say that the citizens of Brisbane stand calmly by and see half-clad women and children flogged through their streets by mounted troopers is too cross a libel for us to allow to pass without challenge.

Yours, &c,

May 1. TOOWONG.'

Kerkow (unpublished report for FAIRA) states -

'Officially, it seems, blacks were considered nonentities. However, there is a hint of Aboriginal presence in Musgrave Park in talk of 'nuisances' in the park and in the creation of by-laws that legalized the removal of 'undesirable persons' and forbade camping, lighting of fires, etc. (South Brisbane Municipal Council Minutes 1881 - 1890)

1897 'Aboriginal and Islanders Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act'
Ray Kerkhow, 'Aboriginal Places in Brisbane', unpub. paper, 1986 (FAIRA) quotes - G. Gutherine, 'Cherbourg: A Queensland Aboriginal Reserve'; Uni of New England, Armidale, 1977, p.7 -

'This act brought the complete exclusion of blacks from towns and cities; controls on their employment therein; and restriction of their access to alcohol and opium.'

Kerkhow continues

'This meant that in 1897, the blacks resident in fringe camps in parks and vacant land around Brisbane were forcibly removed to the reserves Deebing Creek, Durundur, Fraser Island, Myoura, Cherbourg (Barambah).'


Photograph on Plate xvi of 'Triumph In The Tropics: an historical sketch of Queensland', compiled and edited by Sir Raphael Cilento with the assistance of Clem Lack; Brisbane: Smith & Paterson, 1959. Held Oxley Library, & FAIRA.
No date on photograph.

"Trespass" post, marking limit of aboriginal approach to Brisbane at night.
By courtesy of (Mrs.)Ann Finlay, granddaughter of T.B.Stephens who built "Coomboquepa" here. The site is now occupied by Sommerville House, Vulture St., Sth. Brisbane. The people shown include members of his family.

The photo shows what appears to be a wooden post approx 1 m high, just outside their fence line. It has a sharpened top, presumably to help preserve it from the weather. In the print in the book there appears to be some writing or illustration of some sort on the post. In the copy of the image held by Qld State Library, see , this can not be seen however. The photo was taken by Boag around 1872 before the railway line excavation that caused the Stephens family to move and rebuild Cummbooqueepa on it's current site in the grounds of Sommerville House. It has been suggested that the photo is possibly taken from Stephens Road and not from Vulture Street. If this was the case, it would throw some doubt over whether it was actually a "Trespass" post as claimed in 'Triumph of the Tropics'. However, a close examination of the three images currently available in the Picture Queensland collection would seem to make it more likely to be taken from Vulture Street thus adding some circumstantial validation to the 'Trespass Post' claim. I have not found any other references to other similar posts or seen any notations related to them on any maps.

The above notes are made available in the spirit of reconciliation. If you do make use of them could you please credit my research and the URL for this page. If you would like to publish this page please seek my permission. I'd welcome any suggestions, comments or possible additions to the above.

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
P.O. Box 5300, West End, Q4101,
Brisbane, Australia
Tel. 61 7 3846 3135


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