One theme which is rather common through Queensland’s history is a failure to recognise important aspects of the past or to value its built heritage. So perhaps in a sadly ironic way, it could be seen as apt that a very historic building, and most of its grounds, are about to officially pass into the hands of developers to be turned into upmarket private accommodation, thus locking the public out of it for ever.
Tonight (Friday 20 November) sees the final public event before Yungaba and the grounds surrounding it come into the developers control. Perhaps fittingly for a location which has played such a crucial role in the arrival and settlement of so many migrants, the event is an evening of world music, arts and craft.
It’s called the World by Night festival. It runs from 6pm to 10pm and admission is free. It’ll be your last chance to experience this iconic building and its surrounding riverfront grounds.
Most Brisbane residents would probably have seen Yungaba at one time or another – an impressive and imposing white building standing below the busy roadway of the city’s iconic Story Bridge. Yungaba is on a large portion of riverfront land, quite close to the point from which the suburb of Kangaroo Point takes its name (and presumably where kangaroos once also roamed, although it would be a very long time since a kangaroo was last seen at Kangaroo Point).
Sadly, but not atypically, while many people would recognise the building, far fewer would know of its rich past and the pivotal roles it has played throughout much of Queensland’s history since European occupation.
Yungabah was purpose built as a migrant reception facility which began operating in 1888. For the majority of its life it performed that role, being the first place countless thousands of migrants first set foot in Australian. At various times it also performed other services, including a military hospital during both world wards. In a sad irony for a migrant reception centre, from 1904-06 it was also the place where many South Sea Islanders were taken to prior to being removed from the country as a consequence of the White Australia Policy.