From Penal Colony to Wacol’s Prisons

It may be striking to contemplate Brisbane’s origins as a prison colony. The history we delve into pertains to Camp Columbia in Wacol, and there is a link back to the beginnings of the City. As its military facilities gradually disappeared, the vast terrain once utilised by Camp Columbia found new purposes.

Presently, the area where the original Camp Columbia HQ stood, on the top of a hill, along with the site of the old hospital, further to the north, now form part of an expansive prison complex initiated in 1957.

Archeological research at the site.

It was on the top of that hill, now within the grounds of this complex that, with financial support from the Netherlands Government, archaeological research was conducted by the University of Queensland. The objective was to uncover any remnants of the former camp. The Netherlands’ interest stemmed from the fact that, following the departure of the Americans from Camp Columbia, the site served as the seat of the Netherlands East Indies Government-in-Exile.

Though challenging to conduct research on a prison site with no remaining structures, this project laid the groundwork for what is now recognised as the Camp Columbia Heritage. With major focus shifted to the bottom part,

The penal colony and prison history of Brisbane

1824-1842Moreton Bay Penal Settlement – Redcliffe and Brisbane CBD
1849-1860H.M. Gaol, Brisbane, Queen Street (now GPO)
1860-1883H.M. Gaol, Brisbane, Petrie Terrace (site of the Victoria Barracks)
1863-1903Fortitude Valley Police Gaol
1865-1932St Helena Island Penal Establishment, Moreton Bay
1883-1992H.M. Prison, Brisbane, Boggo Road, Woolloongabba (male)
1903-1999H.M. Prison, Brisbane, Boggo Road, Woolloongabba (female)
1957-2000H.M. Prison, Wacol (later ‘Moreton A’)
1971-2001Security Patients Hospital (later ‘Moreton B’), Wacol
1988-H.M. Brisbane Industrial Prison, Wacol (later Sir David Longlands Correctional Centre, then Brisbane Correctional Centre [2008])
1999-Wolston Correctional Centre, Wacol
1999-Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre, Wacol
Source: Boggo Road Timeline

Brief overview of the history of the Wacol prisons

In 1957, the inception of HM Prison, Wacol marked a significant milestone, becoming the inaugural prison built in Wacol. It included a designated area known as Wacol Security Patients’ Hospital.

By 1971, a transformation occurred as the Wacol Security Patients’ Hospital transitioned to the Moreton Security Patients Hospital.

In 1988, HM Prison, Wacol underwent a name change, now identified as Wacol Correctional Centre.

In 1990, the Moreton Security Patients Hospital evolved into the Moreton Correctional Centre, retaining its role as a medical institution for incarcerated individuals.

In 1996, a consolidation took place, unifying both the Wacol Correctional Centre, also referred to as “Moreton A,” and the Moreton Correctional Centre, also known as “Moreton B,” under the banner of Moreton Correctional Centre.

The year 1999 heralded a significant transition as the “Moreton A” section of the prison ceased operations. Following an extensive refurbishment, the entire facility, encompassing both Moreton A and B, reopened as the Wolston Correctional Centre. This transformation occurred alongside the inauguration of both the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and the Sir David Longman Correctional Centre.

The Sir David Longman Correctional Centre (1989-2005) underwent refurbishment and reopened as the Brisbane Correctional Centre (II).

Source: Queensland Archives

The Moreton Bay prison from 1957, shortly before its demolition in 2022. Site of some of the administration buildings of Camp Columbia
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