Moreton Bay Penal Establishment

State Records Authority of New South Wales
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In 1823 Governor Brisbane decided that another penal establishment would need to be established. He believed that Port Macquarie was ineffective as a penal settlement because convicts could easily escape, and Norfolk Island was inappropriate for convicts who had re-offended by committing minor misdemeanours. To add weight to his cause Governor Brisbane informed England that a penal establishment was the best means of paving the way for the introduction of free settlers into an area (1). In the same year Governor Brisbane sent an exploration party, lead by the Surveyor General John Oxley, to determine the suitability of the area known as Moreton Bay. Upon receiving a favourable report from Oxley, Governor Brisbane gave orders to start a penal establishment at Moreton Bay (2).

The Moreton Bay Penal Establishment was to accommodate both male and female convicts. Brisbane appointed Henry Miller the Commandant, and in September 1824, Miller sailed north with 50 settlers including 30 convicts (3). Miller was replaced in 1825 by Captain Peter Bishop. Miller failed to make much progress in the short time he was in charge. This was largely due his harsh treatment of the convict population (4). Bishop adopted a different approach, as he realised that the convict population would never function well under severe discipline (5). By this time there were 200 convicts at Moreton Bay (6). Bishop failed to make adequate progress, and was replaced in March 1826 by Captain Patrick Logan whose "regime would reflect the iron clad severity that Governor Darling was determined to impose on the convicts of the colony" (7).

By 1829 the number of convicts at Moreton Bay had reached 700 (8). In October 1830 it was reported that Captain Logan has killed by Aboriginals while he was completing a survey of the area around Moreton Bay (9). Logan was replaced by Captain James Clunie (10). Under Clunie’s command the Moreton Bay Penal Establishment began to develop as a town. This was largely due to the "first class" of convict being sent there during this time (11).

In 1832 Governor Bourke advocated terminating the Moreton Bay Penal Establishment because of the expense of its maintenance and to lessen the dispersion of troops among the Establishments (12).
At the end of 1835 Clunie replaced was by Captain Foster Fyans, and simultaneously there was a further recommendation, which was supported by England, for abolishing the penal establishment and introducing free settlers into the area. (13).

By 1837 the number of convicts had been reduced to 300 (14), and by 1839 all of the female convicts had been removed and only 94 male convicts remained (15). By 1840 the prisoner’s barracks and female factory stood empty (16). On 10 February 1842 Moreton Bay, having partly been prepared for settlement by the convicts who were sent there, was declared open for free settlement (17)

Footnotes and References:
(1) HRA 1.11.604
(2) HUGHES, Robert, The Fatal Shore, p.441
(3) Ibid
(4) Ibid
(5) Ibid, p.443
(6) Ibid
(7) Ibid
(8) HRA 1.14.700
(9) HRA 1.16.57
(10) The Fatal Shore, op. cit, p.450
(11) Ibid p.454
(12) HRA 1.16.832
(13) HRA 1.18.204
(14) HRA 1.19.150
(15) HRA 1.20.209
(16) The Fatal Shore, op. cit., p.455
(17) NSW Government Gazette, 1842 Vol.1, p.249
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