Era: 1840 - 1900 Cultural background: Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Jewish, North American, Scottish, Vietnamese Collection: Manly: North Head Quarantine Station Theme:Boats Government Quarantine Science Settlement
Quarantine Station Post Office stamp, c.1900s. Photograph Stephen Thompson
North Head Quarantine Station, Manly, Australia.
Quarantine Station Postmark Stamp.
Wood and iron postage mark with stamp and metal dies in a wood cedar box. Dimensions: 300mm long x 200mm wide x 80mm high.
The North Head Quarantine Station occupies the first site officially designated as a place of quarantine for people entering Australia. It is the oldest, largest and most intact facility of its type. The Station’s function remained unchanged from 1828 to 1984 and all buildings and developments illustrate the changing social and scientific demands of quarantine during that period. Of the approximate 380 people buried at the North Head Quarantine Station during the 19th century nearly all were immigrants.
As such the North Head Quarantine Station demonstrates a number of leading themes of Australian history: its development as an independent nation, relying on a growing workforce for labour and to provide markets; the importance of immigration to this process; major developments in public health and science in the 19th and 20th centuries and changing social and racial attitudes in Australian society.
The North Head Quarantine Station symbolises the distance travelled, and the perils faced, by many immigrants, who first stood on Australian soil at the Quarantine Station. It has further social significance because of the role it played, and the importance of this role in the public mind, in safeguarding the nation from hazardous disease. It also has special value for members of the community who were detained there, or whose relatives lived and died there.
The surviving fabric of the place and the movable heritage collections provide information on the operations of the North Head Quarantine Station, the emotional ties of former internees and our knowledge of its history. 1
Buildings and Tents, North Head Quarantine Station, c.1900. Courtesy National Archives of Australia
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp was used in the Quarantine Station postage office to date stamp letters of migrants interred there. Once stamped with the Quarantine Station postage mark and dated letters then became official mail. The letters were fumigated in the Quarantine Station post office in a special mail fumigator to stop the spread of disease into the outside community. The North Head Quarantine Station post office was in use from 1918 to 1973 when the last active quarantine involving a large group of people occurred.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp is historically significant as evidence of the experience of those quarantined at the North Head Quarantine Station. It is evidence of a time when migration was a gamble of ship wreck, illness and the exploitation of merciless ship owners who saw the migrants as mere cargo to claim transport fees and arrival bonuses.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp has aesthetic significance in the production and design of 19th century public utility objects. The stamp and dies are stored in a simple cedar velvet lined case.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp has significance as research tool for historians to explore the migration, quarantine and infectious disease chapter of Australian history and give the story a wider meaning in the context of the history of migration and settlement of Australia. The movable heritage of the North Head Quarantine Station collection reveals the diverse skills and backgrounds of the people who worked and were interned there. Medical staff included doctors, nurses and lecturers. There was also administration, catering, gardeners and police. The internees range from poor and desperate migrants to first class passage, ships crew and officers from all over the world, stowaways and refugees. People from every conceivable region and economic stratum of the globe were quarantined as infectious disease is indiscriminate. The fabric and the movable heritage of the place reveal how the station operated and how quarantine methods changed over time with the evolution of modern science and medicine.
The building fabric and the collection of movable heritage of the North Head Quarantine Station have social value. Internees and medial staff families have a common link to the place and many local residents have developed a strong attachment to the place. Many local residents are collectors and amateur historians carrying out many years of research and documenting the history of the place and the collection. Many former staff and internees still visit the place to salve difficult memories and the mixed emotions they experienced there.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp was used in the post office and later displayed at the North Head Quarantine Station Museum established by the Caretaker in 1984. In 1985 New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service took over the management of the place where it deteriorated significantly. In 2006 the station was leased on a long term basis to Mawland Group for commercial hotel operation. Between 1985 and 2006 the North Head Quarantine Station postage stamp was on permanent display in the Post Office.
The North Head Quarantine Station movable heritage collection is rare in that it relates specifically to the occupation of the place, initially as a quarantine camp in the 1828 and then as a formal Quarantine Station from the 1860s.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp represents the precarious nature of migration in the 19th and early 20th century. The Quarantine Station and its movable heritage collection reminds us of the exploitative practices of ship owners who ran the disease ridden migrant ships and the high mortality rate on board migrant vessels with outbreaks of infectious disease.
The condition of the object is good. It is significant that such an object remains in good condition, intact and at the place it has an historical association.
The North Head Quarantine Station post office stamp is significant for it’s potential to interpret the place, it’s function in research and teaching of infectious disease medicine, quarantine and the experience of migrant communities. The movable heritage collection presents the opportunity to interpret the stories of various individuals who were interred at the North Head Quarantine Station and those who worked there.
Foley, J In Quarantine, Kangaroo, Sydney, 1995.
Quarantine Station Conservation Management Plan,
Heritage Office & Dept of Urban Affairs & Planning 1996, Regional Histories of NSW, Sydney.
Heritage Collections Council 2001, Significance: A guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections, Canberra.
Thompson, S Quarantine Station Movable Heritage Plan, DEC 2005 Draft.
Migration Heritage Centre
February 2007 – updated 2011
Crown copyright 2007©
The Migration Heritage Centre at the Powerhouse Museum is a NSW Government initiative supported by the Community Relations Commission.