Quarantine – Now and Then

Thanks to a very large number of Victorians getting vaccinated, we achieved a milestone this weekend where 80% of the 6.6 million people in the Victorian population  are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The state government had linked the ability to open up our community from lockdown to the percentage of people who are vaccinated. We had a minor removal of some restrictions two weeks ago when 70% of the population were fully vaccinated.  Now at 80%, most of our restrictions have gone, we can go shopping, visit restaurants, and travel throughout the state. When we reach a level of 90% fully vaccinated (forecast for three weeks from now) all of our restrictions will be removed and life will return to a pre-covid normal. So ends a long period for us Victorians – six lockdowns and 283 days confined to quarantine at home.

On Wednesday it was sunny and warm so we drove down to the Mornington Peninsula (again wanting to travel as far as we could) and visited the Point Nepean National Park where the historic quarantine station is located. We thought that since we have been in forced quarantine ourselves for the last 12 or more weeks, it would be interesting to see how early settlers arriving in Victoria were quarantined if their ships carried diseases such as typhoid, cholera or some other form of infectious disease.

The Quarantine Station was established here in 1852 on what was then a desolate, windy and unwelcoming stretch of land. A series of hospitals, a disinfecting complex, morgue, cemetery and other now defunct buildings comprised an infectious disease facility which processed newly arrived humans and also livestock.

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There have been several building phases since its original creation. The first buildings were simple wooden structures. In the late 1850s a jetty and five two-storey hospital blocks were erected. In the 1860s a communal bathhouse was built along with a washhouse outfitted with dedicated facilities to deal with infected clothing.

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A second building phase occurred in the late 19th century. The Quarantine Station was now receiving animals as well as people. A jetty for this purpose was built at Observatory Point. Other infrastructure included a school for residents and a crematorium that serviced the leprosy patients who were housed well away from the main Quarantine Station. Each hospital block had a seperate kitchen. Of course, these facilitiers were for the passengers travelling steerage or second class. There ws no egalitarianism in those days. First class passengers were housed in a separate hospital area with its own dining room.

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In 1901 the individual states merged into the Commonwealth of Australia. Quarantine then moved from being a State responsibility to Commonwealth control. This resulted in a number of new processing policies. A ‘Foul Luggage Receiving Store’, Disinfection and Boiler buildings were designed and these became models for quarantine centres throughout the nation.

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The large centrally located Administration Building was erected in 1916. With its handsome façade the building was an impressive addition to the Station. Except for an intense period during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919 during which 12 wooden ‘Influenza huts’ were built, the need for isolated quarantine facilities began to lessen. It’s pity that these facilities are so old. The Victorian Government is currently building a new quarantine centre near Melbourne Airport, which in true government fashion, will be completed about the same time as this pandemic also begins to lessen.

The army was billeted at the Quarantine Centre  during World War II, and the Station became an Officer Cadet School between 1952 and 1985. My good friend Paul Asbury (our unit’s Administration Officer in Vietnam) began his army career here. A final building phase occurred in the 1960s resulting in Army barracks, a library and gymnasium. 

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This Quarantine Station ceased its original role in 1980, but it continued to be used by the Army with the the School of Army Health using the facilities between 1985 and 1998. This is where army medics learned how to administer pain killers and band-aids for every sickness or injury a soldier would ever experience! A quick look through a window shows these were typical army barrack facilities.

In the 1990s, the Quarantine Station also played host to 400 Kosovars, refugees from the Bosnian War of 1992-95. During this time the Kosovars were treated to Australian protection and hospitality. They were given bilingual support, school and a weekly allowance. Families were entertained with visits to museums, zoos, festivals and special events. By June 1999 it was declared safe for them to return home. 

In 2009 the Quarantine Station became part of the Point Nepean National Park. This was a nice location for a picnic lunch on a sunny day.

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After lunch, we visited the ‘Seawinds Gardens’ on the nearby mountain known as Arthur’s Seat. I had heard a lot about these gardens and we have intended to visit them for a long time. The gardens are popular for picnics with tables, electric barbecues and toilets. There is ample disabled access. I must say that I was rather disappointed in them. They were developed by Sir Thomas and Lady Travers from 1946. The Travers imported deciduous trees from their property in Parkville and purchased some sculptures from William Ricketts who was a famed sculptor specialising in Aboriginal culture.

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Whilst the gardens occupy a nice open area, now owned by the National Park Service, I had expected a much more manicured botanic garden rather than this area being more like the large park that it is. Anyway, it was nice to get some views along the Peninsula to the ‘Heads’ where Port Phillip Bay opens into Bass Straight and the Southern Ocean. We enjoyed our walk along a network of gravel paths in the outside air.

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Apart from our day of picnicking, much of the weather during the last week has been cool and wet. I had a malfunction with my computer that took me all of two days to fix. It wasn’t quite what I had intended to do on a couple of wet days  but I would have been mostly confined to being inside anyway.

My problems started while I was upgrading my computer to the latest version of Apple’s operating system. The install failed halfway through the installation process. After talking to Apple’s helpline, I decided to erase the hard disk and completely reinstall the operating system so that my computer would start from being a ‘clean machine’. Even after this reinstallation, I had continuing problems that I just couldn’t work out how to fix. Finally a very helpful young lady named Estelle gave me a clue as to what might be causing the problem. After another half day of starting over again I finally fixed it. The problem turned out to be two corrupted files in the trash can on an external hard disk that was attached to my computer. Every time that I tried to access any files, my computer would lock up and the only way to fix it was to reboot the computer.

I now have a great respect for Apple’s technical help centre. They spent 2 3/4 hours with me on the phone at no cost and patiently worked through all the possibilities that might be causing the problem. Now, I am up and running again with a fast and effective machine.

One thought on “Quarantine – Now and Then”

  1. Thanks Bruce, a fine resumee of what is what at the Quarantine Station. We visit there every couple of years and always find it interesting. You certainly got all the facts down pat and it was a very interesting read. I heve never been to the Seawinds Gardens, sounds interesting. All in all a great read again.

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