From Penal Settlement to Free Colonization: The History of Moreton Bay

In 1824, John Oxley's instructions led to the establishment of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement on the Redcliffe Peninsula, in Moreton Bay. It was designed to be easily accessible, difficult to escape and difficult to attack; in addition, it should be close to fresh water and contain three hundred acres for cultivation. The State Archives and Records of New South Wales and the State Library of Queensland provide access to the index of the documents of the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales between 1788-1825 and to the letters of the Colonial Secretary received in relation to Moreton Bay and Queensland between 1822 and 1860. In 1839, surveyors were sent from Sydney to draw maps of the district and prepare urban plans for free colonization.

All architectural drawings of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement and archival records from the time of the Queensland convicts have been digitized and are available online. The Moreton Bay penal colony quickly gained a reputation as one of the toughest in the country, as it housed not only the worst criminals, but also the worst of commanders, Captain Patrick Logan. On February 10th, 1842, Governor George Gipps declared that Moreton Bay was open to free colonization. All structures built by convicts were demolished as colonists no longer wanted to remember its past as a penal settlement. The city of Brisbane was established as its center. The settlement of Pine Rivers region had to wait for the closure of Moreton Bay convict settlement in 1842 before it could begin.

Although some preliminary studies had already been carried out in preparation for free colonization. Established in 1824, Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was a place of secondary punishment for hardened criminals and repeat offenders. The closure of Moreton Bay prison settlement marked a new era for the region. It opened up opportunities for free colonization and allowed for new development in the area. The documents from this period provide an insight into how this transition took place and how it impacted on the local population. Today, Moreton Bay is a thriving region with a rich history.

Its past as a penal settlement has been largely forgotten but its legacy lives on in its architecture, its culture and its people.

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