Convict Women’s Prison and Factory

Men at the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement were so starved of female company, the Commandants had a constant battle keeping them away from the women prisoners. The officers were the worst offenders. The original Queen Street women’s prison was much too accessible, so Captain Foster Fyans had the bright idea of moving the women out to Eagle Farm.

When the Quaker missionary, James Backhouse, visited in 1836, there were 40 women at Eagle Farm. Their duties included washing, sewing, tending the farm and picking oakum (tarred fibre from wooden ships which was recycled for rope). By 1839 the penal settlement was disbanded and any remaining prisoners were sent to Sydney.

Fragments of their occupation remain today. Shards of glass and crockery, iron nails and other artefacts were found by archaeological digs. In 2014, the brick footings of the Superintendent’s Quarters were uncovered in ‘Time Team’ style digs. Visitors can now walk around the site where the Women’s Prison once stood. Artworks and interpretive panels provide glimpses of the past.

The Convict Women’s Prison and Factory is at the centre of TradeCoast Central’s heritage trail with the Allison Engine Testing Stands to the east and Hangar No.7 at the south west corner of the site. The best access to the Women’s Prison site is via the southern carpark on Backhouse Place directly outside the Interpretive Centre located on level 1 of the main building. Convict artefacts are on display in the Interpretive Centre.

Discover the Convict Women’s Prison and Factory


Local guides uncover river

Rivers along Australia’s east coast eluded many early British explorers including Captain James Cook, who saw signs of fresh water when passing Moreton Bay, and Matthew Flinders, who charted the Bay in detail but was unable to find the river’s mouth. When Surveyor General John Oxley was sent north in the 17-metre cutter, the Mermaid, he was on a mission to find a suitable location for a northern outpost and penal settlement for the colony of New South Wales.

On 29 November 1823 he rounded the southern tip of Bribie Island and entered Pumicestone Passage. He was amazed to see what appeared to be a white man, naked on the shore amongst a group of Aborigines. He was even more astonished when the man called out to the Mermaid’s crew in English. The man was Thomas Pamphlett. With his companions Parsons and Finnegan, he had been washed ashore on Moreton Island on 16 April 1823. They had been at sea for 26 days, drifting after being blown off course by a storm. A fourth companion, Thompson, had gone mad drinking seawater and died. They had thrown his corpse overboard. The next day Finnegan was also found. He had been travelling with the Aborigines. Parsons, who had struck out alone, trying to get back to Port Jackson by land, was unable to be found. Oxley – hearing Finnegan knew of a ‘large river’ – pressed the castaway into service as his guide.

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Penal Colony

Convicts arrive

In August 1825 the barque Lalla Rookh brought the first 28 prisoners sentenced to Moreton Bay. They landed at Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island and ferried passengers and stores ashore in small boats. The convicts were serving a range of sentences, mostly three years, including runaways from Port Macquarie. One was a lifer.

Botanist and explorer Alan Cunningham noted the work was harder in Moreton Bay than Norfolk Island, because of the summer heat. All work was done by hand. There were no beasts of burden to lighten the load, even though Logan asked for 30 bullocks to set up a farm at Oxley Creek, 14 kilometres upstream, where he said there was ‘an extensive and fertile plain’.

Logan worked the men hard in the fields in an effort to increase maize production, their staple food. It was not the corn we buy now, but a hard, unpleasant ground meal. The convicts didn’t like it but it kept them alive.

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The Convict Woman of Moreton bay

S = sentance in years; M = months; L = life; D = death; + = additional sentances incurred locally at Moreton Bay before 1832; /= commuted to. Dates are expressed as year-date-month.  
Name on arrival in NSWAliases including married namesShip to AustraliaNative PlaceUK or Ireland trialSentanceColonial TrialArrived Moreton BayDeparted Moreton Bay
Ahern, CatherineShortCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland. Cork City1828-7-471834-1-11835-1-11839-29-11
Ahern, EllenO'Hern, BrazzelCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Co Cork1828-28-331836-9-111836-20-61838-29-10
Ambrose, MargaretEarl Liverpool 1831Ireland, Limerick1830-16-921833-4-21833-13-41835-18-5
Bailey, RebeccaBayley, JohnstonLucy Davidson 1829England, London1829-11-61833-27-61833-5-81839-9-5
Barrett, MaryBanesSovereign 1829England, Manchester1828-20-1031836-19-11836-14-21836-1-4 Died
Bartlam, SarahSullivan, RichardsMary Ann 1791England, Birmingham1790L1835-8-51835-8-61839-9-5
Bennett, MariaBoyceGrenada 1825England, London1824-23-271830-3-41830-1-111831- 6-3 Died
Benton, SusanGunnBorn in ColonyNSW, South Creek-71829-20-91830-15-11830-1-10 Died
Bevan, ElizabethPhillipsGrenada 1825Wales, Swansea1823-1071828-19-21829-18-21835-15-5
Blackburn, MaryBlack, TrumpGeorge Hibbert 1826Scotland, Paisley, Ayr1833-7-1121836-21-11836-14-21837-13-2
Blackmore, MaryRoslyn Castle 1830Scotland, Glasgow1828-22-831837-13-21837-14-71839-9-5
Bowker, BettyGrenada 1827England, Manchester1826-17-731831-14-21831-24-91834-13-2
Bramwell, CharlotteFrenchMaria 1818England, Lancashire1837-3-151837-3-11837-14-71839-9-5
Browne, MaryAdlamPrincess Charlotte 1827England, London1826-14-9141830-9-61830-1-111839-9-5
Buckley, CatherineConnorProvidence 1811Ireland, Cork1809-331826-23-111827-2-41829-17-12
Burke, MaryCaseyLord Wellington 1819Ireland, Roscommon1818-771831-27-61831-24-91838-22-6
Burn, Mary (Catherine)Bruns, Gibson, GilmoreExperiment 1809Ireland, Dublin1807-431836-4-71837-14-71839-9-5
Burrows, AnnBurns, RobbinsPyramus 1832England, Cheshire1831-4-851836-23-41836-20-61839-9-5
Byrne, CatherineEggleston, OsbornLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Dublin1825-2-831836-19-11836-14-21839-6-3
Byrne, MaryBurn, CartwrightPalambam 1831Ireland, Dublin1831-6-171833-15-111834-1-21839-9-5
Campbell, Helen (Eleanor, Ellen)SmithPrincess Charlotte 1827Scotland, Banff1826-25-431836-11-81837-14-71839-9-5
Carlisle, SarahAsia 1830Ireland, Antrim, Belfast1827-771835-9-111836-14-21839-9-5
Carroll, Ann (Mary Ann)Louisa 1827England, Stafford1826-23-1031836-4-41837-14-71839-9-5
Carruthers, AnnCumminsNuma 1834Scotland, Edinburgh1833-10-631835-19-51835-8-61838-22-6
Clarke, MargaretBrayLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Dublin1825-3-531835-23-41835-8-61838-21-4
Coghlan, MarySmithWoodman 1823Ireland, Dublin1822-6-91836-18-41836-20-61839-9-5
Cohen, MaryRussellCanada 1810England, London1809-28-671829-4-71829-15-81835-7-11
Coley, AnnCooleyHarmony 1827Enngland, Sussex1827-3-121834-28-41834-26-111836-1-7
Connor, Honora (Hannah)O'Connor, SwaineCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Cork1827-15-8141833-27-81833-11-101839-9-5
Connor, MargaretMinstrel 1825 (came free)Ireland, Cork-141829-19-91830-6-11836-12-11
Connors, MaryLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Limerick1825-23-721830-26-61830-1-111832-4-7
Corcoran, JohannaKennehan, Keeley, Keelan, Kelly, KeenanAsia 1830Ireland, Co Cork1829-12-371837-18-51838-14-71839-9-5
Corcoran, Lester (Lecester, Esther, Nessy, Essie, Nessie)Cockrane, Clooney, Cloudym Cloury, Clowny, Clowney, ClowryWoodman 1823Ireland, Enniscorthy1820-321834-24-71834-26-111836-12-11
Costello, ElizabethWilliams, WhitePrincess Charlotte 1827New Brunswick1826-12-971839-12-91837-14-71839-9-5
Courtney, MaryGassett, GazzardLord Wellington 1819Ireland, Co Wicklow1818-1171830-20-31830-1-111837-28-5
Courtney, MarySlaneyElizabeth 1828Ireland, Dublin1826-12-471835-19-51835-8-61839-9-5
Crawford, MaryHarrisAsia 1830Ireland, Co Tyrone1829-331830-2-101831-1-11833-22-10
Crawley, FrancesFanny 1833Ireland, Co Cork1832-5-471833-2-81833-11-101839-9-5
Crick, MargaretCreekMatilda 1817 (came free)Ireland, Galway City-21831-1-81831-24-91833-15-8
Crosby, MaryAsia 1930Ireland, Drogheda, Louth1828-3-92 + 11834-24-71834-26-111836-5-10
Cross, LouisaSovereign 1829England, Plymouth, Devon1829-13-121829-30-111830-6-11833-14-1
Crotty, HonoraHibbsCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Co Waterford1828-17-351837-3-11829-27-31829-14-12
Curry, MargaretCorrySovereign 1829England, Isle of Man1829-19-1D/71829-28-111830-6-11836-19-9
Dam, Epsaby (Hepzibah)Mary BowmanLord Sidmouth 1823England, Lincolnshire1822-18-421837-6-11837-14-71839-6-3
Darby, AnnMariner 1825Ireland, Athy, Kildare1824-9-831836-15-21836-20-61839-6-3
Davies, ElizabethDavisHarmony 1827England, Manchester1827-15-121834-6-51834-26-111836-1-7
Dillon, AnnClarkMariner 1825Ireland, Co Limerick1824-6-631837-5-11837-14-718-39-9-5
Dogherty, MaryRobinsonElizabeth 1828Ireland, Derry City1829-16-351837-4-41837-14-71839-9-5
Doughy, Eleanor (Ellen)SnellEdward 1829Ireland, Co Waterford1828-1-831837-13-41837-14-71839-9-5
Doyle, EllenHenry Wellesley 1836England, Channel1835-6-418371837-8-111839-9-5
Doyle, MarySouthworth 1832Ireland, Wexford1831-4-331835-19-101836-14-21838-29-10
Duffy, JaneHallAsia 1830Ireland, Down1829-731836-6-101837-14-71839-9-5
Duffan, AnnAndromeda 1834Ireland, Co Cork1833-231836-13-21836-20-61839-9-5
Duffan, SarahWaterworhPrincess Charlotte 1827Scottland, Falkirk, Edinburgh1825-19-1231834-29-101834-26-111837-13-11
Evans, AnnDucePyramus 1832England, Chester, Cheshire1831-4-731835-26-51836-21-31838-22-6
Fitzgerald, MaryCarey, Donovan, RyanAlmorah 1824Ireland, Co Limerick1823-6-531831-1-81831-24-91834-15-8
Forster, Mary AnnBurrowsMariner 1825Ireland, Wexford1824-4-4D/L1833-26-81833-11-101839-9-5
Fox, Elizabeth (Catherine)Catherine 1814Ireland, Dublin-21834-29-101834-26-111836-12-11
Gaffney, SusanMariner 1825Ireland, Down1824-17-221831-1-81831-24-91833-15-8
Gallagher, Mary AnnEdward 1829Ireland, Dublin1827-13-11D/71830-13-91830-1-111832-12-11 died
Garraway, AnnCocksage, CocksedgeSovereign 1829Scotland, Glasgow1827-18-971837-13-41837-14-71839-9-5
Geary, Honora (Nory)BagnallHooghly 1831Ireland, Galway1830-751835-21-101836-20-61839-9-5
Harrison, JaneBoardman, Brammer, JonesMorley 1820England, Nottingham1820-10-371829-6-61829-15-81836-1-7
Hayes, MargaretWoodman 1823Ireland, Waterford1822-731834-19-111835-1-11838-21-4
Hines, PhoebePriceLord Melville 1817England, Warwick1815-1-4D/31834-18-81834-26-111837-26-8
Horrigan, EleanorKeenanMariner 1825Ireland, Limerick1824-23-321834-28-41834-26-111836-1-7
Hubbert, MarthaHulbert, Hubbard, ClarkeHarmony 1827England, Lincoln1829-19-171837-14-51837-8-111839-9-5
Hughes, AnnSovereign 1829England, Liverpool1826-23-1071831-3-11831-24-91832-4-7
Huldie, Dorothy (Ann)White, JonesPrincess Royal 1829England, Northumberland1828-16-1031831-2-71831-24-91834-15-8
Hurley, MaryMurley, McAllisterWoodman 1823Ireland, Co Cork1821-471835-19-81836-14-21839-9-5
Jefferies, AnnMidas 1825Ireland, Dublin1824-28-1041833-3-81833-11-101837-13-11
Johnston, Elizabeth (Betty)Johnson, CoxCanada 1810England, Manchester1809-19-7141827-18-121829-18-21837-26-8
Jones, Mary Ann (Ann)Numa 1834Scotland, Edinburgh1790-29-7141831-22-61831-24-91838-21-4
Jones, MaryO'Brien, O'HaraMary Ann 1791England, Hereford1833-16-571836-3-21836-20-61839-6-3
Kavanagh, MaryAlmorah 1824Ireland, Co Wicklow1823-2-571830-17-111831-1-11837-13-11
Kavanagh, MaryWallSouthworth 1832Ireland, Co Wexford1830-11-331835-19-101836-14-21838-29-10
Keavy, MaryBergin, BerriganLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Co Carlow1825-16-731835-23-101836-14-21838-29-10
Keefe, CatheringHyam, HyamsBrothers 1827England, Devon1823-3-371832-20-81833-14-11837-26-8
Kelly, MaryCopperMorley 1820England, London1820-12-121834-24-71834-26-111836-12-11
Kelsh, BridgetKeaneLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Dublin1825-23-1121836-15-21836-20-61838-21-4
Lang, AnnTigleyMariner 1825Ireland, Kilkenny1824-28-931830-2-101831-1-11833-22-10
Lownsley, HannahForsythBurrell 1832England, Yorkshire1831-8-9D/71832-7-111833-14-11839-9-5
Lyons, ElizabethTempleKains 1831England, Surrey1830-1-321833-23-41833-5-81835-26-6
Maguire, Mary AnnLady Rowena 1826Ireland, Co Kildare1825-3-271837-6-41837-14-71839-9-5
Maher, AnnieMarrAndromeda 1834Ireland, Co Queens1832-12D/6m1836-11-111837-14-71938-21-4
Mahoney, MaryPrincess Royal 1829Ireland, Cork1828-18-912m1829-3-91830-6-11830-8-11
Mathews, SusanBrothers 1827Ireland, Newry1826-29-321835-21-101836-14-21838-29-10
Matthews, MaryPalambam 1831Ireland, Louth1830-25-1141837-2-21837-14-71839-29-11
McCann, MargaretPryamus 1832Ireland, Louth1835-21-1031837-13-71837-8-111839-29-11
McCarthy, FrancesDonahue, DonohoeMariner 1825Ireland, Dublin1824-8-1021834-24-71834-26-111836-5-10
McGarraghan, MaryMcGarry, McGarvy, McGarvey, GarveySurry 1833Ireland, Sligo1831-24-171836-18-41836-20-61839-9-5
McKeive, CatherineFinneganPalambam 1831Ireland, Fermanagh1830-13-471833-23-21833-13-41839-9-5
McKewn, Mary AnnDixon, Diffen, KeaneEdward 1829Ireland, Tyrone1827-26-871835-17-11835-18-41839-9-5
McLoghlin, Rosanna (Rose, Rosette)Kennedy, McBayFrancis & Eliza 1815Ireland, Co Donegal1813-8141836-2-51836-20-61837-7-10
Middleton, SarahKangaroo 1813 (came)England, Sussex-141829-6-11829-18-21836-21-2
Millington, MarthaFry, Pow, HoyleHarmony 1827England, Shropshire1827-6-171829-16-41829-15-81836-11-4
Mulcahy, MaryGormanElizabeth 1828Ireland, Limerick1827-16-371836-10-101837-14-71839-9-5
Murphy, BridgetLynchCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Cork1827-15-1818m1831-18-21831-24-91832-1-9
Nixon, BridgetGrahamPalambam 1831Ireland, Cork1830-24-321835-17-11835-18-41837-28-5
Nixon, MargaretFlinn, Flynn, TubmanSurry 1833Ireland, Enniskillen, Fermanagh1830-7-431836-18-41836-20-61839-9-5
Norton, CatherineWhelanWoodman 1823Ireland, Co Limerick1821-471829-16-41829-15-81836-11-4
O'Brien, Elizabeth (Eliza)DugganElizabeth 1828Ireland, Tipperary1817-7-731836-4-71837-14-71839-9-5
O'Brien, MaryCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Carlow1827-15-341835-18-121836-14-21839-9-5
O'Donnell, BridgetWarrenJohn Bull 1821Ireland, Limerick1821-331836-10-101837-14-71839-9-5
O'Hara, MaryBorn in ColonyNSW-141831-24-91831-24-91839-9-5
Payne, ElizabethHyland, IrelandFriends 1811England, London1810-31-1031837-?-111837-8-111838-10-9 Died
Poole, MaryWybrowLord Wellington 1819England, Surrey1819-29-371827-7-51829-18-21835-18-5
Pope, CharlotteBuffalo 1833England, Hampshire1835-25-271836-17-21836-20-61839-9-5
Ramsay, EllenCobcroft, CockroftBrothers 1827Ireland, Tyrone1826-22-331836-19-11836-14-21838-29-10
Read, Mary AnnReidRoslyn Castle 1830England, Kent1829-29-1071837-11-21837-14-71839-9-5
Reardon, Elenor (Ellen)Horrigan, Hourigan, HordinCaroline 1833Ireland, Co Tipperary1832-3-1071835-8-51835-8-61839-9-5
Regan, MaryBufferyGrenada 1827Ireland, Co Limerick1826-16-221835-30-61836-21-31837-3-8
Rigby, HannahPageLord Sidmouth 1823England, Liverpool1821-2-1071830-16-21830-1-111837-13-2
Robertson, ElizabethDavis, DaviesFriendship 1818Scotland, Co Stirling1816-23-971826-9-31826-2-61832-4-7
Robertson, MargaretNile 1801England, Hampshire1800-22-7141828-18-121829-18-21839-9-5
Roche, HannahConnorMariner 1825Ireland, Dublin1824-22-571831-20-61831-24-91838-22-6
Ross, AnnMullen, GoreBrothers 1827Ireland, Monaghan1829-15-81831-5-10
Ryan, BridgetMary Jonstone, EarlyEdward 1829Ireland, Limerick1829-14-171836-3-81837-14-71839-30-7 Died
Ryan, Mary (Rebecca)Ridout, Rideout, RaySovereign 1829England, Ashmore, Derbyshire1825-371835-17-11835-18-41839-9-5
Scully, CatherineSurry 1833Ireland, Cork1831-1-1271837-17-21837-8-111839-9-5
Seeton, TamarSeatonLucy Davidson 1829England, London1829-9-431834-29-101834-26-111837-13-11
Severs, ElizabethEvers, Sevins, Mulally, MullalyForth 1830Ireland, Dublin1829-26-10L1833-29-51833-5-81839-9-5
Sheedy, Margaret (Mary)CallaghanSurry 1833Ireland, Limerick1832-8-1071835-21-121836-14-21839-9-5
Shurwell, SarahLeverton, PayneNorthampton 1815England, Berkshire1814-21-1071829-6-11829-18-21832-23-11
Simpson, SarahApperlyMary 1835France1834-131836-26-11836-14-21839-6-3
Smith, Ann (Jane)Housely, MillerNorthampton 1815England, Sheffield, Yorkshire1814-26-10D/71833-23-21833-13-41839-9-5
Smith, ElizabethBrennan, BirnonFrancis & Eliza 1814Ireland, Carlow1814-721834-5-51834-26-111836-1-7
Smith, MaryGreenslade, LeesonCatherine 1814Ireland, Dublin1810-121834-18-81834-26-111836-12-11
Smyth, AnnHennessy, HancyAlmorah 1824Ireland, Armagh1823-11-341836-18-41836-20-61839-9-5
Spinks, AnnMorely 1820Scotland, Edinburgh1820-27-331830-22-61830-1-111833-15-8
Standley, ElizabethPyramus 1832England, Bristol1831-26-331836-17-71837-8-111839-9-5
Strachan, Isabel (Elizabeth)Handley, Burnett, HollandMorley 1820Scotland1819-29-971836-18-41836-20-61837-13-11
Sulivan, CatherineGeorge Hibbert 1834England, London1834-7-431836-26-11836-14-21839-6-3
Sullivan, MargaretSomers, SummersBroxbornebury 1814England, London1812-13-5141830-2-81830-1-111839-9-5
Unwin, AnnMidas 1825England, Guernsey, Channel Island1825-7-4L1834-3-111835-1-11839-29-11
Wade, MariaCurryJohn Bull 1821Ireland, Monaghan1821-33+6m1826-22-101827-2-41833-28-2
Walsh, AnnSmith, Clarke, ClarkAlmorah 1824Ireland, Westmeath1823-14-471834-14-111835-1-11837-5-1 DIed
Walsh, BridgetCity of Edinburgh 1828Ireland, Limerick1828-13-321829-10-21829-15-81831-9-7
West, SarahDentonBroxbornebury 1814England1813-7-431836-18-51836-20-61839-9-5
White, AnnKnottRoslyn Castle 1830England, London1829-29-1071835-19-51835-8-61839-9-5
Williams, MariaBishopGrenada 1825England, London1824-1D/71829-6-61830-6-11839-9-5
Wilson, AnnEdward 1829Ireland, Dublin1827-31-72+11829-10-111830-6-11833-14-1
Wilson, HannahPyramus 1832Ireland, Dungannon, Tyrone1831-28-631835-25-51836-21-31838-22-6

Convict Factory

Eagle Farm

Expansion of the settlement came in 1829 when Colonial Botanist Charles Frazer visited to check the progress of his gardens at Gardens Point (now the Brisbane City Botanic Garden).

He was delighted by what he saw. The growth, he wrote, was truly astonishing. There were about 15 acres (6 hectares) under crop, with an abundance of common vegetables like cabbages and carrots. The success of Frazer’s gardens meant the health of the convicts had improved considerably. In addition to the city gardens there were nearly 15 acres of sweet potatoes and yams, mostly at New Farm.

Logan was confident they could do better. With Frazer’s help he chose a large site about eight miles by land and eleven by water down river from old Brisbane Town. The site came to be known as Eagle Farm.

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Women’s Prison

Close enough for comfort

Women convicts were housed separately in Brisbane, in what was known as a Female Factory, located in Queen Street, at the site of the present GPO. Officers continually took liberties, visiting the women at night. These forbidden fraternisations intensely annoyed the penal colony’s Commandant, Captain Foster Fyans. He took to personally guarding the Female Factory at night. The more troublesome women were gradually transferred to the abandoned Agricultural Establishment at Eagle Farm, which, at a distance of eight kilometres by land, was at least remote from the main population.

The farm itself had been afflicted with crop failures, floods, drought, and outbreaks of malaria. By 1837 all Moreton Bay’s women prisoners had been moved to Eagle Farm. The Agricultural Establishment had survived in a much reduced form. Existing buildings were adapted and new ones built. Superintendent Parker’s 7-room cottage, where he lived with his wife, was the most substantial building. Its walls were plastered inside and out.

The remains of the Superintendent’s Quarters, still exist at the TradeCoast Central Heritage Park, uncovered by archaeological digs at the Eagle Farm site.

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Early Brisbane

In 1839 Moreton Bay stopped receiving convicts. Preparations were underway to convert the outpost to free settlement. One of the earliest attempts at settlement was the Zion Hill mission (now Nundah) from 1838 to 1848, established even before free settlement was declared.

John Dunmore Lang was instrumental in bringing the German missionaries to Zion Hill, adjacent to the northwest and essentially part of Eagle Farm at the time.

John Dunmore Lang also recruited Andrew Petrie, who arrived in 1837 as clerk of works to repair the settlement’s buildings. Petrie stayed on to design and build most of the important structures for the future town.

The Petrie family’s first Brisbane lodgings were in the original Female Factory at the site of Brisbane’s GPO. A year later, Petrie and his family moved into a stone house on the reach of the river now known as Petrie Bight.

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