23 February 2017

The State of Brisbane Cemeteries in 1868

Brisbane was facing a cemetery problem by 1868. The burial grounds that had opened during the 1840s were either getting too full (Paddington) or not used at all (West End). Either way, these places were now in the centre of rapidly-growing urban centres and new cemeteries were needed. These opened during the 1870s at South Brisbane, Balmoral, Toowong and Lutwyche, and the old cemeteries were closed.

The letter below, sent to the Queenslander in 1868 by a concerned citizen, spelled out the problems with management at the Paddington Cemetery a few years before it was finally closed.

North Brisbane Burial Ground, c. 1870. (State Library of Qld)

The Queenslander, 3 October 1868

'BRISBANE CEMETERIES.

SIR: The time has arrived when a determined effort should be made to put an end to the constant fear and dread the citizens of Brisbane have been living in for years past of disease breaking out, in consequence of the general receptacle for the dead still being tolerated in their very midst.

If there is one thing more disgraceful to us as a community than another, it is undoubtedly the present condition and surrounding circumstances connected with the burial of the dead in this city. The cemetery reserve at present in use, is a long straggling piece of land chopped up into tiny divisions, and presents the appearance of a chessboard, only not quite so regular, thus divided in accordance with the various religious denominational differences existing amongst us. To any right-minded person it is revolting enough that these differences should drive men to such extremities as to make it necessary to follow it up, even to the very grave; but this might be tolerable if it resulted in good order being observed in matters relating to burials, but, unfortunately, the very reverse is the case. With but one exception there is but little regard to even decency in their management. The fences are dilapidated, the graves dug without regard to any order or proper depth, the grounds covered over with saplings, shrubs, and weeds, no pathways attended to - in fact they are in the wildest confusion. Added to all this, in the vacant spaces between the several burying grounds, night soil is frequently emptied, and dead cattle left to rot on the surface, as was pointed out only a few weeks ago by you in a local paragraph.

At times the stench from the whole combined is so bad that the wonder is that half the city has not, ere this, been swept off with disease. The knowledge of these facts is not of recent date, for they were known and legislated upon in 1865; but how it is that the then determination of the Government and the Parliament has not been acted upon is passing strange. Mr. Blakeney introduced the bill, and Mr. Herbert, in speaking on the second reading, said, in reference to the last clause, which set forth that the present Brisbane cemetries should be closed at the beginning of the following year, (see Hansard, 1865, p. 33.):
"The last clause of the bill had not been framed too soon. In the Public Health Bill which he was about to introduce, there was a general clause giving the Governor power to close cemetries when they became inconvenient to any contiguous population. This was, however, a general clause; and, under the circumstances of the present case, he thought the North Brisbane cemetries required urgent attention, and that speedy remedial measures were necessary."
A similar testimony was borne to the necessity of thus dealing with the above subject by Mr. Western Wood, in the Legislative Council, on moving the second reading. Although it was found necessary to alter the wording of the clause in respect to the early date first mentioned for the closing of the present cemeteries, from fear that a suitable site for the future cemetery might not be found, and the necessary improvements be effected by the time specified, still it was nevertheless determined that at the earliest possible date they should be closed. Why this determination has not been adhered too is a question in which the citizens are deeply interested.

Since then the sites for cemeteries on both sides of the river have been chosen. Trustees were appointed for that on the South side, who, with very praiseworthy promptitude, sought and obtained the funds sufficient to put a substantial fence round the whole reserve. The cemetery reserve on the north side has been cleared and stumped, and now only requires to be fenced, and trustees appointed to carry out the intention of the Legislature, and thus relieve the inhabitants of this city of the nuisance and cause of dread on this subject. The public having been thus led to regard the speedy closing of the present cemeteries as a thing settled, it can hardly be expected that more than the minimum of care and attention should be bestowed on them, and hence their present miserable condition. Surely sufficient has now been said to induce our city members to take the matter up and see to its final issue.

A CITIZEN'

18 February 2017

Australia's Next Top Bizarre Death-Contraption

'That some better method of inflicting death than hanging should be adopted we readily admit. It is at best a disgusting method of execution, and is liable either to degenerate into something like torture, or else to lead to a shocking mischance such as happened yesterday. There are many well-known methods of producing painless extinction, and one or other should be adopted.' (Brisbane Courier, 14 June 1887)
Humane and civilised execution in the Philippines.
'Humane and civilised' execution in the Philippines.

So wrote one reporter after the execution of Ellen Thomson at Boggo Road, during which the rope cut into her neck and blood gushed over the floor. And he was right. Hanging is one of the most unpredictable methods of execution and often did not go according to plan (which in the late 19th century was to break the prisoner's neck quickly and cleanly). However, some prisoners in Brisbane were strangled to death as a result of the 'drop' not delivering enough force to the neck, while on other occasions the head would be almost removed due to too much force. In fact, on one memorable occasion in 1879, the prisoner's head WAS completely pulled off when he reached the end of the 'drop'.

There was much debate around that time as to the best method to use, and while the French still used the more predictable guillotine, the electric chair was being developed in the USA. The unpredictability of hanging drew occasional comment in Queensland newspapers on the subject of alternative execution methods. These correspondents apparently gave a lot of thought to the subject, some of them much more than seemed healthy.

When convicted murderer Patrick Collins was hanged at Petrie Terrace prison in 1872 he was given an unusually high drop and the shock of the fall resulted in in his head almost being severed from his body. The sight was apparently ‘sickening to behold, and many turned away from it in horror’, and prompted John Kelly of Fortitude Valley to write to the Brisbane Courier to complain that hanging was ‘barbarous and unscientific’. He helpfully suggested that garrotting be used instead, in order to make the ‘the operation as physically painless as possible to the victim, and as little revolting as possible to the beholden’:
The “garotta” is an instrument which fulfils these conditions. An armchair, in which the victim is seated, his legs and arms secured to those of the chair, an iron collar, having inside the back, in a recess, a sharp chisel-shaped cutter, which can be shot forward by some mechanical contrivance, is adjusted around his neck; a touch from the executioner, and the cutter, entering the neck, severs the spinal cord, and, without a groan or a sigh, earthly life ceases to exist. No red torrent gushes forth, no nervous struggles shock the onlookers. Is not this a more scientific and more humane way of severing the spinal cord, than our rude way of wrenching asunder the cervical column? In many parts of these colonies, people kill their cattle in an analogous manner, but by simpler means. (Brisbane Courier, 15 June 1872)
Queensland Times correspondent of 1874 suggested that it was ‘by no means certain that in hanging and beheading that death is instantaneous’, and so suffocation by carbolic acid gas should be used. The writer recommended that, after the prisons of the colony had been ‘furnished with air-tight cells and other proper apparatus’, execution could be carried out in what amounted to a gas chamber. 'D.H.F.', another advocate of carbolic acid gas, went to greater lengths in 1892 and described the required apparatus, which he felt was ‘far preferable to hanging, decapitation, garroting, or this new-fangled “electrocution”’.

 Carbalick Acid 2-Step
'Construct an air-tight perpendicular shaft, say 3ft. square by 10ft. in height, open at the top, and provided with a close-fitting door. The floor would consist of perforated metal, which would form the top of a small chamber airtight at the bottom and sides. Inside the shaft would be a seat on to which the criminal would be strapped, after which the door would be closed. A strong iron vessel containing lime and sulphuric acid and provided with a stop-cock would be placed in the airtight chamber below the floor. When all was ready this vessel would be opened and the gas would pass up through the perforated floor carrying the ordinary air above it. If a sufficient supply of carbonic acid gas is generated death must ensue very rapidly. Anyone wishing to experiment on a small scale with this method of causing death may easily do so with a glass tube about 1ft. long and 3in. or so in diameter. It would be very easy to fasten a floor of wire gauze about 3in. from one end. An ordinary bottle will take the place of the iron vessel, and the carbonic acid gas can be produced with the ordinary tartaric acid and soda of commerce. By some such apparatus the effect of the gas could be watched on a mouse or some other small animal.' (Brisbane Courier, 27 April 1892)
Just before the first Boggo Road hanging took place in 1883, 'Verdugo', a correspondent to the Brisbane Courier, described hanging as ‘a troublesome, difficult, and illiterate', and advocated poisoning condemned prisoners in their sleep and then hanging them afterwards for the statutory hour.

In 1893, 'Humanity' wrote that he had ‘often thought that drowning would be an excellent method of execution, and one free from many of the disagreeables associated with execution by hanging, beheading, and electricity.’ He had, in fact, given the subject enough thought to devise the following:
'Requirements: An iron tank, 10ft. by 4ft. in diameter, open at the top, and filled with water, placed in position so that the top would be level with the floor on which the officials and the victim would stand. The victim, having had his hands tied behind him, and a weight of 100lb. or so fastened to his feet, would be lowered foot first into the water, and after remaining submerged half-an-hour, would be lifted out, and the customary ceremony of pronouncing life extinct performed.' (Brisbane Courier, 18 July 1893)
Despite all this 'expert' advice, no garrotting chairs, gas chambers, midnight poisoners or drowning tanks were ever required at Boggo Road and the Queensland government persisted with hanging until the last execution took place in 1913. They must have been reassured, however, that upstanding citizens were out there devising new-fangled murder contraptions and sharing their plans in the newspapers.


16 February 2017

Brisbane's Lost Plague Cemetery

There are a few places around Brisbane that housed specialist burial grounds in the past, such as Peel Island ('lepers') and Saint Helena Island (prisoners), but one of the most forgotten spots has to be Gibson Island, in the Brisbane River near Hemmant. Today it is the site of a fertiliser factory, but back in the 1900s Gibson Island was home to Brisbane's plague cemetery.

Gibson Island, on the Brisbane River near Murrarie, as it looks now. The Gateway Bridge can be seen in the background.

Bubonic Plague, or the 'Black Death', is something more usually associated with the Middle Ages but outbreaks of plague, spread by rats and introduced by ships from overseas, were common in Queensland at the turn of the 20th century. The first case during that period was on Hawthorne Street, Woolloongabba, in April 1900. Over the next ten years there were 499 cases of bubonic plague officially reported in Queensland, resulting in 219 deaths, many of these in Brisbane.

The outbreaks led medical authorities to implement strict public health and sanitary measures. Plague-affected houses were quarantined, cleaned and fumigated, bed linen and curtains burned, and an iron stockade was erected around the property and two neighbouring houses. Rat-catching teams went to work, and over 90,000 rats were destroyed.

Medical staff in plague protection gear, Maryborough, 1905. (John Oxley Library)

Destroyed rats, Brisbane, circa 1900-02. (John Oxley Library)

Precautions also extended to the care and burial of victims. During the 1900 outbreak, plague victims were often sent to Cairncross House, the quarantine station on the riverbank at Colmslie. In May 1900 the highest spot on Gibson Island was selected as an isolated burial ground for those who died. The bodies, wrapped in sheets soaked in carbolic acid and placed in lime-slaked coffins, were transported on a special ‘plague boat’ and accompanied by only two warders and a doctor from the quarantine station, who was specially authorised to read the funeral service.

The first burial, that of 18-year-old Richard Shanahan, took place in May 1900. Family members often wanted to make other arrangements, and in July 1900 there was an emotional scene at the North Quay wharf when the mother of 15-year-old victim David Fihelly 'strongly objected' to him being taken to Gibson Island. The authorities finally consented to her wishes and interred the boy at Toowong instead.

Gibson Island, 1936. (QImagery)

At least 18 people were buried at Gibson Island during 1900, but in April 1901 a decision was taken to cease the practice on the grounds that it was 'cruel and unneccesary' and 'bitterly resented by relatives of the victims'. The funerals were also felt to take the medical officer away from the quarantine station for too long. Families were now able to make their own arrangements, but only after the bodies had been carefully coffined by Health Board officials.

After this time plague victims were buried in different Brisbane cemeteries, including at least six people in South Brisbane Cemetery. After 1909 there were 12 plague-free years in Queensland, and the last reported cases of plague in the State occurred in 1921, when an outbreak caused 63 deaths, .

For such a relatively unknown part of Brisbane, Gibson Island actually has a surprising history. The island was originally known to the locals as Brophy (not Brophe, as is often stated) Island after a hermit farmer who lived there. It was also known as 'One Man Island' for the same reason. By the late 1880s it was known as Gibson's Island, after an engineer who was in charge of dredging the river.

Aquarium Passage, the waterway on the southern side of the island, was so named because an aquarium opened there in 1889. In addition to the aquarium there was a 'dance hall, a zoo, a roller coaster, and a cycle track'. The aquarium was washed away in the big river flood of 1893, although most of the zoo animals were saved. It fell into decline after this, but after the world wars Gibson Island became something of a resort again. The Friend family opened a kiosk on the island in 1919 when the island was all bush, and the beaches attracted many Brisbanites every weekend. By the 1920s a popular sports recreation ground had been developed, but a power station opened on the island in the 1950s. It is likely that the construction projects on the island have destroyed any remains of the plague burial ground.

Gibson Island Power Station, circa 1953.
(John Oxley Library)

P.S. A few years back I heard speculation that the bodies at Boggo Road might have been plague victims, but anybody thought to have the plague would not have been kept in a crowded prison, given the potential for an epidemic to break out.

This article was originally published December 2011.

08 February 2017

Kentucky Fried Ghost-Hunts at Boggo Road

The end product / of Guddia law is a viaduct / for fang and claw,
and a place to dwell / like Roebourne's hell
of a concrete floor / a cell door / and John Pat.
He's there - where?
there in their minds now / deep within,
there to prance / a sidelong glance / a silly grin
to remind them all / of a Guddia wall
a concrete floor / a cell door / and John Pat.
(from 'John Pat', by Jack Davis)
This memorial in front of the prison walls of the historic Fremantle Prison was was erected in 1994 after the death of prisoner John Pat, and was placed 'in memory of all Aboriginal people who have died in custody in Australia'. It was erected after the death in custody of prisoner John Pat. (Creative Spirits)

In April 2015 the Queensland Government announced a decision to prohibit further 'Ghost Hunts' at Boggo Road.* This came after the previous government had overturned an earlier ban on these activities, a ban that was in place due to the disrespectful and non-historical nature of 'ghost hunts'. This u-turn was sadly typical of the disastrous Campbell Newman approach to Boggo. An approach that will hopefully be dumped once Boggo reopens properly.

These 'ghost hunts' are - in my opinion - offensive to both science and spirituality, and hopefully we'll never see them inside Boggo ever again. The whole incident, however, has been very instructive in showing that 'paranormal industry' businesses can not be trusted to run places like Boggo...

In late 2012 I was sat in Brisbane with three senior Public Works officials discussing the controversial short-term reopening of part of a Boggo Road cellblock. They assured me that future site interpretation at the old prison would be both historical and respectful. They said that activities such as ‘ghost hunts’ were neither of these and would continue to be banned.

I also raised issues of certain protocol regarding Indigenous cultures, as Public Works was allowing ghost tours (telling dubious stories as opposed to 'hunting' with dubious gadgets) inside a place where there have been deaths in custody. I was told (sincerely, I believe) these things would be taken care of.

A few months later I made an enquiry to Public Works after seeing online chatter about new ghost hunts at Boggo Road, and was told that they were still banned. All good.

12 months later there was a sudden backflip. Ghost hunts could now be held at Boggo Road, Public Works said, because they had received ‘assurances’ from Ghost Tours Pty Ltd that they would be 'respectful' and 'historical'.

The primary problem with these hunts in a place such as Boggo Road is that they are inherently disrespectful - and here's why:

Boggo Road was the scene of a number of deaths in custody, many within living memory and involving both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Some of these people were named in the 1991 report of the ‘Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’.

These people died while in the custody of the Queensland Government. Is it therefore appropriate or respectful for the Queensland Government to sanction - and possibly even draw indirect revenue from - ‘ghost hunts’ at the scenes of these deaths in custody?

The opinions of people who matter...

What do people personally affected by all this think about it? A relative of one of the deceased prisoners contacted me and had this to say:
‘Family members have varying views on the afterlife but the one thing they all agree on is that if seeking an audience and commercial gain is the ultimate goal, this type of sensationalist ‘ghost hunt’, especially when the poor miserable man's children still live, seems completely insensitive and unethical.’
I was also contacted by a man who was a prisoner there during the 1960s:
‘It is sad that people do not realise how offensive it is to trivialise the deaths of people in Custody. You may recall that I remembered a person who died in F wing while I was at No.2 (Suicide) I also was in the cell that Jimmy B------- died in (Pneumonia). Both men were Aboriginal. Mervyn T------- (Suicide) was Caucasian. He was quite seriously mentally compromised. Yet he was in mainstream Gaol. Have the people who are running round at night in the Gaol no sense of decency or sensitivity. That place drove people insane. It will bring them no joy to do this. Despite the crimes that Jimmy and T------ committed they were my friends and I feel a sense of outrage over what is taking place.’
Former officers who were first responders in these incidents and continue to be affected by those experiences are also unhappy. As one said to me:
‘None of the c---s who run this shit ever stepped foot in the place, they don’t know what it was like. They don’t know what death is. And now they’re making a fucking mockery of it.’
An officer, Bernie Ralph, was bashed to death in Boggo Road in 1966. At a recent officer reunion there was emotional discussion about the alleged sullying of his character during tours at the prison. I do know that he is named in ghost tours. Here’s what a member of his family had to say about it:
‘For years my family have been tormented with nonsense in the media and on the internet about my grandfather’s death. This was a traumatic event that affects all of us to this day. My own father wasn’t much more than a boy when Bernard was killed, and the sadness and struggle the family endured shaped the adults they became, and the children that they went on to have. The loss has been compounded in the years since by an awful man perpetuating stupid stories and rubbish about Bernard. He conducts tours and interviews focusing on my grandfather's supposed ghost... This man has even contacted me, as have a few ‘internet crazies’. It has all been very upsetting... They are also hurtful and distressing. And it makes me so angry that people are trying to make money by exploiting my family history. This man, Bernard Ralph, is still a very large part of some people’s lives.’
Professional historians have also voiced their opposition to these hunts. As a historian myself, I have previously made my own views known in the book The Haunting Question. This short extract refers to the fundamental issue of significance in cultural heritage:
‘The pursuit of a quick dollar can damage the long-term cultural heritage values of places that have more important stories to tell. In the case of Boggo Road, there are also essential lessons to be learned, lessons that cannot be learned if children are too afraid to go inside it, or are distracted by schlocky ghost stories.’
Is Boggo Road a historic prison with an important social history, or a novelty haunted house?

The sadness of 'pop paranormalism'

You have to look at who is running these things. What is their track record, ‘respect’-wise? Ghost hunts run by Brisbane 'Ghost Tours’ and ‘Queensland Paranormal Investigations’ were banned from Brisbane municipal cemeteries in 2009. A promotional video for the hunts prior to that ban featured smoke machines, ‘Ghostbusters’ music, and ‘investigators’ passing 'ghost-detecting equipment' over war graves in the South Brisbane Cemetery. To make things worse, one of the lead investigators in that segment was exposed on the ‘Australia and New Zealand Military Imposters’ website as a military imposter.

Ghost Tours also tried to run - without permission - 'hen's parties' in Brisbane cemeteries. Brisbane City Council also had to intervene to stop pseudo-occult rituals being performed during tours in Toowong Cemetery, and to prevent people wearing horror-themed fancy dress during those tours. I understand that ghost tours and hunts were also not allowed in Ipswich cemeteries.

All of this indicates to me that when it comes to choosing between 'respect' and a dollar, Ghost Tours have a proven record of commercially exploiting sensitive historical places until they are pulled into line over issues of disrespect. So clearly there are issues with respect here.

If there was such a thing as the continued existence of human consciousness beyond bodily death, the subject should be a thing of awe and wonder. Understanding it would be an epochal triumph of science. Anybody truly serious about the paranormal would be doing the hard yards, studying areas such as the link between the supernatural and psychology. The work of Professor Richard Wiseman in this field is notable. Unfortunately, what we get with ghost hunts is Kentucky Fried Ghosts. People abusing the memory of someone else's loved one. Important heritage sites being reduced to the status of fairground haunted houses.

I believe that there are two basic questions that anybody who supports ghost hunts should ask themselves. Firstly:
‘Would I allow commercial ghost hunts in the place where my own loved ones have passed away, with customers being told that the spirits of my loved ones haunt that place?’
And secondly:
‘Where do we draw the line? If ghost hunts are allowed in places where people died in horrible circumstances in living memory of their loved ones, should the government approve commercial ghost hunts at the scenes of recent murders and suicides?'
So my basic arguments as to why the Queensland Government needed to immediately reverse this decision and guarantee that such activities would not be allowed at Boggo Road in future were:
  • ‘Ghost Hunts’ upset living relatives of the deceased. 
  • Governments should never sanction 'ghost hunts' in ‘deaths in custody’ locations (or any other place, for that matter). 
  • Where does the government draw a line between where ghost hunts are and are not allowed? Over-focussing on the paranormal demeans the real history of a place. 
  • Can the business involved here be trusted to conduct themselves in a respectful manner?
  • Charging people to use electronic gizmos can cannot 'detect ghosts' could amount to fraud.
These were some of the arguments I put to Public Works minister Tim Mander in 2014. Unfortunately he took the position that the Ghost Hunts could somehow be ‘respectful’. In light of the previous interference at Boggo by premier Campbell Newman, it was clear our concerns would be dismissed, despite a petition on the matter getting reasonable support.

A new low point was reached when the TV show 'Haunting: Australia' charged customers over $100 per head to use fraudulent equipment to play-act ghost hunting inside Boggo Road.

When Newman’s government was surprisingly thrown out in the 2015 election (in part for ‘not listening’ to Queenslanders) we wrote to the new Public Works minister Leanne Enoch, making much the same arguments about ghost hunts as before. This time we received a positive response and were informed that the Ghost Hunts at Boggo were stopping. Hopefully never to be seen again.

When people talk about ‘A Better Future for Boggo Road’, it is not just an empty slogan. This is precisely the kind of inappropriate greed-driven activity that happens under the wrong management, and that is why better management is needed to make sure that all interpretation and use of this important historic site is respectful and appropriate.

The Boggo Road story should be told in many ways and by many voices. ‘Ghost hunting’ is not one of them.

Postscript

The following quotes are taken from some of the early signatories on the 'Queensland Government: Please stop allowing commercial ‘ghost hunts’ in places where deaths in custody took place' petition.

Kingsley Pocock
I think this is a gross invasion by a money hungry so called entrepeneaur who is desecrating this place. I served at the road for 4 years and never, never saw or heard a ghost'

Brian Black
As a former First Class Prison Officer at HM Prison Brisbane I am concerned about how the history of an important part of Queensland is being handeled. This may be lost if not processed correctly. First there are no ghosts, anywhere. Although there may have been some vile mean evil people serving time in Number Two Devision they were humans and when one of them died by whatever means it did effect all in there both inmates and staff. We former officers are getting older and our experiences and memories may be just going to dissapear. These so called 'Ghost Tours' are nothing but mockery of people who were once living and they are being treated with disrspect. This is purely in the cause of profit. To have people look for something on false emotional terms because someone has died or taken their own life is a discrase. Get the facts and revive the truth and the history of Number Two Division.

Anne Warner
Deaths in custody ought not be remembered as some kind of fun game. Before we get accused of being "killjoys" just consider the fact that deaths in custody still happen and they are no joke. People are placed in intolerable circumstances and are found dead for one reason or another. If the Government continues it's inhumane strategy of mandating solitary confinement for certain prisoners then watch the death in custody figures increase. Again this is no joke no occasion for ghoulish behaviour.

Ronald Bulmer
Respect should be shown to the dead

Sonya Pearce
This is disrespectful pure and simple.

Neville Buch
Respectful history is important for the mental health in the society. Credible historians with training in the discipline don't turn persons from the past into ghosts.

Kerry Guinea
I worked for Corrections for over 39 years, 10 of which was at Boggo Road. Making fun (and money) out of the misfortunes of those who had their lives ruined in there is not on as far as I am concerned!

Leeann Crawford
Let the dead RIP have some compassion for relatives and friends.

Robert Johnstone
As a former inmate and having been in the Gaol from 1965 until 1967 during which time suicided in F wing and one Prison Officer was murdered (Mr Bernard Ralph ) Also two other prisoners I knew died while in Boggo Road one suicided and the other from Pnuemonia. I feel a sense of outrage that people who have no idea what it was like to be in Goal are allowed to roam through the prison without any consideration for the people who died there.

James Atherton
Our work there was serious, and should not be cheapened and made a mockery of.

Gabrielle Ricketts
Ghost hunts being held in an area where Indigenous deaths in custody have taken place is disrespectful. And on the whole in very bad taste!

Margaret Dakin
I want Boggo Road to be preserved as an historical site, not as a commercial venture for thrill seekers

Rob Pensalfini
While 'ghost-hunts' may seem like an innocent frivolous bit of fun, to hold them in a place that has been marred by deaths, some under questionable circumstances, including aboriginal deaths in custody, murders by guards and prisoners, and suicides is disrespectful in the extreme to the memories and families of those who died under these conditions.

Maureen Young
Deaths in custody are a significant part of Queensland's dark history. They should not be made light of and commercialised because it is disrespectful to those that died and those that remember them.

* This has been abridged from an article originally published in February 2014.