National Archives of Australia
Series J367 55/4/67
Copyright Paul Mackett 2012
NB - Italics from other sources
This station was established in 1914. The majority of the natives brought there belonged to
the Kuranda or Mareeba tribes, a few others being from Mossman, North Queensland, and the
coastal area of the Gulf of carpentaria. A fair number were detribalised and some were of
The first reputed case occurred in a member of the Kuranda tribe, an old aboriginal woman
(Nellie R.) who died in 1916. According to native accounts, this woman's toes 'looked as
if they would drop off', she was 'covered with sores', and she was avoided by other natives.
Her principal contacts and relatives are unknown and she has no present known descendants
at the Settlement.
The second reputed case was a male (Tommy Hb.) who also belonged to the Kuranda tribe.
Tommy Hb. had a 'bad foot' and the natives, who appreciated its intractable nature, 'would
never walk in his tracks'. He was about 30 years old when he came to the Settlement in 1916
and he died there in 1923. He was never isolated and lived daily with his family and in casual
contact with other natives.
Cyril Hb. and Roy Hb., two of his sons, are at present in Peel Island Lazaret, and his only
grandchild (Ned Hb.) was admitted to Peel Island Lazaret in March 1938.
Tommy Hb. had a 'cousin' (? brother) (Barney H.). He was the father of Elsie H. and Myrtle H.,
two girls of 19 and 23 years respectively, who were admitted as lepers to Peel Island Lazaret
in 1937. Their brother, Oliver H., is also a leper. Tommy Hb. was therefore, probably uncle to
Oliver H., Elsie H. and Myrtle H..
Billy N., the third reputed case, was also a 'cousin' (? brother) and was the first proved case
at the Settlement. He was diagnosed in 1925 and sent to Peel Island.Both Barney H. and Billy N.
were also Kuranda natives.
It would appear, therefore, that the disease originated from the Kuranda focus geographically,
and on the forms the cases are called the 'Kuranda' series.
As mentioned previously, it is particuarly difficult to trace contacts owing to the fact that
natives rarely know their own relationships, and use such terms as 'father', 'mother', 'uncle',
'cousin', etc as a matter of custom rather than kinship.
At the time of the preliminary progress report mentioned, there were eight lepers from the
Settlement in question detained at Peel Island Lazaret:
Cyril Hb., Roy Hb., Oliver H., Elsie H., Myrtle H., Edith C., Lindsay B. and Violet M. (one
of these, Cyril Hb., was due for discharge).
Two others (Gilbert Mt. and Willie C.) were formerly detained at Palm Island, being clinically
leprous but bacteriologically negative.
Of these Cyril Hb. and Roy Hb. are brothers, Oliver H., Elsie H. and Myrtle H. are brother and
two sisters.Violet M. is 'cousin' of Cyril Hb. and Roy Hb.. Edith C. is said (probably erroneously)
to be 'aunt' of Violet M. and is step-sister of Oliver H., Elsie H. and Myrtle H.. Myrtle H. is
similarly said to be 'aunt' of Lindsay B., and the 'aunt' of Violet M. is also said to be
sister-in-law of Myrtle H.. Roy Hb., Oliver H., Elsie H. and Myrtle H., Edith C. and Lindsay B.
were all brought up from infancy at the Settlement.
Progress of Infection
Since that date, the total has reached thirteen (13) bacteriologically positive lepers detained at
Peel Island as follows:
Willy N. (30) Admitted 1926
Cyril Hb. (16) Admitted 1934 (Hobson)
Oliver H. (18) Admitted 1934 (Hunter)
Lindsay B. (19) Admitted 1935 (Baker)
Violet M. (28) Admitted 1936 (Morris)
Edith C. (20) Admitted 1936 (Courtney)
Roy Hb. (17) Admitted 1937 (Hobson)
Myrtle H. (19) Admitted 1937 (Hunter)
Elsie H. (23) Admitted 1937 (Hunter)
Dan Cl. (20) Admitted 1937 (Coleman)
Ned Hb. (14) Admitted 1938 (Hobson)
Amy N. (10) Admitted 1938 (Newbury)
Frances T. (9) Admitted 1938 (Thompson)
Of these Ned Hb., Amy N. and Frances T. have been admitted since the date of the last report.
In addition, about 25 natives exhibit lesions suggestive of leprosy, but are bacteriologically
There are approximately 200 natives on the settlement and all families who are blood relatives
of known or suspected lepers are regarded as suspect families, although in many instances their
kinship and antecedents are only partially known.
Enough has been learned to indicate that the main focus of infection was in the Kuranda tribe.
The Mareeba tribe, numerically almost equal at the establishment of the Settlement, does not
appear to have furnished a case. One patient (Dan Cl., 1937) came to the Settlement with his
father from Thursday Island in 1934. His father is at present at Thursday Island.
A list of families yielding suspects or proved cases is given below:
No. Family Name No. in Family No. Suspects No Proved Remarks
1. B (Baker) 4 0 1 L.B. (Lindsay Baker) (1935) Kuranda Tribe
2. Cn 9 2 - Kuranda Tribe
3. C (Courtney) 5 3 1 Edith Courtney 1936 Peel Island
father alive Kuranda Tribe,
mother died 1923 cause unknown
4. Cl (Coleman) 1 - 1 Dan Coleman 1937 Thursday island
5. D 10 2 - Father (Kuranda Tribe), 8 children 2 suspect
6. Df 7 2 - 2 children suspect
7. G 2 2 - Husband and wife each aged 25
8. Hl 10 1 - Kuranda Tribe
9. Hb (Hobson) 5 - 3 5 children of Tommy Hb (Hobson) Kuranda Tribe
Lepers are Cyril Hb (1934), Roy Hb (1937)
and Ned Hb (1938)
10. H (Hunter) 6 1 3 Barney H (Hunter) (Kuranda) the father of a ?brother
of Tommy Hb (Hobson). lepers are Oliver H (1930),
Myrtle H (1937) and Elsie H (1937)
11. L 8 1 - Kuranda Tribe, one child (8) suspect
12. Lr 5 1 - Suspect (16)
13. Mt 1 1 - Orphan aged 8, parents from Gulf?
14. N (Newbury) 8 2 - Willy N (Newbury) (1926) is the father
15. R 9 1 -
16. S 9 1 -
17. Si 11 1 -
18. T (Thompson) 6 1 1 Frances T (Thompson) (1938), sister (13) suspect