Stories from the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia’s Immigrant Past by Peter Hobbins, Ursula K Frederick and Anne Clarke (Arbon Publishing)
The North Head Quarantine Station operated from the 1830s until it closed in 1984; it served as a holding station for passengers on inbound ships to New South Wales arriving from well-known hotspots for contagious diseases. Stories from the Sandstone examines around 1600 engravings in many different languages that were carved into the rocks and walls around the Quarantine Station during its 150-year history.
The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the engravings and paintings of the area. In addition to the inscriptions and graffiti, sources include official records, personal recollections, unpublished diaries, private correspondence, family trees and various archives. The authors draw from this rich body of sources to spotlight individuals who passed through the station and left their signatures in stone.
This fascinating and accomplished history of the Quarantine Station firmly locates the experiences of the local within the broader context of the global. It covers the history of immigration to Australia, the conditions of ship travel for men, women and children, the start of government public health measures and the establishment of official quarantine policies to manage arrivals and the spread of disease. It is a history contoured by how the governments of the day applied ideas of gender, race and culture to the treatment of diverse individuals. Such local experiences are set within the broader transnational framework of the history of trade, trade routes, theories of disease and pandemics.