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Fitzroy Island

Like Green Island it is hard to think of Fitzroy Island as anything but a place to spend a luxurious day relaxing, soaking up the sun and the tropics, with your greatest concern being which particular cocktail to have today.

Unfortunately many people have far less idyllic memories of the island. In 1877, following an outbreak of smallpox on the freighter Somerset, Fitzroy Island was turned into a quarantine station for Chinese immigrants. There were racial tensions as there were indications that some of the settlers did not want the large numbers of Chinese staying in North Queensland to hunt for gold.

At one stage over 3000 Chinese were transported to Fitzroy Island where they were forced to live in squalid conditions that promoted illness and death. Every Chinese immigrant was forced to spend 16 days on the Island. If they showed no signs of illness they could continue onto the mainland. If they got sick they were detained until they either got better or died. Whilst records are sketchy it is believed that hundreds of Chinese were buried on the island.

Once the quarantine station was closed the people of Cairns started to visit the island for recreation. This continued on until the Second World War when the island was converted into a military base.

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