In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Heather Woodcraft, who describes herself as ” spontaneous and curious, stretching the edges of everyday life,” asked people this question: “Do you know the history of the many Boundary Streets around Qld?”
Whilst harmless-sounding, the name “Boundary Streets” on the northern and southern fringes of Brisbane, in Spring Hill and West End, are silent reminders of the “dark times” in Brisbane’s history when racial borders existed in Queensland.
Boundary Streets actually came into existence in an effort to segregate the indigenous Jagera and Turrbal people from British settlers.
The settlements had perimeters whose borders marked by a wooden post, called “boundary posts.” These posts mark the edge of town where “non-whites” and “indigenous people” were not allowed to enter on certain days and at certain times of the week.
“It was the boundary of where Indigenous Australians were not allowed to cross after 4:00 p.mm weekdays / Saturdays and not at all on Sundays,” Ms Woodward’s post reads.
“During WWll, this boundary was even applied to the US. African American naval soldiers posted in Brisbane,” she adds.
From Boundary St to Boundless St?
In 2016, Michael Colenso launched a Change.org petition, seeking to change the name “Boundary St” to “Boundless St.”
In his petition, Mr Colenso said that “Brisbane street names are outdated and relate to the oppression of Indigenous persons (Murri people of Jagera and Turrbal nations) who were not permitted to cross Boundary streets after curfew … in the dark history of early Brisbane.”
“Troopers rode the perimeter cracking stock-whips to enforce such tyranny and the persistence of these outdated street names hold the entire city of Brisbane (Meanjin) back from meaningful progression as a city and peoples committed to truthful and respectful harmony.”
The petition had 1,054 supporters and got mixed reactions from people.
” I am not signing this petition,” one post reads.
“Yes, this is a racist part of Australia’s history and that is exactly why it needs to stay. By hiding our racist past as a form of “reconciliation” what we are really doing is hiding it from ourselves. This is exactly like the renaming of Blacktown in Sydney. Australia needs to acknowledge its past, put up signs explaining the horrible history of the two Boundary streets. But do not pretend like they never existed. It is in an insult to all those that were hurt by such policies.”
Others were supportive. “It’s important to redress the history of the name given to the street. West end embodies respect and inclusion. Boundless street is far more reflective of our community.”
Overnight, some signs on West End were “edited” to show the name “Boundless” in an anonymous show of support for the petition.
The Name Remains
Following the 2016 petition, the matter was brought up to then-Lord Mayor Graham Quirk. However, while there was some merit ascribed to a change of name to consider a more positive vibe, there was also much support to preserving its historical significance, as an acknowledgment of what occurred in Brisbane’s past.
“I really don’t understand the basis of the call for changing the names, or why council would consider it,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Curtis Pitt said in a statement released to media at the time.
“The boundaries that ran through Brisbane as a barrier to Indigenous people are a shameful, but a real part of our shared heritage, and to rename the streets would be like trying to rewrite history,” he added, saying that a “true reconciliation” was the only solution.