Exploring the Former Kangaroo Point Residence of the Queensland Water Police

Queensland Water Police
Photo Credit: Brisbane City Council Heritage Branch Staff

Police presence in Kangaroo Point began in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, the Queensland Water Police became responsible for investigating smuggling, maritime lawbreaking, and seamen desertion. Its Kangaroo Point home, constructed in 1901 at a location that was formerly home to a public bath, remained in use until 1988 and is now a heritage-listed building.

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Originally, the Kangaroo Point structure was assembled using building materials sourced from the Marine Department Messenger’s house. With four rooms, two verandahs, and a kitchen, the 1901 build was a modest dwelling that provided shelter for the Water Police officers tasked with maintaining peace and order on the waterways. 

By 1939, the heritage-listed building had evolved into what was then referred to as the Senior Sergeant’s quarters. An inspection report from that time described it as a wooden structure with an iron roof, boasting four main rooms, three verandah rooms, a bathroom, and a breakfast room. 

Queensland Water Police
Staff at Brisbane Water Police Station, 1936 (Photo credit: Queensland Police Museum)

In addition to the main residence, a galvanised iron laundry was constructed underneath the house, featuring conveniently placed cement tubs. These practical additions made the daily routines of the Water Police officers more efficient and streamlined.

For almost nine decades, the Queensland Water Police residence stood as a steadfast home for the dedicated police officers who patrolled the rivers and coastline. However, in June 1988, the residence’s chapter as a police dwelling came to a close. 

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With the passing of time, the needs and priorities of the Water Police had evolved, prompting a relocation to a more modern facility better suited to their operations.

In October 1993, both the property and the adjacent lockup were put up for sale, inviting potential buyers to seize the opportunity to own a piece of Queensland’s maritime heritage. 

History of Water Police

Water Police rowing down the Brisbane River toward the sea, 1906 (Photo credit: Queensland Water Police)

The Queensland Water Police has been serving the community since 1859. Its origins can be traced back to the transportation of convicts to Brisbane, which necessitated a permanent police presence in Queensland.

Initially, from 1824 to 1842, law and order in the areas surrounding Brisbane were maintained by military commandants. In the 19th century, the Queensland Water Police were responsible for investigating smuggling, maritime lawbreaking, and seamen desertion.

In 1842, Captain J.C. Wickham, a Royal Navy officer, was appointed as the Police Magistrate for Moreton Bay. With a salary of £300 per annum, he oversaw a team consisting of a chief constable and five constables from the New South Wales Force.

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Fast forward to December 1859, when Queensland officially separated from New South Wales. Despite the separation, the police force of the newly established state was not considered an independent entity until the implementation of ‘The Police Act of 1863’. It was only after this legislation that the term ‘Police Force’ encompassed the Water Police Force as well.

Published 5-July-2023