From the Archives: Institute of Tropical Medicine

From the Archives: Institute of Tropical Medicine

With the current flood crisis engulfing Townsville and the resulting concerns about disease, it might be a good time to draw attention to a significant incident from Townsville’s past. In 1910, the Australian Institute for Tropical Medicine (now succeeded by the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine) was established in Townsville. Its laboratory, which is now heritage listed, was opened in 1913 by the Queensland Governor Sir William MacGregor.

It closed in 1930. By the First World War, it was already suffering due to the difficulty of retaining adequate staff during wartime and xenophobic concerns regarding Breinl’s heritage. In 1920, the Institute was incorporated into the new Commonwealth Department of Health.

Its first director was the Austrian scientist Dr Anton Breinl, who had previously worked at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and helped develop a treatment for sleeping sickness. He pioneered laboratory science, especially biochemistry, in an Australian context.

The Institute was established in response to the concerns of medical practitioners and members of northern communities about the inability to control tropical disease. Dengue fever was especially rampant. Early tropical medicine was also influenced and motivated by British imperialism,especially the idea that Europeans were unsuited to tropical climates. The Anglican Bishop Dr George Frodsham first proposed the idea of an institute for tropical medicine, after one of his staff died of a mysterious illness. The discovery of malaria parasites in Cairns also provided a further impetus.

The Institute investigated numerous diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, leprosy, amoebic dysentery, yaws, filariasis, and tropical sprue.

It closed in 1930. By the First World War, it was already suffering due to the difficulty of retaining adequate staff during wartime and xenophobic concerns regarding Breinl’s heritage. In 1920, the Institute was incorporated into the new Commonwealth Department of Health.

From the Archives: Tully Falls Expedition

From the Archives: Tully Falls Expedition

In September 1925 a group organised by Honourable E. G. Theodore took to the rugged land of North Queensland to explore the development potential of Tully/Kareeya Falls. A first-hand account of the arduous journey and subsequent observations was published by E. H. R. Greensill in the Townsville Daily Bulletin, 3 March, 1926. With the aid of three Aborigines, a group of twelve spent eight days traversing alongside rivers, up mountains, and through narrow gorges. Throughout his account, Greensill notes the loamy soil, the deep pools of water along the Tully River, and upwards of 55,000 acres well suited for farming and settlement. It surmised that because September a dry month and the considerable flow of water at the time of the visit, that Tully Falls had hydro-power potential. In addition to development potential, Greensill informs readers of dense patches of broadleaf stinging tree, a horse’s reaction to such, attempts at dodging ‘lawyer vines’, and nights spent telling tales around the campfire.

‘’Jungle and plain and pathless wood, Depths of primeval solitude. Gaunt wilderness and mountain stern, Their secrets lay all unsubdued.’’ –

Greensill

Ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60925784

Sarah Aldrich