restricted access A World Apart: Geography, Australian Quarantine, and the Mother Country

In many respects the Australian colonies were what one person called "the proud offspring of a grand old mother." Yet when it came to the prevention of imported infectious disease, Britain's Australian colonies were not a chip off the old block. British opposition to the lengthy and costly imposition of quarantine had intensified throughout the nineteenth century, eventuating in the abolition of human quarantine in 1896. The Australian colonies, on the other hand, which had based their first quarantine regulations on British law and remained constantly aware of changing medical trends in the mother country, gradually expanded the breadth and capabilities of their maritime quarantine as the century progressed. Although other European powers and British colonies progressively adopted systems of medical inspection more in line with British port prophylaxis and away from quarantine, the Australian colonies invested increasing amounts of time and money into more elaborate quarantine stations and regulations. In this article I examine some of the basic features of coastal disease prevention in the Australian colonies and how they differed from British controls. Australia's distance from Britain was emphasized in the quarantine debates geographically as well as in policy. I argue that the often controversial differences in quarantine policy were for the most part a product of Australia's geographical location. The natural prophylactic of Australia's remoteness was not a reason to minimize quarantine in the colonies but rather served to increase it; whereas, it was argued that "the geographical position of England deprived it of the advantages . . . derived from a comprehensive quarantine system." I discuss this seeming anomaly in light of other arguments that have claimed that the close proximity of a state to the acknowledged origin of a disease was likely to increase its eagerness to quarantine.