Be part of today’s St Helena Community!

Nell Pearce (4 yrs old) & Anut Grace (2)
Nell Pearce (left), and Aunt Grace Graham. Image from the Fiona Pearce Collection, Qld Parks and Wildlife Service

“All I knew was I was a little girl who went to Grandma and Grandpa on St Helena for holidays and had a beaut time. I used to go fishing and the boys, Graham and Reg, were mad with me because I caught a fish and they didn’t. You know. I remember things like that.” Interview: Nell Pearce, Grand daughter of Acting Superintendent David Graham

Who were the people living on St Helena Island? 

How did this small island community become established and flourish? 

How did the penal colony shape St Helena Island? 

How did St Helena Island shape the people living on it? 

Such is the project Lauren and I would love to build. In writing these, I’d like to get beyond the general facts and piece together personal stories. Some are of the warders and their families, some of prisoners and some are of the indigenous Quandamooka people. Where possible I want to hear the voices of the people who were actually there and to do that I need to find interviews, letters and official documents that accurately capture the feelings and voices of the island’s people.

The St Helena Community focuses on the island communities of the past

I’d like each story to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible, and I am using historical documentation as an initial source to gather these facts. There are official letters and memos sent to and from the Colonial Secretary, Home Office, Sherriff and the Comptroller General of Prisons. There are the recommendations from the Visiting Surgeon and the Visiting Justice on their weekly rounds to the island. There are contractors, Ministers of Religion, Salvation Army personnel and a constant stream of visitors who mention their dealings with the island community.


And we hear from prisoners and warders themselves, in personal letters requesting better treatment, or remission, or pleading to be allowed to return to their families far away. Who experience hardship, heartbreak and isolation in equal measure. And from early settlers as they first establish white occupation in Moreton Bay and meet with the local indigenous community.

The St Helena Community is also a group of people in the present who share a common interest in St Helena Island.   

You are part of the St Helena Island community. It’s a community of people who:

Poinciana trees, St Helena Island 2017
  • Have an interest in St Helena Island.
  • Have a personal connection to the island.
  • Are curious and love a mystery
  • Love to explore and preserve our unique cultural and natural environment.
  • Enjoy connecting people to places through stories of the past and the present.
  • Want to build on our current research information
  • Share conversations around historical information.
  • Value special places and wish to preserve them and their history.

This community can help each other. 

Help us:

Often it’s the personal accounts and specific personal details and photos that are hard to gather, and these are the things now kept by family members. These contain the personal accounts, written or spoken to family members, contained in memories and shared through the generations, which will add greatly to our knowledge of the island’s people. Let us know if you or someone you know have these!

Help you:

Do you have questions about the island? A topic you would love to be discussed?

Have you tracked your family history to a warder or prisoner that spent time on the island and would like to know more? Would you like to know more about local Moreton Bay history? Or do you just want to hear more about the stunning natural features on and around the island?

Please join the conversation! We’d love to hear from you.


Images sourced from ‘Laurie’ Collection, ‘SP 1939’ collections, QPWS and courtesy  Sandra Eaton (James Aird diaries)
Nell Pearce photo and Featured aerial photo of St Helena Island from Fiona Pearce collection, sourced from QPWS. Nell Pearce interview sourced from QPWS.

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