Jun. 12th, 2008

Alkira

Jun. 12th, 2008 08:03 am
tania: (Ghostbusters - Ray & Slimer: Ohshit)
Walking home last night I finally noticed something of interest I've walked blithely by twice before. This time something made me stop and look closer. Beyond a worn sign reading 'Alkira Village' was a sweeping drive overgrown with once-landscaped gardens, and beyond that I caught a glimpse of a building, windows knocked out, covered in so much bright graffiti it looked like a clown with his eyes plucked out - laugh about THAT one, creepy clown-boy!

I did what any self-respecting small curious female would do when alone at dusk, and walked up the drive to check it out, just briefly reminding myself that life doesn't work like horror movies, and that I live by the Rule of Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

I dicovered an abandoned facility choked and snarled in weeds, a series of squat, bland brick buildings I judged to be constructed in the early fifties. Peering through one smashed window after another I saw cramped living quarters, each about the size of a small bedroom, containing little but dust, dirt and a built-in wardrobe. Debris and plastic chairs were strewn about the floors. Beyond them I could see corridors, open halls and many other areas of interest. All this was just in the first part of the front building.

It was getting dark, so I went home, and Rick kindly allowed me use of his internet to investigate further.

A bit of digging on the Alkira facility turned up documentation from a Government inquiry into child abuse in protective facilities, which provided some interesting facts on Alkira. Whether this was the SAME Alkira Village as the one I explored is uncertain; my digging also turned up the fact that all of Chapel Hill was once known as Alkira. If, for the sake of argument, there was only one Alkira Village, it was a halfway house for children at some point in the fifties. It was run by the Salvation Army. They've scrubbed their phone number from the sign at the gates, and though there were plans to reclaim and renovate the structures in mid-2007, I was there last night and I can tell you that the buildings haven't been touched by anyone but urban explorers and graffiti artists for quite some time.

Further digging confused rather than clarified the matter. Alkira was also a home for mental patients at some point, with some sources calling it a 'nursing home' - though from what I've read, that title refers to nursing the mentally ill rather than the elderly.

I stumbled across a community of photographers who've been investigating the same:

"According to the "Health and Community Services Legislation Amendment Act 1991" the centre's authorisation to act as an Aged or Disabled Home was revoked in Section 54 (Amendment 211).

Interestingly, the Salvos seem to own what was Alkira Village, a home for 45 mentally ill persons at Chapel Hill. The remaining 31 patients are now in a community run centre called SAILSS (Salvation Army Individual Lifestyle Support Service). Whether that's linked with this abandoned facility or not, remains to be seen."


Reading between the lines, this place may have been abandoned for seventeen years. Further digging found an official Salvation Army publicity booklet, and here the story is portrayed rather differently - they say that their institutionalised care program was phased out in 2004 in favour of a more effective community-based care program. This doesn't seem to gel with the findings above. Given that the latter set of information came from a glossy publication - the Salvo's annual funding report, to be precise - I'm inclined to take their version of events as a rosy-hued corporate paintover of the truth.

The magic of Google led me to a photo-set taken by a couple of guys who found the place themselves just two weeks ago. They found a ruined piano, a chair stuck in a window, and (not pictured, but the thing I'm most curious about) old papers and patient X-rays.

The following photos were taken by 'Chamellieon' on Flikr.













Joe and I have a party on Friday night, markets with Liz on Saturday morning and another party on Saturday night, but we're free as birds on Sunday. We're going urban exploring through the dusty halls of Alkira, cameras in tow. Though bums in Brisbane tend to congregate around the money zones (like West End) rather than middle-of-nowhere places like this, we'd prefer to go in a group of minimum three people just in case, and we'll be taking a nice hefty maglite torch too. Richard seems keen on trying out that piano, so if you're free, Rick, you are very welcome to join us. Hammond and Adders - would you care to come along? A few strong lads and one small female in hefty boots ought to be safe group, providing we stick together.

It's been far too long since our last adventure.

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Tania Walker

August 2008

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