There’s a secret hidden behind QUT’s spectacular new $80 million creative arts complex.

It’s part of a century-old army barracks.

The buildings have been restored and re-purposed to take on a new life for students instead of soldiers.

Tobi Loftus reports.


The old Gona Barracks were named after a battle in World War Two in Papua New Guinea.

In the forties American forces based in Brisbane helped build the original parade ground and Japanese Prisoners of War were secretly held there.

Prof. Helen Klaebe, QUT Historian: “It was a place where people signed up for World War 1 and World War 2 and a gathering point where people then left from here to go off to World War 1 and World War 2.”

QUT’s Professor Helen Klaebe has extensively researched the history of Kelvin Grove.

Prof. Helen Klaebe, QUT Historian: “Even after World War 2 it was where they had the reserves train before they had Enoggera.”

While all these buildings hold a strong historical value, one structure holds a place in the hearts of many former Gona soldiers. This one, the Frank Moran Memorial Hall.

Prof. Helen Klaebe, QUT Historian: “That hall over the years has been many things, but the most thing everyone remembers is it was the officers mess. So it’s where everyone used to gather, drinking, playing cards, certainly on ANZAC Day it was the place where everyone played 2-Up and gambled, even though you weren’t supposed to gamble.”

It’s been a five year exercise to save and refurbish these historic buildings as part of the Creative Industries Precinct 2 project.

They’ll now be used as a space for visual arts.

Lynn Green, QUT Major Projects: “So it’s surprisingly original in terms of what you see which has been very much an objective of the project to retain the character of these buildings.”

Ironically, our cameraman who filmed this story also served at the Barracks in the 1970s.

Gordon Fuad, Former Army Private: “It’s really nice to see the majority of the structures that were here in the Barracks being preserved and re-purposed. In the 70s a lot of these buildings were in disrepair.”

Now they’re preserved, their memory can live on.

QUT Students will be able to explore these buildings and the rich history they contain when the new precinct opens next year.

Tobi Loftus, QUT News.