In the mid twentieth century in Queensland, Itchy Park was a fairly common nickname for public parks that attracted unsavory characters and bad behavior. Usually one park in every town (eg Brisbane, Maryborough & Tweed Heads) had the dubious honor of attracting “loafers”, drunks that needed somewhere to sleep it off, and brawling. Probably due to these elements rubbish would be lying around which in turn attracted dogs, and dogs have fleas – hence Itchy Park. Such parks often had another function as “lovers’ lanes” and were an unofficial meeting place for courting couples. Inappropriate use of the park grounds and anti-social behavior were locally known and openly acknowledged in the newspaper and in Council meetings.
The courts in Ipswich dealt with people charged with public drunkenness and foul language in Itchy Park. Consequently it was often perceived as a dangerous place, particularly for women. Because of this Alderman Stephenson requested the installation of electric lights in Itchy Park in June 1946. It is unclear whether those lights eventuated however a high-powered lamp was installed there in 1953 at the request of Ipswich City Council to discourage improper use of the park after dark. As a result Itchy Park’s popularity as a “lovers” lane’ began to wane.
Thomas Shapcott the famous Australian poet and writer was born and raised in Ipswich and Itchy Park was a significant part of his formative years. It made such an impression on him that he wrote a series of sonnets about the park and neighborhood. He originally called this volume of poetry Inside Itchy Park however it was eventually released in 1995 as “The City of Home”.
In Ipswich the term Itchy Park was applied to Baines Park located at 112 Limestone Street, near the top of town. The park is named after Thomas Baines, a former (1898) mayor of Ipswich and today is the home of the Western Suburbs War Memorial commemorating local World War I soldiers.
Information taken from:
Memories of growing up in Ipswich, an oral history with Thomas Shapcott, 1995. https://ipswich.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/WPAC/ARCENQ?RNI=208060