In 19th century Queensland there was a clearly defined social order. A person's class, employment and gender determined their social position. Every role in society carried particular rights and obligations that were well understood. This applied to everyone from the governor to the lowest scullery maid and provided a set of rules for each person to live by. Whilst this hierarchy provided security and certainty for everyone it also restricted opportunity for advancement for those on the 'lower rungs' of society. It was very difficult for the merit of the individual to override the boundaries in the social order.
This very formal and rigid social structure is reflected in the design of Old Government House. This can be seen in three dimensions of the house layout.
First is the division between the Governor and his guests and the servants and staff. The front of the House is the Governor's domain and the lofty ceilings and rich cedar joinery contrast with the simpler build of the rear of the House where the servants lived and worked.
Secondly there is a clear division between the work or public areas of the House downstairs and the private quarters for the Governor and servants upstairs.
Thirdly there is a division between the male or business eastern side of the House and the female or family western side of the House.
Consistent with these guidelines the House is designed in an organized manner where people could and could not go, and where everyone knew their place. It clearly reflects the society of the times.