By Barry Clark, Bribie Island, Historical Society

History. Historical buildings. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Brisbane. Queensland. Australian.-1

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Tags: History. Bribie Island Historical Society. Brisbane. Queensland. Australia

When I retired to the peace and quiet of Bribie Island, after a worldwide career as a Project Management Consultant, I had no idea how my life would be changed. I had lived and worked for over 40 years on projects in Libya, Denmark, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and more recently on the Sydney Olympic Games and the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. As a member of Rotary International, I had organised a huge fundraising walk through the new Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

On moving to Bribie in 2003 I noted that it was the 40th Anniversary of the Bribie Bridge, so I organised a Bridge walk as my first fundraiser for Bribie Rotary. With absolutely no knowledge or interest in Bribie Island history this simple event launched me into an amazing retirement hobby. I happened to meet a delightful old lady who had been involved in the opening celebrations for the Bribie Bridge on 19th October 1963. I had travelled around the world more than 50 times and lived in 20 different countries.

She had lived on Bribie Island for almost 60 years, and the furthest she had been in her entire life was to Bundaberg to a wedding for a day. We were two totally different people, but we made a great connection with each other. This remarkable old lady, Stella Ray, sparked my interest in the fascinating history of this unique island, and helped me to interview many old-timers, and appreciate how remarkable life on Bribie was long ago. Stella had lived a challenging life of hard work with little reward.

She worked in many of the cafes, fish shops and take always on Bribie from 1950 to 1980, serving residents and visitors, listening to their stories and gossip, and had some remarkable stories to tell. She died at the age of 95 in 2014 having lived on the same small block of land in Bongaree for 70 years. My subsequent 14 years fascination with Bribie History is all due to meeting her.

Showcase Bribie History

When I became interested there were few books or information telling any historical stories of this small island, so I set about gaining knowledge, raising awareness and interest. Over the next few years, I had plaques and signage installed around Bongaree to provide interesting historical insights for residents and visitors. I had informative brochures printed and made available free, commemorative plaques installed at Ian Fairweather Park and Coungeau House, and worked with the late Warwick Outram as he produced numerous books and started me teaching local history at U3A.

I did record interviews with over 140 long term residents, many of whom showed me old photos and documents going back more than 100 years I was surprised and delighted to learn some of the fascinating histories of this small island. Not simply in terms of the History of Queensland, but the overall history of Australia and the role Bribie had played in Commerce, Tourism, Defence and Science.

With the pending merger of three local Council areas in 2008, I felt it appropriate to form a Bribie Island Historical Society to provide a voice and repository for Bribie’s rich history. The Bribie Island Historical Society recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary and reflected on its extensive achievements, which include;

• Developing a searchable Database of more than 350,000 items of local history, including photos, maps, letters, films, newspapers, and documents.

• Installing bronze plaques along Bongaree waterfront recording significant people, events, buildings, anniversaries and aspects of Bribie Heritage.

• Ten years teaching local history to Seniors at U3A, and various grades of children at Banksia Beach and Bribie State School.

• Giving presentations on various aspects of Bribie History to numerous Clubs, Groups, and Organisations throughout the Region.

• Presenting Historic Photos for display in Sandstone Point Hotel, Bribie Doctors, Bongaree Bakers, Baptist Church, and Solana.

• Conducting regular guided Heritage Walks at Bongaree and Woorim in conjunction with Council “Healthy & Active” program.

• Publishing regular “History Page” articles in local newspapers and magazines, plus numerous radio and TV interviews.

• Research and publish three books about specific aspects of Bribie Island history (Describing Bribie Island, They Answered the Call, A Handy History)

• Attracting exceptional Authors, Historians, Pioneers and local identities as guest speakers to the Societies monthly meeting.

President & Committee

In the 10 years, the Society has been operating there have been four Presidents, two men, and two women. Barry Clark, Graham Mills, Donna Holmes and Lynne Hooper, all of whom have made significant contributions to the growth and achievements of the Society. All continued to serve on Committees in various roles over many years, and a tribute was paid to the outgoing 2018/19 Committee at the AGM.

At the recent Annual General Meeting, Shauna Hicks was nominated and elected as the new President for 2019/20. Shauna had been on the Committee previously, but her many other interests in History and Genealogy had kept her busy in recent years. Shauna Hicks has a long association with the area’s history and moved to live here in 2012. Her great great great grandparents settled at Toorbul 150 years ago in the 1870s. Shauna has a 40-year interest in local and family history and worked in government libraries and archives in Brisbane, Canberra, and Melbourne.

Since retiring, she has written 11 family history guides and is a regular speaker at genealogy cruises, conferences, and seminars. She now operates her part-time research and consultancy business. Shauna currently tutors two Bribie Island U3A courses – Advanced Family History and Writing Family History, and is co-convenor of the Bribie Island Library DNA for Genealogists Group which meets monthly.

Shauna has tertiary qualifications from Queensland universities including a Master of Arts in Australian Studies, a Graduate Diploma in Library Science and a Diploma in Family Historical Studies from the Society of Australian Genealogists. She is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society; a recipient of the Australian Society of Archivists Distinguished Achievement Award and the Australasian Federation of Family History, Services to Family History Award.

Also joining the Committee is Trevor Sutton who has recently moved to live on Bribie, but has a long family connection with the Island. He is related to the Moyle family who ran the Guest House and Restaurant by the Jetty at Bribie back in the 1920s. Former President Lynne Hooper will continue as Secretary and Ellen Beechey as Treasurer. Remaining on the Committee are former Presidents Graham Mills, Barry Clark, and Donna Holmes, together with Viv Tucker from Deception Bay who has extended the range and connections to local History.

Over the last 10 years, Bribie Island Historical Society has visited and hosted many other Historical Groups in the area including Peachester, Redcliffe, Woodford, Buderim, Windsor, Caboolture, Deception Bay, Dayboro, Landsborough and Pine Rivers, together with history exhibits at Miegunyah, Bankfoot House and Maritime Museum.

Some special History moments

The Historical Society has organized and hosted many special functions over the last 10 years to commemorate key events in Bribie’s past. A couple is worth remembering in this article. Florence “May” Newton was the first white girl born on Bribie Island in July 1919. We brought her back to Bribie in 2014 to celebrate her 95th Birthday. It was a very special occasion as her niece is a teacher on Bribie, and several of her School children sang her “Happy Birthday”.

In July 2019 May Newton celebrated her 100th Birthday at her home in Tewantin but was unfortunately too frail to consider another trip to Bribie. Another special moment for me was to recognize the huge contribution that Warwick Outram had made to Bribie Island over more than 30 years of writing and self-publishing more than 30 books about the island’s history and its people.

It was a great pleasure to invite Warwick to be the inaugural Patron of the Society. In 2010 I was pleased to provide some old photos to Joyce Voysey (nee Batterham) who had lived on Bribie as a young girl in the 1930’s. Joyce had wonderful and vivid memories of her time Bribie Island and it was a pleasure to be able to bring her and her family back to Bribie to launch her book “A Girl from Bribie Island”. Joyce was one of three ladies that I brought together in 2008 for a reunion after more than 71 years.

They had not seen each other since the 1930s when these much three younger ladies had all played very different roles in the early years of the island’s development. Dorothy Schulte (nee Shirley) then age 93, the daughter of Bill and Grace Shirley had seen her father supervise construction of the first road on Bribie Island in 1924, and her family went on to run the large Ocean Beach Guest at Woorim that was occupied by the military during the war years. Dawn Carey (nee Robertson) was the daughter of Caroline and Ted Robertson who had driven the first buses that ran on Bribies first road.

Joyce Voysey (nee Batterham) was the daughter of Elsie and Ike Batterham, and I had seen her brother Geoff’s name in the Corporal Punishment Register of Bribie Island State School back in 1928. It was a special moment to track down these three ladies and invite them back to Bribie. I invited these three ladies back to Bribie, with many members of all their families, to celebrate their long association, look at many old photos and record interviews and memories with them.

These are examples of simple events and celebrations that contribute significantly to the documented history of this place where we now live. As Founder of the Bribie Island Historical Society, I would like to think that many generations of future Historical Society Presidents and Committees will still be doing such things in 50 years……when Bribie will certainly be a very different place.


More BRIBIE History

The Historical Society has monthly public meetings at the RSL Club on the second Wednesday of each month commencing at 6:30 pm with interesting guest speakers on a wide range of topics, and you can see many more photos and articles on our Blog Site at  http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com or contact us on [email protected]

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