Tags: History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Brisbane. Historical.
“It might not be too much to claim, Pumicestone Passage and Bribie Island, contain more history, written and unwritten, than any other place in Queensland.”
I established the Bribie Island Historical Society over 10 years ago, when I started to appreciate what a rich and colourful heritage this small island has. It was my intention to give public visibility to some of the fascinating people and events that have shaped this community.
Featured Image(above): Matthew Flinders
With these regular newspaper articles, public presentations, teaching at U3A and local schools and several publications I think we have achieved something. I started out with an objective of identifying all the people who had lived on Bribie for 50 years or more. After interviewing over 150 people over a period of two years I eventually identified 12 people. Along the way, I heard hundreds of wonderful stories and saw lots of old photos, documents, letters and maps that people had shared with me.
After much effort I convinced the then Caboolture Shire Council to allow a storyboard to be erected in Brennan Park paying tribute to these special people with their photos and stories, I also managed to receive a small Grant in the Queensland 150 anniversary year in 2009, to install a number Bronze Plaques along the foreshore at Bongaree telling snippets of Bribie History that I knew would be of interest to residents and visitors. These are still being enjoyed today, although some are in need of attention. The Historical Society have also erected a number of other plaques to commemorate the Centenary of Bongaree settlement and the Jetty, 50 years for the Bribie Bridge and tributes to local people who served in both World Wars.
It is our desire to install many more such informative Heritage signs as it adds to the understanding and enjoyment of Bribie’s rich history for both residents and visitors. When Mathew Flinders with his aboriginal companion Bongaree sailed from Sydney on the “Norfolk” to explore this Bay in 1799, he was the first European to set foot on what is now Bribie Island and climb a Glasshouse mountain. After Flinders and Bongaree the first white people came 24 years later when 3 castaway convicts, lost in a huge storm out of Sydney, were eventually washed up on Moreton Island.
50+ year residents at Plaque
They were very lucky to be alive at all, and with much help from the natives made their way around the bay to live for many months on this island. They always thought they had landed south of Sydney and never stopped searching north in the hope of finding Sydney. They were rescued the following year by those sent in search of a site for a new Penal Colony in Moreton Bay. The worst of the worst convicts from Sydney were initially sent to establish a new Penal Settlement at Redcliffe in 1824, which was relocated after few months to the site of what is now Brisbane on the river. It would be another 35 years before Queensland was separated from NSW in 1859.
In those years since Flinders first landing, there were very few who came to this desolate Island. Within a few short years, white settlements had the extensive Aboriginal population of Moreton Bay reduced to just a few. This led to the establishment of Queensland’s first Aboriginal reserve to be set up here on Bribie Island at Whitepatch in 1877. By 1897 the last of the Bribie aboriginal people had died.
Norfolk replica at jetty for Bicentenary 1988
In 1891 Bribie Island was briefly visited by Archibald Meston, an Explorer, Author and Politician, and official “Protector of the Aborigines”. He made this comment;
“Bribie Island is one of the meanest piece of country in Australia…… ……..a howling desert of tea-tree swamps, rank aquatic vegetation and unimaginable cussedness”
It is therefore quite remarkable that just a few years later some Brisbane businessmen made a major investment decision to develop Bribie Island into a tourist destination.
They had a large steamship built and brought out from England, built a Jetty at Bongaree in 1912, and leased large areas of land at Bongaree for campers. the next 20 years saw Bribie develop as a destination for mass tourism, with thousands of visitors coming by steamships every weekend and holiday, to enjoy a cheap and healthy holiday here. More people came on holiday to camp on Bribie than lived in the entire Caboolture Shire at the time. These remarkable “boom” years for Bribie Island were interrupted in the 1930s by the “Great Depression”, and soon after that came World War 2. These events led to a great change as the Army moved in, and most residents were moved out.
Archibald Meston -1891
The steamship “excursion” trade resumed again after the War but by now the Motor Car was becoming the favoured form of transport, and more people braved the dreadful army built roads to then bring their car by ferry barge to the Island. By 1963 a bridge was built and the Island was joined to mainland Australia. Looking back over those years since the first people came here; the Island has experienced some remarkable events, many of which can still be seen if you know where to look. Some things about Bribie that may surprise you.
• There are a large number of gazetted Aboriginal sites all over the Island, representing their occupation of this land over many thousands of years.
• The Water Tower in the Caravan Park at Bongaree is on the site of a large shell midden. In the early days, this area was known as “the Hill”, and was a high point on the Island.
• Bribie’s first community building sat on this Hill until 1924 and was the school, church, dance hall and general meeting place for the few residents and many visitors. It was later moved down to become the first Bribie Bowls Clubhouse.
Bridge Toll Booth 1964
• The area known as “Red Beach” is a name carried over from the War Years when Australian and US troops carried out beach landing craft training at various colour coded Ocean beaches.
• Australia’s first Opera was written on Bribie by Emily Coungeau in their grand home, built in 1915, which still stands in Banya Street, Bongaree.
• The initial concept of an ANZAC day commemoration for those lost in WW1 was initiated by prominent Brisbane businessmen on a fishing trip to Bongaree in January 1916.
• In the 1960s an Ionospheric Research Centre and Atomic Clock was established on Bribie Island to study the behaviour of Radio signals in the upper atmosphere.
• In 1968, after a long Tax investigation case, the former operator of the Bribie car ferry service was required to pay $500,000 in back taxes. In today’s money that’s almost $10 million.
Bridge Last Toll
• When the Bribie Island Bridge opened in October 1963 there was a $1 Toll which lasted for 12 years until 1975 when the Bridge was paid for.
• Over the years the residents of Bribie Island made three attempts to break away from Caboolture and establish Bribie Island as its own Council. These three unsuccessful attempts at secession were in 1914, 1932 and 1967, reflecting the various periods of significant growth and change.
As there seems to be no clear vision or plan for what Bribie should be like in the future, maybe its time to consider this again.’