History – BRIBIE deserves a VISION for the FUTURE

Barry Clark - Bribie Island Historical Society

bribie island history queensland australia

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I get some nice feedback from readers of my regular History articles. Old-timers and new timers like to be reminded of things about Bribie’s past. If you are a resident or visitor reading this article, my guess is that you have come to Bribie Island because it is different.

Bribie is not like other seaside suburbs… It is unique… special… And has always been that way. For over 100 years people have been coming to Bribie Island because it has a unique character and strong community spirit… Of course, it has changed over the years, for many different reasons, and the march of progress and people’s requirements do change things.

However, the reasons that brought you here, and many thousands before you over the years, is its special charm, that might be in danger of being lost. We know that things must change with time, but it would be sad to think that Bribie Island would just drift into being just like everywhere else. This article reflects on aspects of the past and raises the question about what will the future be like.

If you do not know where you are going ….any road takes you there.

Bribie should have a “Vision” for the future, to ensure it remains a special place in 100 years.


Bribie Island has the unique distinction of being the place where the first white man landed, in what is now Queensland, after the penal settlement in Sydney. Matthew Flinders landed on July 16th 1799 with his aboriginal companion Bongaree, his cat “Trim” and a small crew aboard the sloop “Norfolk”. Twenty four years later 3 castaway convicts were marooned here in 1823 before the Moreton Bay Penal Colony was established at Brisbane in 1825.

The new Colony of Queensland was separated from NSW in 1859, but very few people lived on Bribie Island until 1912. It was then that Bribie was opened up as a unique tourist destination for steamship excursions from Brisbane. Within a few years, it became a booming tourist destination, with thousands coming to camp and fish, and enjoy the isolation and environment.

For the next 50 years, Bribie remained isolated, self-sufficient, creative, imaginative and independent. It developed its special charm because it had to, in order to succeed… It was often called a “Zoo without a Fence” and sometimes jokingly as “The Three D’s”… Drunks, Dogs and Defactos. When the population was just a few hundred there were many exceptional people here, who added to the charm of the place.

bribie island history queensland australia
Bribie Trip Poster
bribie island history queensland australia
Bribie Holiday Poster 1950’s


It was a three-hour trip, and often a rough boat ride from Brisbane, but Bribie attracted rich and poor to this unique location. Bribie was part of the large Caboolture Shire, and while it was the closest town, there was no road access. A trip from Bribie to Caboolture for the first honorary Bribie Councillor in the 1930s took two days, by boat and train via Brisbane.

Caboolture Shire was much bigger back then and stretched from Kedron Brook to Maroochydore River. Over the years, various areas sought their independence, and the Shires of Maroochy, Kilcoy, Pine Rivers, Redcliffe and Caloundra were formed. Bribie remained part of the then smaller Caboolture Shire…..a unique and popular destination …..Which thrived on its isolation and character.

As a result of military installation built in World War 2, and the increased popularity of the motor car, a rough road was built from Caboolture to a car ferry at Sandstone Point to Bribie. This resulted in the Steamship trips ending in 1953, but Bribie remained a very popular destination as the residents and visitors had created their own successful economy. Bribie always wanted to be independent and establish its own Shire and made unsuccessful attempts to do so in 1913, 1931 and 1967.

bribie island history queensland australia
Bribie aerial view 1970’s


For many years, there was talk and political promises of building a bridge to Bribie, and this eventually happened in 1963. This was a major event in the history of Bribie, but when the new Bridge was about to be opened it was announced that there would be a charge to cross it. A “Toll” of 10 shillings had to be paid to cross the bridge, equivalent to about $15 in today’s money.

That huge and unexpected imposition limited the anticipated population and business growth for several years. For many years, the Council rates for Bribie were disproportionally higher than the rest of the Shire. In 1967 Bribie residents made another attempt to succeed from Caboolture and become its own Shire.

Once again, that was unsuccessful, and Bribie remained part of Caboolture Shire Council for many more years until amalgamation changed things again. The bridge toll remained for 12 years until 1975 when the bridge had been paid for. In the bicentennial year, 1988 Bribie staged another Succession parade as part of the celebrations.

bribie island history queensland australia
Bribie Toll 10 shilling ticket


In 2009, Government amalgamated the three Councils of Redcliffe, Pine Rivers and Caboolture into one enormous Moreton Bay Regional Council. Bribie Island became a very small part of a very big Regional Council. The justification for amalgamation was to achieve cost savings, the economy of scale and improved services, but after 10 years I do not know how much of this has been achieved.

Some other places that were amalgamated have since reverted to their previous status. When Bribie had a resident population of just a few hundred people in the 1930’s, Bribie had an honorary Councillor. Over the years, as the population grew to about 1800, Bribie had two elected Councillors representing them on the Caboolture Council. Now, with a population well over 20,000, Division 1 has just one Councillor representing a much larger geographic area of Bribie and the mainland.

This is a challenging job for anyone, with Bribie situated on the boundary of a large Regional Council. However, Bribie Island remains the unique jewel in the crown for so many reasons. We are soon to have a Council election, but we won’t be voting for a community “Vision” for the future of Bribie.


In 2008, I established the Bribie Island Historical Society when I became fascinated by the rich Heritage and History of this unique island, although none of it was visible. Even our world-famous resident, eccentric and recluse artist Ian Fairweather had no visible signage. I replaced a plaque at the site of his grass hut residence.

We have since had a Museum built which displays some of our rich Heritage, and Fairweathers amazing life story. I installed numerous bronze plaques and signage around Bongaree foreshore, designed and printed free Heritage Walk brochures We conduct regular Heritage Walks at Bongaree and the WW2 relics, and I know how popular these walks and brochures are.

I don’t expect everyone to be interested in local history, but it certainly adds value to being here, and a respect and understanding of just why this place is special.

bribie island history queensland australiaVISION for the FUTURE

We are all different, and all have different views about how Bribie should be in future. Many people are urging for a new and bigger bridge to be built. Most Bridges and Tunnels built these days have a Toll.

How would we feel if a new bridge were to have a toll? Should we go on building more roads for more cars? Perhaps Bribie should have an efficient and effective public transport system that meets current and future community needs. Almost 100 years ago thousands of people came and went by Steamship from Brisbane to Bribie. They were transported across the island by basic busses to the Ocean Beach. That was the closest surf beach to Brisbane in those days.

Today we have empty buses driving around Bribie all day to a timetable that does not recognise our needs or help to reduce short car trips, parking and congestion. For the same cost, we could surely have a fleet of smaller vehicles running to all suburbs and required locations at more regular intervals. I guess it is just a matter of time before we have Parking Meters.

bribie island history queensland australiaBRIBIE RESIDENT POPULATION.

Bribie Postcode 4507 has the highest percentage of people over 65 years of age than any postcode in Australia. However, this will probably change over time, but this is a unique aspect of Bribie that should be recognised in any “Vision” of the future. With the current significant developments already underway, and the anticipated construction of medium-rise apartments, the population is set to increase by up to 40% in the next few years.

Add to this the significant number of subdivisions and development already happening on the mainland close to Bribie, there will be many more people living on and visiting the island in the next few years. What are the things that are essential to ensure that Bribie remains a unique place? Many elements of a future Vision could include Community Services, Employment, Recreation, Transport, Environment, Heritage and of course Life-style.

Without a plan, it is likely that things will just drift along, largely driven by developers, and Bribie will become just another seaside suburb. I think that would be a pity… …how about you? If we don’t recognise and value the special aspects of our past- we won’t have much of a future.

bribie island history queensland australiaHISTORY CONTINUED MORE BRIBIE HISTORY

The Historical Society has monthly public meetings at the RSL Club on the second Wednesday of each month (except January) commencing at 6; 30pm. with interesting guest speakers on a wide range of topics.

You can see many more photos and articles on our Blog Site at https://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com or contact us on [email protected]

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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.