History – Bribie Island Fascinating History – Historical Society


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Tags: History. Bribie Island. Old Military bases. BRIBIE ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY


“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”

This quote by famous Sunshine Coast Historian and Author Stan Tutt often surprises residents and visitors about the remarkable contribution this small island has made to the history of this country. Maybe after reading this you might go looking for some visible evidence of this fascinating past.

The original inhabitants left evidence of their use and occupation of this area over many thousands of years. Their lives were to change forever after Matthew Flinders landed on Bribie Island in 1799. The visit of the sloop “Norfolk” was brief, and it was another 24 years before three white men came unexpectedly to Bribie Island as castaway convicts, after being washed ashore on Moreton Island.

They had walked all around Moreton Bay in the hope of finding Sydney, and had to cross a big river. When John Oxley sailed in on an expedition in 1823 he was amazed to find them, and they located and named the Brisbane River. This later became the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement and Brisbane town. Bribie Island had a unique position as a resourceful island close to the mainland of this growing community.

However, when Archibald Meston, a respected Politician, Author & Explorer visited the island in 1891 he stated that: “Bribie Island is one of the meanest pieces of country in Australia …..a howling desert of tea-tree swamps, rank aquatic vegetation and unimaginable cussedness” Oysters, Fish, Timber and Lime attracted some early pioneers to the Passage and the Island, until massive rainfall and floods silted up the Passage in 1893.

By the early 1900’s several of the Bay islands were being occupied, and it was the Moreton Bay Tug & Steamship Company who decided to make a substantial investment in developing Bribie as a tourist destination. 102 years ago the settlement of Bongaree was established with a Jetty, a few basic buildings, a postal service and regular trips by the Steamship Koopa from Brisbane via Redcliffe.

Many thousands came at weekends and holidays to camp and fish, but the first road from the Jetty to the Ocean Beach was not built for another ten years in 1924. There were just 20 permanent residents on Bribie then. Resident and tourist numbers grew steadily through the 1930’s but it was World War 2 that led to the evacuation of Bribie and occupation by the BARRY CLARK –FOUNDING PRESIDENT, BRIBIE ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY Military. The island offered a strategic location to defend the Port of Brisbane, and Forts and buildings were constructed north and south on the island.

Thousands of troops were based and trained here, and the Steamship Koopa requisitioned for military service. The remains of some military Forts and defence structures can still be seen around the island at Bongaree, Woorim and Fort Bribie at the north of the island. Others have been demolished or claimed by time & tide.

The first car had come to Bribie Island in 1919, long before there were any roads at all. It took two days to drive from Brisbane along beaches and through the fields, and then floated to the island on a raft. 61 years ago, by 1953, the once popular Steamship trips had given way to motor cars which were carried to the island by a Ferry Barge from Toorbul Point.

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There were about 500 permanent residents here in those days, and increasing numbers of tourists to be served. Electricity was cabled to the island in 1953 and the post-war years saw all sorts of new and modern facilities being used such as Refrigerators, Radios, and Record Players One very different new resident was the much-traveled, 61-year-old, world renowned recluse artist Ian Fairweather.

He lived and painted here all alone in a bush hut for the next 21 years. His abstract paintings hang in major Art Galleries around the world and many of his valuable works were created here on Bribie Island.

51 years ago in 1963 the Bribie Island Bridge was built, after many years of political debate, which opened a new era in the development of this island community. Incentives were offered for new tourist attractions, and the remains of one such “Aquarium” can still be seen in the bush at the north of Red Beach.

An unexpected toll was charged to cross the new bridge and was seen by many to limit development for many years. The Toll was collected for twelve years until 1975 when the bridge had been paid for. Tourism took on a different spin and Bribie promoted itself as a special destination.

It was often referred to as a Zoo without a fence as there was so much natural wildlife to be seen. Between 1962 and 1971 the local “Bribie Star” newspaper published articles, photos and stories about the many active community groups who were making Bribie Island a very special place to live.

Between 1984 and 1990 another magazine known as the “The Bribie Islander” was also published .

The Historical Society plan to bring you some extracts from these previous publications in future editions of this magazine.

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