By Barry Clark, Bribie Island, Historical Society

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

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Tags: History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia

Future Fishing

In the 1920’s people came in their thousands by Steamship to the peace and quiet of Bribie Island to camp and enjoy the extensive wildlife, and always get a good catch of fish. Much large fish were caught off the recently constructed Jetty at Bongaree, including many huge Groper weighting many hundreds of kilos.

Featured Image(above): Fishing boats towed to the competition site

But even in these early days, 100 years ago, there was evidence and concern about the depletion of fish stocks in Moreton Bay. In May 1904 a crowd of over 100 concerned people attended a meeting in Brisbane chaired by Queensland’s Deputy Governor Sir Hugh Nelson. The Vice President of Brisbane Snapper Club said “It had been apparent to Anglers that fishing was not what it used to be.

Years ago anglers could go out with a certainty of catching fish, but this was not the case now” This led in the formation of the Amateur Fisherman’s Association of Qld. (AFA) In 1925 AFA purchased waterfront land on the recently subdivided Esplanade on Bribie Island and constructed a small Cottage and Clubroom. The building is still there today and although there have been some renovations, it is still largely the same basic dormitory accommodation for AFA members.

The building was named the J.Douglas Ogilby Cottage to honour the Ichthyologist and honorary curator of their extensive collection of Fishing memorabilia, books, and specimen. Ogilby built up a large collection of fish specimens from the Bay which were preserved in glass spirit jars, and a selection of these can still be seen in the Seaside Museum today. In those years AFA Members were prominent politicians, public servants, and businessmen in Brisbane who came over on the Steamship Koopa most weekends and holidays to enjoy their shared sport.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

Groper on Bribie Jetty 1922

Traveling in three-piece business suits, ties, and hats, straight from their offices, they disembarked and walked up to the cottage where they changed into old fishing clothes and emerged as Tom, Dick and Harry to merge with the holiday campers. Large Fishing Competitions were often conducted in the Bay and the Bribie AFA was regarded as the prime Fishing Club.

On occasions up to 60 small boats, laden with up to 150 fishermen and all their gear, were towed together out to a nominated location in the Bay for a competition. Life continued during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s but with the limitations brought by the Depression and WW2, and by the 1960’s the population of Bribie island had grown to about 700 people, with many of these being Brisbane based with holiday homes on beautiful Bribie.

The construction of the Bribie Bridge marked a significant change for residents and visitors to Bribie, but the Fishing and relaxed lifestyle remained a unique attraction, despite the influx of motor vehicles and commercial development. In 1963 when Bridge was built Mr. Joe Di Betta opened a new Café near the Jetty and offered to house the AFA fish collection to display for public viewing.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

AFA Cottage 1925

This was enjoyed by many until the business was sold and collection of returned to AFA cottage to be stored in a garden shed. When I first viewed this extensive collection of bottled fish they had been virtually “boiling” in this shed for many years. When the new Seaside Museum opened a selection of the preserved Fish specimens in large glass jars was incorporated into the Museum display, and can still be seen today.


Bill Shirley served with the Australian Army Engineers in WW1 and after the war set up his own contracting business in Brisbane. In 1923 he was contracted to clear a bush track across Bribie Island from Bongaree Jetty to the Ocean beach for the first road to be constructed on the island. When the track had been cleared the Developer, the Brisbane Tug & Steamship Co. contracted Blake Bros. to construct the first basis road, and Bill Shirley was appointed Construction Supervisor and when completed became the Tollkeeper and operated a basic bus service.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

First Road to Woorim 1924

Some Soldiers returning from overseas service in WW1 were allocated “Soldier settlement” blocks of land with a small cottage at Beerburrum, in the hope of scratching a living from the land trying to grow mostly Pineapples. This Government program proved to a nightmare for these families, trying to cope with unpredictable climate, rainfall, and unproductive soil, and within a few years they were abandoned and the people moved elsewhere. Several of the soldier settlement cottages were then relocated to Bribie Island where new subdivisions were being created following the new road being built to Woorim.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

Ocean Beach Guest House Advert

Bill Shirley was contracted to build another basic access road behind the beach and North Street was created in 1927. His payment for this work was to give him a few cottages. Bill Shirley and his wife and family moved to Bribie and became involved in several business opportunities in this increasingly popular destination. He operated the Bus Service, cut timber for public construction, became a House & Land Agent and full-time representative of the Tug Co.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

Shirley Creek Bridge opening 1935 

His family then became the proprietor of a large new timber Ocean Beach Guest House constructed behind the sand dunes near where the current Surf Club now stands. It became a popular holiday destination and during WW2 was occupied by the Military. Within a few years, the large sand dunes had started moving back and the beach erosion was significant, such that the complete two-story guest house building had to be moved back about 150 metres, and at the same time was extended and enlarged.

The building was completely destroyed by fire in 1947. By the 1930’s Bill Shirley as regarded was the unofficial Mayor of Bribie and was appointed the first Honorary Councillor representing Bribie Island on the Caboolture Shire Council. To attend the monthly Council meeting in Caboolture was a three day trip in those days before there were any roads anywhere near Bribie, and only accessible by water.

History. Historical. Bribie Island. Queensland. Brisbane. Moreton Bay. Australia-1

Shirley Creek Bridge today

Catching the long steamship trip to Brisbane, possibly staying overnight, catching the train to Caboolture, attending the meeting and then doing the whole thing in reverse with another overnight stay. Bill Shirley was one of the great pioneers in the development of Bribie and is remembered today with the name of Shirley Creek along the waterfront at Bongaree near the Caravan Park. This was the first item of Council Infrastructure constructed on Bribie Island, opened in 1935 thanks to the efforts of Bill.


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 b[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.