Brisbane | Short History

Brisbanes historical timeline:


Captain James Cook sails up Queensland coast with botanist Joseph Banks; names Cape Moreton, Point Lookout and Glass House Mountains. Takes possession of eastern Australia, naming it New South Wales.



Captain Matthew Flinders explores Moreton and Hervey bays; names Red Cliff Point (now Redcliffe), Pumice-stone River (now Pumicestone Passage). Also lands on Coochiemudlo Island.



Emancipated convicts John Finnegan, Richard Parsons, and Thomas Pamphlett were shipwrecked off Moreton Island while looking for timber (a fourth person, John Thomson, died at sea). Following a quarrel, Parsons continues north while others stay on the island.

Surveyor-general John Oxley arrives at Bribie Island to evaluate Moreton Bay as a site for penal settlement. Discovers Finnegan and Pamphlett who guide him to the Brisbane River; names Peel Island, Pine River and Deception Bay.


Oxley discovers Parsons and returns him to Sydney.

First commandant Lt. Henry Miller arrives at Red Cliffe Pt from Sydney with soldiers, a storekeeper and their families, John Oxley, botanist Allan Cunningham, stock and seeds.

First settler born in colony named Amity Moreton Thompson.


Shipping channel via South Passage found; settlement moves to Brisbane River; first convict buildings built along William St.

Edmund Lockyer of 57th Regiment explores Brisbane River. Notes flood debris 100 feet above river levels at Mount Crosby, finds first coal deposits. Names Redbank after soil colour.


Captain Patrick Logan takes over as commandant of colony. Achieves extensive stone building program using convict labour. Discovers Southport bar and Logan River


Allan Cunningham leaves Hunter Valley to seek link via New England Tableland to Darling Downs.

Indigenous resistance leader "Napoleon" exiled to St Helena Island. Aborigines raid maize plots, resist advances. Frequent conflict until 1840s.


Cunningham discovers gap in Great Dividing Range, providing access from Moreton Bay to Darling Downs. Also explores Esk-Lockyer basin and upper Brisbane Valley in 1829.


Moreton Bay Aborigines seriously affected by smallpox.



Captain Logan mysteriously murdered near Esk, commemorated in folk song, "The Convicts Lament".


Moreton Bay settlement population reaches 1241, including 1066 convicts.


Ship Stirling Castle wrecked on Swain Reef; first of many ships to wreck on Queensland coast over next 40 years.


Quaker missionaries report Moreton Bay Indigenous population infected with venereal disease from American whalers.


Brisbanes pioneering Petrie family arrives in Moreton Bay. Andrew Petrie (builder and stonemason) is clerk of government works; stays on with wife Mary and five children after penal settlement closes. Son John Petrie becomes Brisbanes first mayor; other son Tom writes sympathetically about local Indigenous people.


Calls to cease convict transportation successful; Moreton Bay is closed as a penal settlement. 2062 men and 150 women served sentences at the settlement, half of them being Irish; 10 percent died, 700 fled, 98 never recaptured.



Escaped convict John Baker surrenders after 14 years of living with Indigenous Australians.


Indigenous people Merridio and Neugavil are executed at Wickham Terrace windmill for the murder of surveyor Stapylton and his assistant in Logan.


New South Welsh Governor George Gipps proclaims Moreton Bay a free settlement. Land is offered for sale from Sydney.


Squatter and entrepreneur Evan Mackenzie succeeds in making Brisbane a port independent from Sydney.

Recorded population of Moreton Bay area is 4000 Aborigines and 2257 migrants.


First 240 government-assisted British migrants arrive in Brisbane. First Chinese labourers arrive.


Rev Dr J.D. Lang, local clergyman and journalist, brings his first English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish migrants with unauthorised promise of land grants. Government rations issued to prevent starvation. Lang envisages a colony of self-sufficient, thrifty and hard-working farmers, workers and artisans.

Brisbane School of Arts established.

William Pettigrew arrives in colony. He later becomes the mayor of Brisbane in 1870 and is a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly between 1877-94.



Areas beyond inner Brisbane suburbs, such as Bulimba, Coorparoo, Enoggera, Nundah, Sherwood and Stafford are used for agriculture and grazing until the 1880s.

Displaced aborigines from Bribie Island, Redcliffe peninsula and Wide Bay make gunyah camps in Breakfast Creek/Eagle Farm region (until 1860s).

Arthur Lyon sends sample of cotton from New Farm to The Great Exhibition in London.


Influenza epidemic hits Brisbane (lasting in 1852).


Nearly 1000 German migrants arrive in Brisbane after political unrest and the introduction of compulsory military training; most settle in the Nundah area.

(5 January) Aboriginal resistance leader Dundalli hanged near current Post Office. Large-scale protests by Indigenous tribes.



Old Government House is completed.


11 September, food riots that were instigated by the recently retrenched workers.[12]


Parliament House opens.



Horse drawn tram system commences operation.



Brisbane flood.


Electric trams introduced.


Queensland Museum leaves the old State Library Building to move into "Exhibition Hall" (later called the Old Museum), at Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills.



Celebrations held to mark Federation, on New Years Day.

Fire alarms and pillar hydrants introduced to Brisbane city streets.


Central Railway Station in Ann Street, Brisbane completed.

Brisbane officially designated city status by the Government of Queensland.


Government House opens at Bardon

University of Queensland opens near Parliament House.



Queensland Government purchases privately owned tram system and establishes the Brisbane Tramways Trust.


Amalgamation of 25 local government areas to form the City of Greater Brisbane.

Queensland Government transfers responsibility for the tram system from the Brisbane Tramways Trust to the Brisbane City Council.


Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary founded


Sir Charles Kingsford Smith lands in Brisbane, from San Francisco, USA, after the first flight across the Pacific Ocean.



Brisbane City Hall opened.

Forgan Smith building completed at the St. Lucia campus of the University of Queensland. (Forgan Smith building was named after the, then, Premier of Queensland)



Story Bridge completed


General Douglas MacArthur arrives in Brisbane and takes offices in the AMP building (later called MacArthur Central) for the Pacific campaign during World War II


Following a delay caused by World War II the University of Queensland began its move from George Street, Brisbane, to its St Lucia campus, which it completed in 1972.



Adoption of first Brisbane Town Plan


Queensland Institute of Technology (later Queensland University of Technology) established


Brisbane City Council announces conversion of tram and trolley-bus systems to all-bus operations


Tram and trolley bus systems close, new Victoria Bridge opened



Brisbane River flooding, the result of continual heavy rain from "Cyclone Wanda", causes major damage across city



Commonwealth Games


Queensland Performing Arts Centre opened at the Queensland Cultural Centre


Queensland Museum moves to the Queensland Cultural Centre

Tennyson and Bulimba coal-fired power station closed down

Gateway Bridge completed.


State Library of Queensland leaves the old State Library Building to move to the Queensland Cultural Centre

World Expo 88 held at reclaimed industrial land at South Brisbane


Queensland Institute of Technology changed status to Queensland University of Technology.



Treasury Casino opens



Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled for Brisbane, but postponed after heightened security concerns resulting from terrorist attacks on New York City. Instead it was held in Coolum in early 2002

Goodwill Games


Brisbane River flooding

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