Like all the major cities of Australia, Brisbane was originally settled by the Aborigines. The land and the river in the area were perfect for their living needs such as fishing and hunting. They regularly gathered and camped in the area depending on the season. They also held their sacred ceremonies regularly in the area.
The earliest European exploratory expedition from Sydney landed near what is now Brisbane in the year 1799. However, it wasn’t until 1823 that a governor named Thomas Brisbane approved of sending prisoners who committed more serious crimes far away north to Brisbane. Surveyor General John Oxley was the leader of the expedition that explored the area further and went up the river that he named after governor Brisbane. A year after that, the approved penal colony was started north of Brisbane at Redcliffe Point. But then it was moved again by what is now the Brisbane River, this time to stay.
Like Sydney, the city of Brisbane originally started out as a penal colony. However, Brisbane was different in that the convicts sent there were the more serious criminals that Sydney and Great Britain didn’t want to deal with. There were only 27 people recorded in the first settlement attempt. Only two women were of that number. In 1859, after many name changes, the small population settled on the naming their town Brisbane, after the governor. At the beginning, only incorrigible criminals lived there to live out their sentences under extremely harsh conditions. Many convicts tried to run away into the bush and either lived with the Aboriginals or died in the wild.
The first major construction project undertaken by use of convict labour was the Commissariat Store. It is still standing today and is now a historical museum. For over twenty years, Brisbane served as a penal colony. Over 2000 convicts, mostly men, were sent there. It is recorded that about 1000 of them were Irish. The local Aboriginal people and the newcomers did not get along which led to deadly fights between them.
When the influx of convicts dwindled, the area was approved for free settlers. The first to come were Lutheran missionaries. In 1837, pioneers Andrew and Mary Petrie and their five children came to live in Brisbane. John Petrie, their son was the first ever mayor there. In the 1840s, trees were cleared to make way for pastoral and agricultural lands. Free settlement paved the way for the end of the penal colony.
In 1902, Brisbane officially became a city. Throughout the 1950s, Brisbane continued development but development was slow because of lack of finance and materials. Good water was scarce and services such as sewage were not complete until the 1970s. In the 60s things turned around for Brisbane and the city was finally able to do some needed construction. In 1961, Clem Jones became the mayor of Brisbane. He and clerk J.C. Slaughter brought about many positive changes to Brisbane. That included cutting expenses and finding cheaper ways to fix things that didn’t put a financial burden on the city. Construction on a freeway was done and train lines were opened for ease in transit.
In the 1980s the city was host to the Commonwealth Games and the World’s Fair which put Brisbane in international limelight.
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