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Thursday, October 08, 2009
Brisbane, looking gorgeous.
The past twenty years have seen Brisbane grow and grow.

Currently ranked the fastest growing 'mature' city in the world, the city really developed in the '90s and '00s.

I (Mr Speech) moved here at the tail end of 1992, when Brisbane was mostly regarded as a large country town, on a coast dominated by the twin commercial hubs of Sydney and Melbourne.

At that time, the town had only two professional sports teams - the Broncos (of the then NSWRL rugby league) and the Brisbane Bullets (now defunct and hopefully soon to be resurrected NBL basketball team).

The Brisbane Bullets' most recent logo.
It's been a town which has taken its southern slights personally.

Nevertheless, it has become less ruralised and more cosmpolitan; out of a population of around 2.15 million, almost three hundred and fifty thousand were born in another country.

And that means a certain cultural savoir-faire which to be honest is probably quite common in most major western cities. It means Thai cuisine, a Chinatown, Swedish backpackers in Queen Street Mall and a lingering Britishness among the older residents.

Brisbane's history has been bluntly quiet for much of the past twenty years - almost as if it held its breath while catching up to the bigger boys.

But when history strikes, it strikes hard. The 2011 floods made news around the world as much of the inner city went underwater and the conditions tested the will of these Queenslanders. They did alright, really. Pulled together and helped each other.

A possible future view of Brisbane.
Brisbane is on the verge of a global city and the newly conservative state government, with Brisbane City Council is being forced to look very closely at plans to settle around two hundred thousand people in twenty years.

A former settlement for the hardest of inmates. A flood plain which gets what you'd expect. MacArthur's headquarters. Dynamo of Australia.

Say hi to Brisbane.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009

1864, 1893, 1897.

It had been 77 years since Brisbane's last flood, but in 1974 the old foe returned.

Images like this would become depressingly familiar 37 years later.
Cyclone Wanda and three weeks of rain had filled Brisbane's waterways and catchments to their limit, and then for a 36 hour period beginning January 25th, 1974, 642mm of rain assaulted the city. That's two feet of water coming from above, in a day and a half.

A lake of 200 square kilometres was formed around the Brisbane River.

14 people died, 6700 homes were flooded and $200 million in damage was caused by the disaster. The Wivenhoe Dam was built as a direct result of this one event.

Brisbane moved on however, to shine during the 1982 Commonwealth Games. 45 countries and nearly 1600 athletes participated in an event which brought the city and state to the forefront of world attention, if only for ten days.

Much of the infrastructure for Expo '88 is still there today.
That attention was refocused in 1988 when Brisbane hosted Expo '88. Expo was a World's Fair which brought 15.7 million visitors to the city, who contributed $175 million dollars in ticket sales alone.

It spurred a redevelopment in Brisbane's Southbank area (the area on the other side of the river from the CBD), a process which continues today.

The area was made into a lush parklands, with exotic buildings and walkways under sails through beautiful tropical greenery.

Brisbane had grown and from 1974 to 1988, had willingly or unwillingly, been placed in the world's gaze three times.

In 1990 1.3 million people looked to a new decade.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
The Riverside Expressway, leading to Coronation Drive. At night.
Brisbane like the rest of the world, braced for another war.

Australia had been largely isolated, with its troops fighting in North Africa, while a megalomaniacal Japanese war machine terrorised the West Pacific.

World War II military hospital, Holland Park (not far from where Mrs Speech and I, live.
However after Pearl Harbour, the United States' top military commander in the Pacific theatre, General Douglas MacArthur, chose the AMP Building in Brisbane for his headquarters.

(It is now a shopping centre in the city, called MacArthur Central.) Other buildings were given over to military use.

Brisbane would be used as the Allied rear hub until 1945.

Queen Street tram, 1969.
Post-War Brisbane struggled to raise cash to develop and transform the city, with infrastructure falling behind need in many areas. Sanitation, transport and the electricity grid were issues urgently in need of addressing through the fifties and sixties.

In 1961 iconic Mayor Clem Jones was elected and began instituting solutions as well as a town plan. The tax base (ratings base) of the city had grown, which aided urban and suburban renewal.

But in 1974 Brisbane's arch-nemesis would strike its 911,000 inhabitants.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Brisbane at night, from the Story Bridge.
Six hundred and sixty thousand people called Queensland home by 1914 and they were affected as the other industrialised nations were by the First World War.

57,705 Queenslanders were enlisted to fight the hun. Many did not come back. The 9th Battalion alone suffered more than 3,500 killed and wounded.

Conscription by guilt. The posters became much less subtle as the casualties rose.
After the war Brisbane's focus lay on consolidation and growth and the City of Brisbane Act 1924 was passed, amalgamating what were then towns (now suburbs) with the city centre to form the City of Brisbane, governing 1,220 square kilometres.

The great depression hit Australia as hard as it did the rest of the world but Brisbane still found the means to build, build, build. The Wynnum Wading Pool and William Jolly Bridge were constructed to help provide work for the lower class. Many lived in tents.

Regent Street Theatre. Years and years ago.
In 1929 the Regent Street theatre was opened (it was only recently closed).

The following year Brisbane City Hall was opened. The Story Bridge was begun in 1935; it was opened in 1940.

And then 325,000 people in Brisbane listened to another broadcast of war.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Brisbane, seen from the man-made beach at the Southbank Parklands.
Australia achieved federation on the 1st January 1901, six colonies joining to form a constitutional monarchy and end their colonial status.

Opening of the first Australian Parliament, 1901.
Queenslanders were now Australians.

Brisbane was at this time the fastest-growing state, continuing its emergence but still was of lesser overall import to the new nation than its southern big brother and sister. Sydney and Melbourne, whose bulwark populations dwarfed that of Brisbane, held more international recognition, but Queensland's role would continue to grow.

Police and special constables in Market Square (now King George Square), 1912.
Trade and commerce were flourishing, but Queensland (and Australian) labour was about to have its say. In 1912 tramway employees were fired for wearing union badges. They marched to the Brisbane trades hall, where 10,000 protesters joined them.

Forty-three trade unions joined them and Brisbane had its (and Australia's) first general strike, lasting five weeks. When it spread to the railways the Queensland state government became more concerned and tried to put more uniforms on the situation, even calling for federal military assistance, which was denied.

A federal judge ruled in the tramway strikers' favour.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
The city of Brisbane, guarded by the iconic Story Bridge.
Through the rest of the nineteenth century, Brisbane gradually lost its identity as a penal colony, instead fixing itself on the map as the largest city to the north and the main centre of commerce in Queensland.

In 1864 the city got a taste of big city natural drama, with two fires which gutted Queen Street (now home to Queen Street Mall, the state's largest retail district) and
The 1893 Floods.
a major flood in the city centre. It would not be the last flood Brisbane experienced. The town was struck by flooding in 1887, 1889, 1890 and 1893 (pictured).

The economy followed a national depressive trend and this newcomer to the colonial party was not faring well.

However gold was discovered in Gympie (160km north of Brisbane) in 1867, alleviating the financial malaise and attracting prospectors from all over the world. An 1882 demonstration of electric street lamps - the first time
Adelaide Street, 1865.
electricity had been used for the public, anywhere in the world - symbolised a bright new future.

Investment in public transport triggered the growth of Brisbane's suburbs and the city rapidly expanded for the rest of the 1800s.

By 1900, 130,000 people called themselves Brisbanites.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Queensland. Beautiful one day, perfect the next.
In 1770, Captain James Cook sailed up the coast of what would come to be known as Queensland, exploring a new and fertile land.

He found a bewitching subtropical paradise, ripe for exploration and settlement.

This is the story of Brisbane. Our town.

The old convict barracks, converted into the first Houses of Parliament.
Fifty years after Captain Cook's seminal voyage, Surveyor-General John Oxley arrived to evaluate the Moreton Bay region as a possible penal settlement.

Reports of a river which fed a rich and lush floodplain led Oxley to investigate further. He explored and named it after his boss, the then Governor of New South Wales, Scotsman Sir Thomas Brisbane.

Australia was in those days still a convict's scourge and Brisbane was set to become its supermax prison, housing the roughest and most dangerous from Sydney. The Jagera and Turrbal Aboriginal clans which had prior occupied the area were swept from history as owners.

An early sketch of the barracks.
Moreton Bay served in this capacity for the next fourteen years, until 1839, when transportation of convicts ceased. The prison was shut down permanently in 1842 and free settlers were permitted. Four years later a brazen one thousand eight hundred called Brisbane home.

By 1859 the burgeoning gateway to the north had established enough of an identity, to warrant separate recognition from the crown and Queensland was decreed a self-governing colony, with Brisbane its capital.