Before Captain Cook mapped the coastline of Queensland in 1770, indigenous people lived along the coast and in rural areas for more than 40,000 years. Today, there is a plethora of fascinating Aboriginal culture in tools and rock art found around the area.
Aside from Captain Cook’s unplanned visit to modern-day Cooktown in 1770, white settlers didn’t arrive until 1823 when John Oxley set sail from Sydney to explore the New South Wales colony’s northern coastline. After reaching Gladstone and the Brisbane River, John Oxley returned to the area in 1824 to settle a penal colony at Redcliffe, just to the north of the Brisbane River. However, this was moved to the current North Quay area of Brisbane’sBrisbane’s CBD shortly afterward.
The establishment of Brisbane occurred in 1825, and subsequent development of the colony continued rapidly. The convicts’ shipment stopped in 1839, so the Brisbane penal settlement became a free colony by 1842. Growth continued along the northern coast, and Maryborough became a vital wool port by 1847. By 1848, immigrant ships began sailing into the area regularly.
In 1859, Queensland gained independence from New South Wales. The state experienced rapid development through the gold rush in the mid-1800s. Cattle farming, mining, and sugar plantations became a big business by the 1890s. The growth of steam trains aided these industries in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, large-scale migrations of “Kanaka” or Pacific Islanders were carried out to help work in the sugar fields. The White Australia Policy saw these migrant populations diminish by 1901.
Queensland experienced fast population growth and economic stability before WWI. Qantas was established in Longreach in 1920, and the Qantas Founders Museum (Longreach Airport, Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach) is a popular attraction. During WWII, Brisbane, Townsville, and several other cities were important military bases for Australian and US military personnel. The post-war years have seen Queensland develop into the fastest-growing state in Australia. In 1982, Brisbane hosted the Commonwealth Games, and in 1988, the capital city held World Expo.
The last two decades have seen a frantic development and renovation of infrastructure to cope with the rapid population growth. Visitors should explore the Queensland Museum (Cnr Grey and Melbourne Streets, Brisbane) in Brisbane for a detailed look at the state’s past