Queensland Places – Cape York and Torres Strait Regions – Queensland Government Ketch Melbidir

The QGK Melbidir was a well-known vessel in the Torres Strait and Gulf regions, operating from around 1900 up until the 1950s. But, in fact, there were three vessels called the Melbidir with the second and third Melbidir replacing the previous vessels.

The first Melbidir was built for the Queensland government, with the vessel’s name said to mean “messenger of peace”. This first Melbidir had a length of around eighty-five feet and was built of kauri pine on a hardwood frame, sheathed with metal. The ship undertook routing inspections for the government throughout the Torres Strait and Gulf regions as well as delivering supplies including livestock, prefabricated buildings and general cargo. Also, the Melbidir took part in various searches for survivors of a number of wrecked ships, including the Douglas Mawson, which was lost in 1921.

The vessel Melbidir II was designed by the Harbours and Rivers Department of the Queensland Government in 1928, to replace Melbidir I which, according to reports at the time, had outlived its usefulness as well as having become unseaworthy. This vessel, an auxiliary power ketch, was built by Mr. Norman Wright and was launched in October 1928 at Brisbane’s Newstead shipyards. Melbidir II’s purpose was essentially the same as Melbidir I, this being general maritime support in Queensland’s northern waters. This included visiting the Torres Strait Islands and Gulf region with cargo and supplies as well as conveying medical staff to these locations when needed.

Melbidir III was built in 1949, to replace Melbidir II, by Johnston & Sons of Cairns. Newspaper reports of the time record that this third Melbidir was to carry out similar operations to its two predecessors, Melbidir I becoming worn out and consequently unseaworthy and Melbidir II being wrecked.

QGK Melbidir, 1935, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 72490

QGK Melbidir, 1935

This image shows Melbidir II in around 1935, with the vessel’s name clearly visible. The figure standing on the prow of the Melbidir may be Mr. John Booker, who was the vessel’s skipper at the time.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

60 000 high resolution images for free download

Immediate access to 60,000 high resolution historic and contemporary Queensland images is now available free from State Library of Queensland. Out-of-copyright and Creative Commons-licenced images can now be directly downloaded through One Search, the library catalogue.

These files are of a much higher quality than the other versions available on the catalogue, which are optimised for viewing online. The high resolution files mean each image can be viewed in great detail and provides opportunities for use in the creation of new works and in many other ways – for websites and blogs, school work, academic research and more.

Everything from early photographs of Brisbane in the 1870s to contemporary photos of the Ekka are included.

Gardens Point in Brisbane ca. 1870

Gardens Point in Brisbane ca. 1870

Download this image here.

To download high resolution images go to One Search, the library catalogue and search for images. When you find the image you want, select the Online option to view and then click on the download icon to download the image. The files are usually more than 25 mB so download time depends on network speed. There’s more information about high resolution files on our website to help you consider what is the best type of file for your purpose.

We do ask that State Library of Queensland is attributed as the source when images are used. Information on attributing State Library of Queensland can be found on our website.
We will continue to provide a image reproduction service, offering a high quality photographic print of items held in our collections. Through this service, and subject to copyright and access conditions, you may also be able to order a digital file or photographic print or items that are in copyright.

Ferris wheel at the Ekka, 2009

Ferris wheel at the Ekka, 2009

Download this image here.

We also love to hear how people are using digital content from our collections. You can let us know via our online feedback form. We were excited to hear from someone in London who let us know how they were using an image from our collection.

Media  enquiries: Cathy Stacey, SLQ Communications, 07 3842 9346 | cathy.stacey@slq.qld.gov.au
Media release

News this week in September 1914

This week in 1914 included speculation that Russia may relax restrictions against Jews, as an official announcement revealed that commissions in the Russian Army and Navy would now be made available to Jews. The anti-semitic press applauded this news.



The Brisbane Courier enthusiastically reported a great Allied victory at Precy-sur-Oise, 15 miles north of Paris.  According to the report, the Germans were ‘hurled back’, the left wing falling back on Landrecies, on the Sambre  River, near Cambray, as the right was also crushed. British troops decimated the German Imperial Guard.



On the homefront, the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce tried to reach a consensus on how to handle German and Australian cargoes detained in port. While consignees were doing everything in their power to access the cargo, the question of the removal of cargo from detained ships was in front of the Prize Court in Melbourne, and it seemed likely that some affected vessels would retain their cargo for the duration of the War.



Of most significance for Queenslanders, the Brisbane Courier reports that Australian Naval forces have aided in the capture of German New Guinea.  This is the first time the Courier is called on to report Australian casualties of the war.



Each week we will be sharing news stories from the week 100 years ago, and we invite you to add your thoughts and comments.

Want to join in and find and correct newspaper articles from 1914 and 1915? Here’s more information about how to get started text correcting newspaper articles on Trove as a Pitch In! digital volunteer.

If you find something you’d like to share we’d love to hear from you at discovery@slq.qld.gov.au

Forgotten Australians: Micah Pilot Oral History and Digital Story Project

“[f]ar from being simply complementary to each other, memory and history tell of very different relationships to the past than we can or do possess” – Dipesh Chakrabarty*

“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” – Czesław Miłosz

This week marks Queensland Child Protection Week (7-13 September 2014) which seeks to promote the “value of children” and  highlight “issues of child abuse and neglect” in order to foster a network of support and create a framework around child protection across the State.

When we think about child protection, one of the major advancements in this area was around the acknowledgement of Forgotten Australians. It is timely then that a collection donated to us called the “Forgotten Australians: Micah Pilot Oral History and Digital Story Project” has recently gone live on the State Library on line catalogue.

This contemporary collection includes two oral histories and one digital story exploring the experience of individuals who identify as Forgotten Australians. The stories can be accessed here: link to the item.

The oral histories and digital story were recorded as part of a pilot project in 2011 for Micah Projects Inc and their Lotus Place Micah Projects Forgotten Australians Services. It was achieved in collaboration with Red Thread Stories, through a Forde Foundation grant.

The services provided for Forgotten Australians through Micah Projects are based at Lotus Place. Lotus place is a dedicated support service and resource centre for Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants.

Lotus Place, South Brisbane

The term, “Forgotten Australians”, refers to the more than 500,000 Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care for a number of reasons during childhood for most of the 20th Century. They include Indigenous children, non-Indigenous children and child migrants. Many of these children were the victims of abuse and assault as identified by the Senate inquiry into institutional care.

A page from The Lily Pad, Forgotten Australians Support Services Newsletter, Micah Projects Inc

Lily Pad

In their 2004 report, the Senate Community Affairs Committee explained that through their inquiry, they “…received hundreds of graphic and disturbing accounts about the treatment and care experienced by children in out-of-home care. Many care leavers showed immense courage in putting intensely personal life stories on the public record. Their stories outlined a litany of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and often criminal physical and sexual assault. Their stories also told of neglect, humiliation and deprivation of food, education and healthcare. Such abuse and assault was widespread across institutions, across States and across the government, religious and other care providers.” (p xv)

Forgotten Australians: a report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children (2004), State Library of Queensland, Open Access, level 2, G 362.730994 2004.

Forgotten Australians Report

The library holds a hard copy of the report as well as the 1999 Queensland report (The Forde Report) into the Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions and subsequent follow up reports.

Youth Justice Commemorative Artwork, Kurilpa Point, South Brisbane. Several commemorative memorials were established to recognise the experiences of former residents of Queensland institutions. This artwork, which is a short walk away from the State Library includes rosemary - which has been an emblem of love and symbol of remembrance for thousands of years.

Youth Justice Commemorative Artwork

The  powerful stories captured through this important Micah Pilot project reflect on these difficult histories. Participants in the project recounted their experiences from childhood into adult life with deep honesty and openness including their attendance at the Federal Government’s apology on 16 November 2009. This was when the Australian Government acknowledged and apologised for the experiences of Forgotten Australians, their treatment and ongoing trauma.

The State Library of Queensland holds a DVD copy of the apology and it can be viewed on site.

On 16 November 2009, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, along with then opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull apologised to the Forgotten Australians on behalf of the Australian Federal Government.

Apology to the Forgotten Australians, Canberra 2009

The stories unearthed through the Micah Pilot project continue to add to the important record of these traumatic experiences as part of our understanding and reconciliation of the past. As a repository offering access to these histories, the State Library continues to provide an opportunity for the public to hear the voices of Queenslanders once forgotten.

As issues arise for Forgotten Australians in terms of identity and piecing together the past, records and other materials become an important component in that quest. The State Library provides a list with links to organisations holding records and to materials relating to orphanages, institutions and child migrants, to assist those attempting to locate such records.

At times, however, access to official records can be restricted. Thus other materials become important when people such as Forgotten Australians look for ways to reclaim their past. This excellent blog story by my colleague Brian Randall provides an example of such material.

Zenovia Pappas – Contemporary Collecting Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Reconciliation and Its Historiography: Some Preliminary Thoughts’, The UTS Review, vol. 7, no. 1, 2001, pp. 9–10.


Queensland Places – HMS Dart and the naming of some Cape York locations

In the late 1890s, the government survey vessel HMS Dart was undertaking on-going hydrographic survey work in the waters of far North Queensland. As well as this work preparing more detailed surveys, in areas important for the safety of coastal shipping, a number of places were named during the vessel’s various travels.

In the midst of this continuing hydrographic work, HMS Dart found itself in the vicinity of the Nisbet River, in particular at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, in 1897. This significant anniversary was seen as important to commemorate by those on board HMS Dart, thereby influencing the naming of a group of reefs to the north-east of Cape Sidmouth. These reefs were therefore duly named Celebration, Diamond Reign, Jubilee Reefs and Throne Shoals. As well, nearby Parry Rock and Glennie Reef each bear the name of a serving Lieutenant on HMS Dart.

Cape Sidmouth itself was named well before the voyage of HMS Dart, in honour of Henry Addinton Sidmouth, First Viscount Sidmouth, who had served as Speaker of the British Parliament in Prime Minister William Pitt’s ministry. The Nisbet River was also visited by HMS Dart during its survey voyages, as well as earlier, during the 1880s, being a focus for the explorations undertaken by Queensland Government Geologist, Robert Logan Jack. It was Jack who named the river the Nisbet, in honour of the then Chief Engineer for the Queensland Department of Harbours and Rivers.

Following this convention of naming prominent places, sites or localities in honour of well-known or leading members of the government or of the community in general, is the naming of the Macrossan Range. This prominent range was named in honour of John Murtagh Macrossan who had undertaken extensive exploration as well as prospecting across the region. John Macrossan also served in the Queensland Parliament from 1874, later achieving ministerial appointments in the Queensland government.

HMS Dart was one of a number of government vessels to bear this name, believed to be based on or derived from the River Dart, in Devon, England.

HMS DART, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 67499


This image shows HMS Dart in dry-dock, in between its many survey voyages.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

Researching Queensland’s fashion business history

Guest bloggers: Nadia Buick and Madeleine King from The Fashion Archives

Jenyns Illustrated medical ad 1910s

When most people think of ‘business’ they imagine serious corporations and enterprises, not the ‘frivolous’ world of fashion. But fashion businesses have played an important role in the economic history of Queensland, and their story is a significant one. Through our online publication, The Fashion Archives, we’ve come across many pioneering names in Queensland fashion that warrant serious attention. Some remain familiar – T.C. Beirne, Bayards, McWhirters, Paula Stafford, Barry and Roberts, Wallace Bishop, Mathers – while others have faded from memory. Some of them traded for over a century, some of them invented radically new products, some of them devised complex and audacious marketing campaigns ahead of their time. Some grew from the kitchen-table or garage to become retail and manufacturing giants. Others started in small rural towns and went on to dominate national and international markets.

As inaugural recipients of the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship, we will be sharing the wonderful fashion items we uncover in the collections of the John Oxley Library over the coming months. At the end of the project we’ll be presenting a special issue of The Fashion Archives called High Street Histories focusing on some of the leading fashion businesses our state has produced.

As we’ve been poring over business ledgers, retail catalogues, photographs, newspaper clippings, financial records, and correspondences, we’ve been thinking a lot about the value of business records to historians like us. Sometimes just a fragment of information can give us vital leads. For example, a small sales receipt can tell us about the price of a garment, the market tier it was pitched to, the address of the business at a given point, the items stocked, and the spending habits of its customers.

A case in point is the recently donated business records of Jenyns Corsets, one of Queensland’s most successful fashion businesses, who traded for close to a century. When its founder Sarah Jenyns (1865-1952) was recently inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame, the family’s thoughtful donation to the JOL collection meant that we were able to get some new leads and insights into this leading corset label. We knew that Jenyns was extremely competitive in both national and international markets, with aggressive marketing campaigns, and a long paper trail of patent applications for their innovations to their fashion and surgical corsets. The new materials in the collection give us a fuller picture of what it takes to become one of the country’s most significant underwear empires, and one of Queensland’s longest running fashion companies.

Jenyns 1930s illustrated ad

Take for example this original design for an advertisement that we found in the collection. We don’t know the date it was produced or where it was used, but it looks similar to other advertising imagery the company produced in the early 1930s. The hand-written annotations, written presumably by Sarah Jenyns, demonstrate the company’s awareness of their brand image, and the refinement of their marketing message. Jenyns was remarkably successful at selling to multiple markets. They advertised in medical journals as well as fashion magazines. They promoted themselves as having “a Model for Every Figure and Every Occasion”, meaning that they were able to reach the young and old, healthy and infirm; no body type could go unimproved by a Jenyns corset.

Jenyns Patent Corsetry Insignia 1950

Jenyns Patent Corsetry Insignia 1950

This market diversity meant that they had to choose their words carefully, so as not to alienate their fashion market when promoting the health benefits. This advertisement shows how the words ‘For Health & Beauty Wear’ are changed to ‘High Quality Corsets and Girdles that ensure Beautiful Figure Lines’ to emphasise the fashion angle. The tag line ‘Fashionable, Reducing & Supporting’ was altered to the more direct descriptive, ‘Surgical as well as fashionable’. In marketing campaigns from the early- to mid-20th century, Jenyns used other lines to attach their image to style over medicine: “in service to health and beauty”, “the foundation of beautiful lines”, and, “Jenyns ensures graceful lines”.

Jenyns premises illustration c.1920

Jenyns premises illustration c.1920

We’ve also spotted some other revealing edits to Jenyns marketing material. Take for instance, this illustration of the premises with their logo and business address, which was reproduced in newspaper and journal advertising as well as in company stationary and brochures. It tellingly has the initials E.R. scratched out from the premises name, after Sarah’s husband, Ebenezer Randolphus, had split from the business.

The materials donated to the John Oxley Library as a result of Sarah Jenyns’ induction into the QBLHF are an especially rich source for our research. The strength of these items in particular lies in the vastness and diversity of types of materials donated. Having access to the original documents that were used within the business across several decades provides subtle and valuable insights for us to build our new research upon. We admire the foresight of those who save not just the valuable items after a business closes or moves, but also the newspaper clippings, cheque stubs, outdated stationary, notepads, and unfinished designs.

Jenyns clippings scrapbook c.1917 - 1919

Read more about Jenyns Corsets on The Fashion Archives

Queensland Places – Coen

The name of the town of Coen is said to have been derived from the Cape York Peninsula river of the same name.  The river was originally named by the Dutch navigator Jan Carstensz, during his 1623 voyage through the region, in honour of the then Governor of the Dutch East Indies.

In the period following the Palmer River gold rush, from around 1873, further explorations to the north by a number of parties, eventually led to the discovery of alluvial gold on the Coen River.  An access track was surveyed and cut through from Battle Camp in 1878 and by July of that year there were more than five hundred miners on the field.  Coen’s population was to fluctuate during this early period with its isolation an on-going challenge to the town’s growth and development.  Later, in the 1880s the area was made available for pastoral leases which, together with the harvesting of sandalwood, provided a welcome boost to the town’s economy.  Mining however was still the main industry in the region and, as a consequence, the Coen Goldfield was officially proclaimed in 1892.  Evidencing its growth and prosperity during this early period, the town had soon attracted a school, a school of arts, three hotels, a post and telegraph office as well as a range of shops and businesses.

As gold mining declined from around the 1930s, Coen still remained an important administrative and social centre for the surrounding Cape York communities.  Also, during the Second World War, Coen was an important part of the forward defence network.  Isolation was however still a challenge, in particular in regard to communication, with one of the last pack horse runs in Queensland operating out of Coen as late as the 1950s.  As well, until the 1960s, when the Weipa-Bamaga area was developed, Coen was the most northerly town on Cape York Peninsula.

Great Northern Mine, Coen, 1905

Great Northern Mine, Coen, 1905

This photograph, dating from around 1905, shows the Great Northern Mine at Coen.

Today, Coen remains an important regional service centre for the various communities in the area, local pastoralists as well as supporting the area’s tourist industry.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

A Golden Opportunity for Gold Coast Community Museums

Guest Blogger: Josh Tarrant - Museum Development Officer- South East Queensland Region

Recently, members of the Gold Coast Heritage Voice network were treated to a behind the Scenes tour of both the John Oxley Library and the Southbank campus of the Queensland Museum.
Brian Randall , Anne Scheu and staff at SLQ were generous enough to retrieve a large number of books, posters, maps, photographs, and ephemera all specifically related to the Gold Coast region from their collection stores for the group to view.

Later, Reuben Hillier showed the group through the library repository where sheer magnitude of the collection and the challenges of providing for an ever-growing collection became apparent. The careful storage and order is undoubtably a key factor in the John Oxley Library being able to respond so quickly to collection viewing requests- largely within the hour!

Gold Coast Heritage Voice members with Rachel Spano in the conservation lab at State Library during the group’s visit to the Cultural precinct.

Rachel Spano greeted us at the SLQ conservation lab, where a number of specialist conservators were at work on fragile paper based objects. The lab has a range of specialist equipment at hand, including some fanciful looking gilding and embossing tools. There was an interesting conversation about the principles behind the appropriate choice of conservation or restoration in a library context, which provided some interesting philosophical insights for comparison from a museum standpoint.

Sue from the Kirra Hill heritage group gets the all clear from conservation!

At the Museum, Nicholas Hadnutt treated the group to an in-depth examination of the Social History collection stores and the treasures that it holds. While some elements of the collection elicited nostalgic reactions and others confirmed a long history of collecting, all asserted the important role of Queensland Museum as responsible custodians of significant Queensland histories.
A visit to the conservation lab provided an eye-opening experience, with the opportunity to see the painstakingly precise nature and results of conservation work. Textiles Conservator Dr Michael Marendy shared some simple, yet effective techniques for preserving costumes, while Jenny Blakely and Caroline O’Rorke showcased some current ANZAC related objects being treated.

The visit was facilitated by the Museum Development Office of South East Queensland, Dr Kevin Rains and Jane Austen at Gold Coast City Council, Nick Hadnutt and Jenny Blakely at Queensland Museum Southbank, and Anne Scheu at the State Library of Queensland. A big thank you to you all!


Queensland Places – Wild Irish Girl Reef, Mine and Crushing Works, Palmer River

The Palmer River Gold Field followed a similar pattern to many other gold mining fields.  Beginning as rich sources of alluvial gold, the fields then evolved into surface or deep reef mining areas, with heavy machinery needed to extract payable levels of gold.  In the case of the Palmer River area, this was taking place by the 1890s, with the Wild Irish Girl Mine and Battery established to access quartz reefs under the main escarpment of the Conglomerate Range.  Other similar mining ventures nearby included the Best Friend and the Bal Gammon mines.

In 1894, the mine’s operators, John Trainor and James Burchall, had struck a rich reef, encouraging greater investment in the venture.  By 1897, more than four hundred ounces of gold had been retrieved but yields were to subsequently decline.  During World War One there was a brief revival and limited mining and crushing were undertaken and nearby mines used the Wild Irish Girl Mill to crush their ore.  In 1930, Sam Eliott purchased the mill and associated infrastructure and continued working the mine and mill for the next thirty years.  It is said that Sam Elliott was to be the last hard rock miner to operate on the Palmer River field.  He died in 1986 and is buried in the Maytown cemetery.

Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, near Wild Irish Girl, c. 1930, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 69263

Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, near Wild Irish Girl, c. 1930

Remnants of the mining that took place in the area can still be seen today, mainly comprising what is left of the Native Girl, Friendly Girl and Wild Irish Girl mines and associated mining infrastructure.  This includes both open cut as well as underground workings.  As well, there are remnants of the early alluvial work which took place along the creek, together with various water channels and a stone lined waterchase.  The remains of various mine buildings and huts can also be seen.

In acknowledgement of the importance of the site in terms of Queensland’s history and development, the remnants of the Wild Irish Girl Mine and Battery are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

This image, dating from around 1930, shows the Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, not far from the Wild Irish Girl Mine.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland




Podcast: Johnstone Gallery (A night in the JOL)

The Johnstone Gallery operated in Brisbane from 1950–72, a seminal time in the development of an audience for contemporary art in Australia.

The gallery represented major Australian artists including Charles Blackman, Sidney Nolan, Donald Friend, Arthur Boyd, Ray Crooke and Margaret Olley.


Brian and Marjorie Johnstone with Margaret Olley. From SLQ collection

Brian and Marjorie Johnstone with Margaret Olley

Gallery owners Brian and Marjorie Johnstone were well known for their friendliness, taste and fabulous exhibition openings. Marjorie bequeathed the records of the gallery to State Library of Queensland and they are among our most valuable resources on art in Queensland.

Listen to ABC Radio National journalist Ian Townsend as he leads a discussion with gallerist and former Assistant Director of the Johnstone Gallery Victor Mace, and Simon Elliott, Assistant Director Curatorial and Educational Services, National Gallery of Australia.

You can peruse the Johnstone Gallery Archives via our One Search catalogue.

[Recorded on 13 July 2014 at the State Library of Queensland]