Opening of the South Bank Parklands (1992)

Balloons released above the crowd at the opening of the South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00157

Balloons released above the crowd at the opening of the South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00157

“Expo was for 182 days, this is forever” – Ron Paul, Chairman of South Bank (1992)

Dancers at the opening of the South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00121

Dancers at the opening of the South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00121

On June 20, 1992, South Bank Parklands in Brisbane was officially opened. Following the end of World Expo 88 the site was cleared and the Queensland Government intended to sell the land to commercial developers, however the public successfully lobbied for the site to be developed into public parkland.

People walking across the forecourt of South Bank Parklands during its opening celebrations, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Libray, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00271

People walking across the forecourt of South Bank Parklands during its opening celebrations, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Libray, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00271

Pavers and grass were still being laid the night before the grand opening. The Courier Mail stated “the smell of fresh earth in which shrubs had been planted right up to the last minute mingled with the fairground whiffs of frying onions and chips”.

An estimated 70,000 people attended the opening day. Visitors found a number of facilities including  a man-made beach and lagoon with CBD views, garden and rainforest walks, picnic and barbeque areas, restaurants and cafes, pedestrian walkways and a canal with rail-driven ferries.

Boats travelling along the canal during opening celebrations at South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00260

Boats travelling along the canal during opening celebrations at South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00260

On the opening day there were long queues to enter one of the main attractions, the Butterfly House. A delay in the completion of another attraction, the Gondwana Rainforest Sanctuary, meant it was unavailable on opening day.

Buddhist Ceremony part of the opening celebrations at South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00065

Buddhist Ceremony part of the opening celebrations at South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00065

People swimming in the manmade beach at South Bank Parklands during its opening celebrations, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00028

People swimming in the manmade beach at South Bank Parklands during its opening celebrations, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00028

Fountain at the opening of the South Bank Parklands Brisbane 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State LIbrary of Queensland. Image sbp00257

Fountain at the opening of the South Bank Parklands Brisbane 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State LIbrary of Queensland. Image sbp00257

Dragon boats racing on the Brisbane River during the opening celebrations of South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00101

Dragon boats racing on the Brisbane River during the opening celebrations of South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, 1992. CC-BY. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image sbp00101

Since 1992 the layout of the South Bank Parklands has changed; both Butterfly House and Gondwana Rainforest Sanctuary were decommissioned after several years and the canals and bridges were also removed. Several important institutions have established themselves in the precinct including the Brisbane headquarters for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

In 2008 a 60 metre tall ferris wheel named Wheel of Brisbane was installed for the 20th anniversary of World Expo 88 and is now a prominent feature of Brisbane’s skyline.

In 2011 the South Bank Parklands were badly affected when the Brisbane River flooded.

The State Library of Queensland hold a number of items in its collections related to the history of South Bank Parklands, including newspaper cuttings, photographs, maps as well as the original  South Bank official souvenir programme from the 1992 opening.

Northern end of the Southbank Parklands inundated by flood water in Brisbane, 2011. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 27803-0001-0217

Northern end of the Southbank Parklands inundated by flood water in Brisbane, 2011. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 27803-0001-0217

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland