Category Archives: Miscellaneous Back

1911 cyclone

Two children sitting with a badly damaged piano amongst the debris from the Port Douglas cyclone of 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164590

Two children sitting with a badly damaged piano amongst the debris from the Port Douglas cyclone of 1911

On March 16, 1911, a cyclone devastated the small Far North Queensland community of Port Douglas, 70km north of Cairns, razing many of its buildings.

During the storm, many of the townspeople took refuge at the government bond store, which was described as “a substantial building”, though it was no match for the full force of the cyclone. By extraordinary chance, the 40-odd people sheltering there managed to escape before the building collapsed.

Cyclone damage at Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164579

Cyclone damage at Port Douglas, 1911

Councillor Andrew Jack was killed when a “stack of timbers” fell on him at his farm near Port Douglas, where he resided with his wife and children.

A second fatality was 30-year-old Timothy Joseph O’Brien, who was helping his mother and sister find shelter when struck by a “mass of wood and iron”, which dislocated his neck and fractured his skull. There were also tales of heroism. A Mr Twine, manager of the Queensland National Bank, risked his life to save others during the storm by bringing them back to shelter.

Storm debris from the 1911 cyclone at Port Douglas. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 127066

Two men and a boy examine an eight foot sheet of corrugated iron embedded in the ground to a depth of 3 ft, 6 inches by the cyclone. Note repairs already effected to Crosbie's Hotel in the background.

In the aftermath, Port Douglas residents quickly came to the realisation that their town was virtually wiped out – “only about seven residences were partly left standing, besides the Queensland National Bank, the Customs House, the Post Office, and McLean’s Hotel”.

Two boys looking at the results of a cyclone in Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg  127068

A sheet of corrugated roofing iron has been wrapped round a pole and behind the two boys are piles of additional debris created by the cyclone.

With more than 100 people left homeless, many camped out at the damaged Masonic Hall or at one of the houses left standing. The photograph above shows the extent of the damage.

Telegraphic communication was disrupted with 30 poles blown down within 11km of the town. The nearby settlement of Mossman was also affected by the cyclone.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

South Sea Islanders at Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum

Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum

The Don Juan sailed up the Brisbane River in 1863 with the first group of South Sea Islanders (SSI) indentured to Robert Towns for his Townsvale cotton plantation. Shortly before it reached Redbank, where the SSI disembarked, it would have passed the entrance to Woogaroo Creek. In 1865 another ship, the steamer, Settler, sailed up the river to land at Woogaroo Creek with sixty-nine patients for the new Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum. The name of the asylum was changed many times – from Woogaroo to Goodna to the Brisbane Mental Health to Wolston Park. It is now known as The Park Centre for Mental Health.

There are scant records of Islanders in Woogaroo but certainly ‘the strain of indentured life took an emotional as well as physical toll. Some were incarcerated for insanity, and Goodna Asylum near Ipswich received South Sea Islanders from all over Queensland.’[1]  One example of the emotional toll indentured life took is that of shepherds. Islanders, amongst others, worked as shepherds, in the west, on pastoral properties. ‘In 1870, out of 127 male inmates at the Woogaroo Asylum, no fewer than thirty-two had formerly been shepherds.’[2]  I haven’t discovered, as yet, if any of the thirty-two were SSI but it’s safe to say that at some stage Islander shepherds would have been in Woogaroo. ‘Most South Sea Islanders admitted to Goodna Asylum spent a relatively short time there and were sent back to the islands after they were discharged.’[3]

Kelah. Queensland State Archives, Photographic record and description of male prisoner (estray).


Kelah, 1875 (QSA, Photographic record and description of male prisoner (estray). [4]

There is some information on one particular SSI patient at Woogaroo, Kelah (or Keelah), a young man from Epi Island, who arrived in Maryborough in October 1874. Within a few days of arrival he’d killed another SSI from Santo, Compan. Kelah was sentenced to hang and sent to the old Petrie Terrace gaol in Brisbane. The historian Tracey Banivanua-Mar cites Kelah’s tragic case in the introduction to her Violence and Colonial Dialogue: the Australian-Pacific Indentured Labor Trade. ‘Confined alone in his tiny cell, Kela’s distress and illness concerned even the hardened jail officers’ [5] with his screaming and crying out. Banivanua-Mar points out that he had been in Queensland only a few days during which time the murder occurred, he was tried and convicted, and all without an interpreter. Through the intervention of an anti-slavery campaigner Kelah’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Kelah’s story is taken up again by local Brisbane historian Christopher Dawson who found that, over the following eight years, Kelah spent time at St Helena Prison and was also admitted to ‘Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum in a state of lunacy, and a few months ago he was returned to the Brisbane Goal as incurable. Some time previous to his death he refused to take food and eventually it was given to him by force.’[6] Kelah grew steadily sicker and weaker and eventually, in 1882, died of atrophy – ‘ the wasting away or reduction in size of part of the body, and in Kelah’s case was caused by his inactivity and refusal to eat.’[7]  He is buried in Lot 15 at Toowong cemetery along with four other Islanders from old Petrie Terrace gaol.

Former site of the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Mary Fallon

Former site of the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum

If any of the SSI had died in the asylum they would have been buried at the cemetery on the site. However, after numerous floods graves, as well as many records, were washed away. Later the graves that were left were dug up and moved to Goodna Cemetery where there are some numbered metal plates and some names recorded.

Patients were transported from all over Queensland in iron chains and handcuffs, riding in ‘lepers van’ attached to a goods train, ‘at night frequently chained to a tree’ [8]. Upon arrival in Brisbane they were sent to the Brisbane Reception House where ‘upon admission, inmates were placed inside a specially constructed shower bath, strapped to the door, which was then locked, and a “very heavy” stream of cold water fell from “very high” upon their heads and shoulders.’[9] Then, hence, to Woogaroo, usually in the back of the Black Maria police van.

What was life like for mentally ill, including SSI patients, at Woogaroo? In 1865 the Asylum was described as, ‘cramped and bare yards, surrounded by high fences where the “lunatics” were penned.’[10] A succession of inspectors and superintendants from 1865 until 1909 described it as ‘a condition of things sickening to our common humanity’, in the 1870s ‘wooden boxes called cells of the most offensive and abominable description … they may be called “cages”. In 1909 the Visiting Justice said he’d ‘never seen anything worse in his life’ .[11] The asylum was a prison rather than an asylum.

The Queensland genealogist, Judy Webster, has compiled a list of names from the Goodna Mental Asylum Casebooks 1860-1931, Queensland Public Curators Insanity Files, Queensland Police Gazette etc. There are sixty-three Islander names. I have repeated some names, such as ‘Billy’ and ‘Johnny’, because they may have referred to different people. To access the names use the search box – Some files are available and an explanation of how to order and pay for copies is near the bottom of the Web page on which the names appear. These are the names:-

Ah Boo, Albert Noganda, Aleck Norrie, Allah Toreety, Antivien, Johnny Aramunga, Assoo, , Battywoo, Bellawara, Billy, Billy, Billy Barlow, Blissaravie, Blooranta (alias Billie Pentecost), Bob Parma, Bonami, Calbillias (SSI of Nana Lava), Cathethu, Charlie, Charlie Pentecost, Deally, Farringarrie, Fofanna, Gayselumbo, Georgie, Guitilatto, Hero, James Humala,James Murray, Jimmy Chimira, Jimmy Ekie, Jimmy Mow, Johnny, Johnny Malayta, Johnny Sandow, Kallee Bissee, Keelah, Koombie, Lyllye, Manki, Harry Manto, Moses, Moses, Mato, Matt, Oondallie, Otaan, Peter, Poomassi, Rongah, Sam (Solomon islander), Sambo, Schunbo Guy, Serrie, Tabboo, Tofanna, Thomas Danyson, Toby Marate, Tommy Eppie (alias Habey), Quamboolie, Verisdoon, Willie Ambrym, Wombat …


[1]. Journey to Sugaropolis: the Australian South Sea Islander story of the Gold Coast Region, City of Gold Coast, 2013, p. 34

[2]. Challinor, Dr H., Woogaroo Asylum Report, V&P.1, 1871, p. 972

[3]. Sugaropolis, op. cit. p.34

[4]. Dawson, C., The Prisoners of Toowong Cemetery: life, death and thr Old petrie Terrace gaol, Inside History for the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society, 2006, p.34

[5]. Banivanua-Mar, T., Violence and Colonial Dialogue: the Australian- Pacific Indentured Labor Trade, University of Hawai’I Press, Honolulu, 2007, p.1

[6]. Dawson, op .cit., p.33

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. Evans, R., ‘The Hidden Colonists: deviance and social control in colonial Queensland’, in Social Policy in Australia: some perspectives 1901-1975, ed. J. Roe, Cassell, Stanmore, 1976, p. 85

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Ibid., p.88

[11] Ibid., p.86

Kathleen Mary Fallon – John Oxley Library Fellow, State Library of Queensland

Kathleen Mary Fallon and Matthew Nagas are the 2013 recipients of the John Oxley Library Fellowship, SLQ. Their project is a documentation of Australian South Sea Islanders sites of significance from Tweed to the Torres Strait. Kathleen has, recently, been concentrating on the Brisbane/Ipswich area. There is a plethora of sites all the way up the coast which will be documented for the project.

State Library Fellowships explore Queensland history

State Library of Queensland’s annual history research Fellowships opened on 28 March for applications from across Australia, announced State Librarian Janette Wright.

Generously supported by the Queensland Library Foundation, State Library’s $20,000 John Oxley Library Fellowship has been awarded annually for the past ten years to celebrate excellence in research and recognise new contributions to Queensland’s documentary heritage.

“Over the past decade, the Fellowship has allowed those with a keen interest in Queensland history to use the materials in the John Oxley Library to uncover our state’s untold stories,” Ms Wright said.

“Alongside the monetary award, the Fellow is allocated a personal workspace in the John Oxley Library for 12 months, granting them unparalleled access to collection items, as well as expert advice from State Library staff for the duration of their project.”

New in 2014, the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship provides a researcher with $15,000 and a personal workspace within the John Oxley Library for six months.

Announced at last year’s Queensland Memory Awards Ceremony, this Fellowship is an initiative of the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame, a partnership between State Library of Queensland, the Queensland Library Foundation, and QUT Business School.

Ms Wright said, “The Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for a researcher to build on our knowledge of Queensland’s business history.”

Established in 2009, the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame celebrates stories of Queensland’s outstanding business leaders, and recognises their contributions to the state’s economic and social development.

“We consider both Fellowships a perfect opportunity to create and record these rich stories for future Queenslanders, covering all aspects of our state’s history including commerce and trade, mining, agriculture, military history, architecture and design — and much more,” Ms Wright said.

The current John Oxley Library Fellows, Kathleen Fallon and Matthew Nagas, are using State Library’s collections for their project A Commemorative Pilgrimage of Significant Sites: The Australian South Sea Islanders from Tweed Heads to Torres Strait, which documents historic sites significant to Australian South Sea Islanders.

Kathleen and Matthew will give a public lecture at State Library on 20 February about their research findings and the significance of the project in light of last year’s commemoration of 150 years of South Sea Islander contributions to Australia.

Applications for the John Oxley Library Fellowship and Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship close at 5pm on Monday 17 March, and the winners will be announced at the Queensland Memory Awards Ceremony on 29 May


Royal Charter – from record holder to shipwreck

Royal Charter (ship). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164893

Royal Charter

As the storm season approaches, it’s timely to think about the origins of modern weather forecasting and the early perils of storms at sea.

I learned about these issues recently when I was researching a family who migrated to Victoria in April 1856 on the Royal Charter. I was asked for a shipping list and for any newspaper accounts that I could find about this voyage, and I quickly became fascinated by the events that surrounded this ship.

The Royal Charter was a revolutionary type of vessel – a steam clipper – built in Flintshire, UK, for the Liverpool & Australian Steam Ship Navigation Company. When she was launched in 1855, it was in an era when there were 10 times as many sailing ships as steam ships plying the seas. Weighing 2719 tons and approximately 320 feet long, the Royal Charter had 3 clipper masts and a single funnel. She was primarily a sailing ship but also had an auxiliary steam engine for when there were no winds.

Her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne in 1856 was made in only 52 days, beating the previous record by 13 days, a feat that was widely reported in both English and Australian newspapers.

During my research I discovered that Royal Charter is still very important, (and not just to those whose ancestors travelled on her). She was travelling to Liverpool from Melbourne in 1859, loaded with 79,000 ounces of gold bullion in the hold and an undisclosed amount of gold carried by passengers, when she was caught in a severe storm in the Irish Sea, and sank in the early hours of 26 October 1859. Over 450 passengers and crew drowned, with only 21 passengers and 18 crew members surviving, although exact passenger numbers aren’t known as the passenger lists were not recovered.

The wreck, off the northern coast of Anglesey in Wales, caused great interest at the time and has remained significant to this day. Charles Dickens visited the area 2 months after Royal Charter was wrecked and he based his book The Uncommercial Traveller on the events. The storm itself is still referred to as the Royal Charter Storm, even though many more ships were sunk by this terrible storm. Modern weather forecasting began shortly after this storm and gale warnings are now used to prevent such tragedies occurring again.

Royal Charter (ship). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164894

Royal Charter

The loss of the gold was seen by some as being just as upsetting as the loss of lives, and local legend tells of district farmers who became suddenly rich. Numerous attempts have been made to salvage the wreck and it is still a favourite site for divers.

A monument to those who lost their lives now stands in the town of Moelfre, Anglesey and the names of the 28 local men who risked their lives in the rescue attempt are recorded in a nearby church at Llanallgo.

SLQ holds many books on this fascinating ship if you are keen to know more. There are also many websites about the Royal Charter, with information about the storm that wrecked the ship and modern weather forecasting, diving on the wreck, or visiting the memorial in Moelfre. You can also read about how the local people remembered the 150th anniversary of the sinking, in October 2009.

Katy Roberts – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland


Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

View our comments policy.
Your email address will not be published.


SLQ’s Conservation Unit comes to the rescue

Guest blogger: Geoff Wharton, historian

On 27 May 2013, Her Excellency Mrs Annemieke Ruigrok, the Netherlands Ambassador to Australia, visited the Mapoon community on Western Cape York Peninsula to participate in the official opening of the First Contact Memorial – a joint project of the Netherlands Parliament, the Queensland Government and the Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council. (See Queensland Memory enewsletter, July 2013) As part of the celebrations on 27 May, the Ambassador presented to the Mapoon Cultural Keeping Place a rare book about early Dutch expeditions to Australia in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is by J.E. Heeres and entitled “The part borne by the Dutch in the discovery of Australia 1606-1765″, published in 1899.

Librarian Ruth Gardiner with historian Geoff Wharton

Librarian Ruth Gardiner with historian Geoff Wharton

I was project manager for the First Contact Memorial and sought the assistance of the State Library of Queensland to create a permanent archival case to safely store the 114 year old book. Queensland Memory Executive Manager, Louise Denoon and Librarian, Ruth Gardiner kindly agreed to assist the Mapoon community and arranged for State Library’s conservation staff to undertake the work.

I was delighted with the magnificent conservation case, which I will be returning to the Mapoon community during my next visit to the far north.

Researching Indigenous Languages at AIATSIS

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

I was fortunate to spend a week researching the collections at AIATSIS for material relating to Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. AIATSIS is located in Canberra and is the peak collecting institution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies, with a particular attention on cultures, languages, histories and lifestyles.

AIATSIS Library Collections

AIATSIS Library Collections

Their collections include historical and original items as well as published materials and audio-visual articles pertaining to a broad range of topics including language, culture, history and genealogy.  The collections are physically housed in Canberra at AIATSIS; however there are also on-line exhibitions and other documents available for personal and academic research. Mura is the online catalogue for AIATSIS Collections and enables researchers to identify relevant materials prior to visiting AIATSIS.

Selection of Language Texts at AIATSIS

Selection of Language Texts at AIATSIS

The focus of the week was identifying and analysing items in the collections that included Queensland Indigenous languages content; AIATSIS holds extensive materials so I concentrated my energies on primary source materials such as manuscripts and historical documents. Most of this linguistic content has been deposited at AIATSIS by linguists, anthropologists, academics and other researchers. AIATSIS then acts as a repository and manages this collection of print, audio and visual materials which has set guidelines and conditions for access and copying as determined by the depositor.

Comparative words for numbers

Comparative words for numbers.

In addition to print materials, the Audiovisual Archive holds over 45,000 hours of sound recordings dating from 1898. These are accompanied by field notes and transcriptions as well as Finding Aids to assist research. Additionally, some material has been digitised for preservation as well as increased access by community members. AIATSIS has a proactive policy of returning materials to the community through its’ Return of Material to Indigenous Communities (ROMTIC) initiative.

Biri Wordlist

Biri Wordlist

I spent most of my time poring through the manuscripts held in the Library and noting wordlists and vocabularies gather from across Queensland; specifically I was looking for language material not held in State Library of Queensland Collections. This included the areas of Central Queensland and North Queensland where due to frontier violence and forced removals extensive language knowledge was lost and not recorded. The following extract from Dennis Bannister’s work represents a comparative vocabulary of everyday words from languages of the Capricorn region, including Gangulu, Yuwibara and Mamburra.

Extract from Bannister Queensland Wordlists

Extract from Bannister Queensland Wordlists

The Bannister Papers are well-known and a rich source of language for community language workers as he has collated material documented from 1838-1975 in Queensland. Another treasure trove is the Arthur Capell Papers which consists of 22 archival boxes of linguistic notes, wordlists, grammar and other documentation from Capell who was an academic, linguist and anthropologist! The week at AIATSIS was very productive and provided an opportunity to explore collections with a strong emphasis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Screenshot of AIATSIS Website

Screenshot of AIATSIS Website

Thanks to staff at AIATSIS for their assistance; especially Eleanor and her team in the Library.

This research activity was made possible through the State Library of Queensland’s Indigenous Leadership Grant.

Des Crump – Indigenous Languages Researcher, State Library of Queensland


Who was Tarragindi Tasserone?

Tarragindi Tasserone. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 51147

Tarragindi Tasserone

I’d always assumed Tarragindi was an Aboriginal name. However, the suburb was named after a South Sea Islander, Tarragindi Tasserone, originally from the Loyalty Islands. The story goes that he was kidnapped from there sometime in the late 19th century, escaped from his plantation, was taken in by Alfred Foote who found him sitting on the roadside. He worked for, and was a much-loved member of, the Foote family in Ipswich for about twenty-five years. He also worked, land clearing, for a time, for Mr and Mrs W.D. Grimes (maiden name Cribb) who were building a house and when they were discussing what to call the house Tarragindi suggested they call it, ‘Tarragindi’. The Footes, the Grimes and Tarra (as he was affectionately known) were all Salvation Army.

Foote family on holidays at Land's End, Southport, Queensland. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg  196052

Foote family on holidays at Land's End, Southport, Queensland

The above photograph shows Tarragindi, in the back row, third from the end, at a Foote family gathering at Land’s End, Southport, in 1905. According to oral history from Foote grand-daughters, during these holidays at Southport Tarra would row the family across to Main Beach. They remembered that he always had jelly beans in his pocket to give to the children who he would drive to school in a horse-drawn vehicle pulled by a horse called Charlie.

Tarra was one of the earliest members of the Army in Ipswich and over the years was a drummer, a door keeper and, for a long time, a standard bearer. Such was his prominence that his death, aged 63, on the 13th January, 1913, was covered in two separate articles by the Queensland Times. ‘Night after night he was seen bearing the flag at the head of the army as the soldiers marched along the streets of the city…’ Tarragindi is buried in the Ipswich General Cemetery along with members of the Foote and Cribb families. His final resting place is marked with a tombstone and is site 29 in the Ipswich Cemetery, Heritage Trail, booklet.

Tarragindi’s tombstone. Ipswich General Cemetery. Image courtesy of Ipswich City Council

Tarragindi’s tombstone. Ipswich General Cemetery. Image courtesy of Ipswich City Council

Kathleen Mary Fallon – John Oxley Library Fellow, State Library of Queensland

Kathleen Mary Fallon and Matthew Nagas are the 2013 recipients of the John Oxley Library Fellowship, SLQ. Their project is a documentation of Australian South Sea Islanders sites of significance from Tweed to the Torres Strait. Kathleen has, recently, been concentrating on the Brisbane/Ipswich area. There is a plethora of sites all the way up the coast which will be documented for the project.

Researching Languages at the State Library of NSW

Researcher at Work (SLNSW Instagram)

Researcher at Work (SLNSW Instagram)

In October, I was fortunate to spend a week researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages at the State Library of New South Wales. I was particularly interested in identifying any items relating to the pre-1859 colonial period when Moreton Bay was administered through Sydney.

Historical documents at SLNSW

Historical documents at SLNSW

SLNSW has a current digitisation project Rediscovering Indigenous Languages which aims to digitise items in the collections relating to Indigenous languages. This three-year project is supported by Rio Tinto and has undertaken a research phase with Michael Walsh from University of Sydney/AIATSIS exploring the collections and identifying language materials for digitisation. The second phase will involve the newly established Indigenous Unit engaging communities in consultation to explore how communities can access and use the material. This project was showcased at the recent Hidden Gems Symposium and collecting institutions and communities alike are looking forward to seeing the outcomes of this work.

Murray Island Dialect

Murray Island Dialect

SLNSW collections include records from explorers, surveyors, missionaries, government officials and pastoralists who had a range of interactions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; many of these encounters resulted in the documentation of language. The above image is from an item ‘Vocabulary of Murray Island Dialect‘, an undated and anonymous notebook which records the language of Murray Islanders in 2 alphabetical volumes [A-M and N-Z]. This represents an early attempt to document Meriam Mir language in a dictionary format.

Warkon Tribal Dialects

Warkon Tribal Dialects

Harriet Barlow lived on Warkon Station in South-West Queensland from 1858-1872; during this time she recorded words from the Aboriginal people who lived and worked on Warkon as well as neighbouring stations. The end result was a document called ‘The Warkon Tribal Dialects … Vocabulary of Aboriginal Dialects of Queensland‘ which includes words from 8 different languages. The State Library of Queensland holds Barlow’s original 1865 Manuscript, while the SLNSW materials include additional notes from L R Schwennesen.

Notes section from Warkon Tribal Dialects

Notes section from Warkon Tribal Dialects

Oswald Brierly was a Naval Architect and Marine Artist who travelled on the HMS Rattlesnake when it undertook a marine survey of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea from 1857-1863.  During October 1848 as the HMS Rattlesnake charted the waters off Cape York, Brierly documented words from Cape York Aboriginal groups including Kokobera and Kaurareg. Again, this primary source material is a rich treasure trove for community language workers.

Extract from Oswald Brierly's Diary (1849)

Extract from Oswald Brierly's Diary (1849)

One of the more intriguing items in the collection was a letter written to W E Parry-Okenden, Commissioner for Police in 1899. It is written by an Aboriginal Women from Cape Bedford in Guugu Yimidhirr at the request of W E Roth who was the Northern Protector of Aborigines at the time. The purpose of the letter was to highlight the work of the Mission in educating the local Guugu Yimidhirr people of the Cooktown region.

Extract from Guugu Yimidhirr letter (1899)

Extract from Guugu Yimidhirr letter (1899)

The week was very rewarding and turned up a diverse range of historical materials relating to Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. I was able to collate several wordlists that will be added to the State Library of Queensland Indigenous Languages Project in the near future. The assistance of Michael Walsh and Ronald Briggs (Indigenous Services Librarian) was greatly appreciated and helped focus my research on relevant items within the SLNSW collections.

This research activity was made possible through the State Library of Queensland’s Indigenous Leadership Grant.

Des Crump - Indigenous Languages Researcher, State Library of Queensland


Opening of the Fitzroy Bridge, Rockhampton (1952)

Fitzroy Bridge in Rockhampton built in 1952. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image API-074-0001-0011

Fitzroy Bridge in Rockhampton built in 1952

On September 27, 1952, the citizens of Rockhampton celebrated the opening of the new Fitzroy Bridge. The locally born Premier of Queensland, Vince Gair, was given the honour of cutting the ribbon in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000. Also in attendance were about 60 people who had attended the opening of the original Fitzroy Bridge in 1881.

Before the official ceremony, strict precautions were taken to ensure the premier would be the first to open the bridge, thus avoiding the mishap that had occurred during the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 20 years earlier when an intruder cut the ribbons before the NSW premier had the chance.

Fitzroy Bridge Rockhampton ca. 1954. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Neg 33385

Fitzroy Bridge Rockhampton ca. 1954

During the ceremony, Rockhampton Mayor Rex Pilbeam paid his respects to the outgoing Fitzroy Bridge: “Our old friend, now coming to the end of a long and honourable career.” Sadly it was not long before the new bridge had its first traffic accident. Within three hours of its being opened to traffic, a 13-year-old girl was struck by a car while crossing from one footpath to the other. Fortunately her injuries were not life-threatening.

Despite the accident, opening celebrations continued into the evening. The river was aglow with 700 lights illuminating the bridge, and coloured lights were strung around three trees in front of the Town Hall. Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin newspaper reported: “There was a band parade through the streets and a grand display of fireworks from a barge in the river.” A dance was held on the bridge, though the tightly packed crowds meant it was slow to get under way. Once conditions improved, the dance band started playing and the festivities continued until almost midnight.

Fitzroy Bridge spanning the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton 2007. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 7483-0001-0046

Fitzroy Bridge spanning the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton 2007

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

SLNSW Hidden Gems Symposium

The State Library of New South Wales hosted the recent Hidden Gems Symposium that explored the role of libraries and archives in cultural revitalisation.

Hidden Gems: The role of Libraries and Archives in Cultural Revitalisation.

This event brought together a range of national and international participants who shared their work in the documentation and archival of Indigenous languages and cultures. Michael Walsh, Senior Research Fellow, AIATSIS Centre for Australian Languages is serving as linguistic consultant for the State Library of New South Wales Re-discovering Indigenous Languages project and as opening keynote speaker set the scene for the Symposium. Rio Tinto has funded a three-year project to locate and digitise Indigenous language materials housed in the SLNSW collections. Michael has been tasked with finding these ‘hidden gems’ in the collections as part of the project’s first (research) phase.

Original materials in SLNSW collections with language content.

This initial research phase has uncovered some amazing items, many of which were previously unknown to linguists and researchers. Michael shared several examples, including the papers of Robert Brown (1773-1858) who had documented Murray Island language (1801), Nyungar language (1802) and Yolngu language (1803); these represent some of the earliest known records of languages from Northern Australia. The second (digitisation) phase is currently underway and involves taking material out to communities for consultation. When completed this project will make available an extensive range of materials from languages across Australia – while the majority will be from NSW, there is much anticipation around the possibility of discovering language material from Colonial Queensland.

Historical wordlist uncovered as part of the Re-discovering Indigenous Languages project.

Other speakers included:

  • Daryl Baldwin of Miami University, who – with the help of his wife Karen – revived the language of the Myaamia people by teaching his children and members of the local community;
  • Raymond Kelly, Community Language Worker who has drawn on sound files deposited with AIATSIS in the 1960s to assist with the repatriation of traditional language to the Gurri people of NSW;
  • Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide;
  • Paul Diamond, Curator, Māori and Ariana Tikao (Research Librarian, Māori) at the National Library of New Zealand; and
  • Dr Sarah McQuade, Director of Community, Learning and Discovery at the State Library of Western Australia and Project Manager for the NSLA Indigenous Group.

These presentations explored the involvement of libraries and other collecting institutions in supporting community language and cultural revival. International presenters from the United States and New Zealand gave an insight into how organisations and individuals are working with communities. State Library of Queensland gave a presentation on the re-purposing of items within the collections; this is premised on increased accessibility and discoverability of collections to enable communities to create new knowledge about their languages.

Historical languages map of NSW.

The Symposium was a great opportunity for networking with others working in the field with some insightful discussions around intellectual property and the digital repatriation of materials to communities. State Library of Queensland will be watching the Re-discovering Indigenous Languages project with interest and look forward to seeing more ‘hidden gems’ uncovered.

Des Crump - Indigenous Languages Researcher, State Library of Queensland

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

View our comments policy.
Your email address will not be published.