Last week I was back in Brisbane. Family from Melbourne and Sydney joined our Brisbane family to watch the Hawthorn vs Brisbane Lions football game at the Gabba. After an enjoyable family weekend, I stayed on for a few days to do some research. That plan was somewhat hijacked when my brand new laptop had a major failure. I had to use a spreadsheet on a tablet while I was working in the archives. It was a slow and fiddly way to work. Tablets are great, but not for working with spreadsheets.
I was going to blog about my stay, but I was about to copy a draft of this post from my computer to my blog when my laptop failed and I couldn’t access the document. These computer problems made me rather grumpy for a couple of days but I decided to stop dwelling on my first world problems and from then on I enjoyed my visit.
I am back in Sydney now and have decided to share with you the posts I was planning to publish last week. In a happy coincidence I have found out it is Queensland Week. Queensland Week celebrates the separation of Queensland from New South Wales on 6th June 1859. So now I have a good pretext for publishing my Queensland posts this week.
During our football weekend we stayed at Kangaroo Point which is walking distance to the Gabba. One of the families I have been researching lived in this area in the late nineteenth century but I knew that this is one of the most heavily developed areas of Brisbane so I was not expecting to find any of the buildings connected with this family.
I like walking the streets trodden in the past by the people I am researching. Even if there have been a lot of changes one can still gain a sense of the topography and how the places they frequented related to each other. Sometimes one can strike it lucky and find a building that has survived a century of urban redevelopment. On a morning walk we found such a place. The schools my family had attended had been demolished, but the church next to these schools has survived.
Saint Mary’s Anglican Church in Kangaroo Point is a lovely rough stone and timber construction founded in 1872. Kangaroo Point used to host a vibrant ship building industry. The historic connections to the maritime industry are remembered by a memorial in the grounds of the church to those who served in the Queensland colonial naval force and the Queensland members of the Australian navy.
I wandered to the front of the church and found a memorial to the World War I chaplain, Maitland Woods. He was the rector of the parish before the War. Maitland Woods served in Gallipoli and the Middle East. I am interested in exploring the beliefs of those Australian soldiers serving in the Biblical places during the Great War as they recorded their experiences in their diaries and letters. Maitland Woods gave lectures about places of Biblical significance to Australian soldiers. Did the attendance of the soldiers signify belief or something as simple as a welcome relief from the monotony of army life? The answers to questions like these are never simple.
A dedicated group of Brisbane residents formed the Canon Garland Memorial Society several years ago and have been raising money to construct a memorial to another World War I padre, David John Garland. A month ago it was officially opened. There it was, just outside the fence of the church of his friend, Maitland Woods.
This memorial recognises Garland’s important role in establishing Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand. He was not the first person to propose such a day, but as I have written in other posts here and here, he was persistent and persuasive in reaching out to governments throughout the Antipodes urging for the adoption of Anzac Day as an official day of remembrance.
We left the church and the memorials and walked down the path along the small park where we found plaques recording the educational history of Kangaroo Point. The schools and TAFE which had been located on the site were long gone, but at least there was some effort to remember the former uses of the site.
Saint Mary’s Church and the park are above tall cliffs. Nearby is a steep set of stairs to a path that runs along the Brisbane River. The steps and riverside path are favoured by people who do intense public fitness sessions and the cliffs are enjoyed by abseilers. However, there is room for all and we had a nice walk along the river.
Kangaroo Point is heavily developed and hosts the Story Bridge which is a major entry point to Brisbane’s CBD. Transport has been an important aspect of the function of this place historically. For many years Yungaba Immigration Centre at Kangaroo Point was the first place in Australia where thousands of immigrants rested after their arduous journeys. It was also the place where Queensland’s Pacific Islander people were gathered before being sent back as a result of the White Australia Policy. At various times it has been used as a hospital and it accommodated the workers who built the Story Bridge. We did not walk to the Yungaba Immigration Centre, but I don’t mind. It has now been renovated and sold off as luxury apartments so people can only gawk at it from afar.
The Queensland Places website has a lot of information for anyone wanting to know a bit about the history of a place in Queensland. It notes that in the 2011 census 79% of the residences in Kangaroo Point were flats, units or apartments. It is good that some space has been set aside for the park and walk along the river. It would be a much-needed public space for people living in such a dense area.
I want to learn more about the Aboriginal history of Brisbane but to my disappointment the Queensland Places website does not talk about the Aboriginal history of Kangaroo Point. One of the plaques in the park about Kangaroo Point schools does acknowledge the Aboriginal peoples of the Brisbane area – the Turrbal and the Jagara peoples. The Brisbane area was known as Mianjin. We did not walk the entire stretch of the path along the river so I may have missed reading signs that told more about the lives of Aboriginal people in Kangaroo Point.
There are many roads but we would have not have seen much of what we found if we had been driving. Our wandering around Kangaroo Point demonstrates that walking is the best way of getting to know a place.