June 6 is annually celebrated in Australia as Queensland Day, the birthday of Queensland, the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world’s sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 715,309 square miles 1,852,642 square kilometers). Queensland Day marks the anniversary of the date in 1859 when Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent to separate Queensland from the Colony of New South Wales.
In the stamp-issuer profile of Queensland previously published on A Stamp A Day, the history of the area was covered from its aboriginal origins until January 1, 1901, when it became a state in the federal Commonwealth of Australia. Today’s article provides a bit more information on the actual separation from New South Wales, a brief post-colonial history and as an overview of the present-day state.
As May 15, 2018, Queensland had a population of 5,000,000, concentrated along the coast and particularly in the state’s South East. The capital and largest city in the state is Brisbane, a coastal city 60 miles (100 kilometers) by road north of the New South Wales border. It is Australia’s third-largest city. Often referred to as the “Sunshine State”, Queensland is home to 10 of Australia’s 30 largest cities and is the nation’s third-largest economy. Tourism in the state, fueled largely by its warm tropical climate, is a major industry.
Queensland borders the Torres Strait to the north, with Boigu Island off the coast of New Guinea representing the absolute northern extreme of its territory. The triangular Cape York Peninsula, which points toward New Guinea, is the northernmost part of the state’s mainland. West of the peninsula’s tip, northern Queensland is bordered by the Gulf of Carpentaria, while the Coral Sea, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, borders Queensland to the east. To the west, Queensland is bordered by the Northern Territory, at the 138°E longitude, and to the southwest by the northeastern corner of South Australia. In the south, there are three sections that constitute its border: the watershed from Point Danger to the Dumaresq River; the river section involving the Dumaresq, the Macintyre and the Barwon; and 29°S latitude (including some minor historical encroachments below the 29th parallel) over to the South Australian border.
Queensland has many areas of natural beauty, including the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, home to some of the state’s most popular beaches; the Bunya Mountains and the Great Dividing Range, with numerous lookouts, waterfalls and picnic areas; Carnarvon Gorge; Whitsunday Islands; and Hinchinbrook Island. The state contains six World Heritage-listed preservation areas: Australian Fossil Mammal Sites at Riversleigh in the Gulf Country, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Fraser Island, Great Barrier Reef, Lamington National Park and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
Queensland was first inhabited by Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. The first European to land in Queensland (and Australia) was Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606, who explored the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula near present-day Weipa. In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the east coast of Australia for the Kingdom of Great Britain. The colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788 by Governor Arthur Phillip at Sydney; New South Wales at that time included all of what is now Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. European settlement of Queensland began in 1824 when Lieutenant Henry Miller, commanding a detachment of the 40th Regiment of Foot, founded a convict outpost at Redcliffe. The settlement was transferred to the north bank of the Brisbane River the following year and continued to operate as a penal establishment until 1842, when the remaining convicts were withdrawn and the district opened to free settlement. By then squatters had already established themselves on the Darling Downs, far distant from the seat of the New South Wales government in Sydney. Agitation soon commenced for the creation of a separate northern colony which could look after local interests, with the clamor being no less apparent in the fledgling township of Brisbane.
In 1847, the Port of Maryborough was opened as a wool port. The first immigrant ship to arrive in Moreton Bay was the Artemisia in 1848. Moves towards statehood began with a public meeting in 1851 to consider separation of Queensland from the Colony of New South Wales. In 1850, the British Parliament had passed the Australian Colonies Government Act which enabled the creation of new Australian colonies with a similar form of government as New South Wales. This inspired the representative for Moreton Bay in the New South Wales Legislative Council — Reverend John Dunmore Lang — to hold eight additional meetings to gain further support for separation. He was, in fact, preaching to the converted as the inhabitants of the northern district had been increasingly neglected by the government in Sydney.
Yet while they could reach consensus on the need for separation, whether a new colony would be free or unfree became a divisive issue. Lang and the majority of townspeople supporters favored free immigration. The powerful squatting fraternity who were heavily reliant on cheap labor advocated a renewal of convict transportation. While urban growth in Brisbane and Ipswich finally dictated for the former, there was still disagreement over where a new capital should be located. Brisbane, Cleveland, Gayndah, Gladstone, Ipswich, and Rockhampton were all potential candidates favored by parochial interests. Brisbane eventually emerged victorious, and the reality of a new colony moved a step closer in 1856 when the British Government agreed that the time was ripe to create a new northern colony.
Among other things there was uncertainty over the location of a southern border. Lang was among many others who believed that the Northern Rivers should become part of a northern colony. The New South Wales Government disagreed. Queen Victoria was approached to consider establishing a separate colony based at Moreton Bay. The Queen gave her approval and signed the Letters Patent on June 6, 1859, at Osborne House. The border was fixed at 28 degrees south. On the same day an Order-in-Council gave Queensland its own Constitution. Queensland became a self-governing colony with its own Governor, a nominated Legislative Council and an elected Legislative Assembly.
The following month unofficial news was received that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, had appointed Sir George Bowen to be the colony’s first Governor of Queensland. Bowen had recently served as Britain’s Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands near Greece, and was to have a distinguished career in the Colonial Office. A dispatch from the Secretary of State in London on October 11, 1859, stated that “no separation is to take place until the Letters Patent have been published in New South Wales and Queensland.” While both the Letters Patent and the Order-in-Council appointing Bowen as Governor were duly published in the New South Wales Government Gazette on November 29, 1859, separation could not be accomplished until the Letters Patent had also been published in Queensland. As Governor Bowen was due to arrive on December 6, 1859, with the Letters Patent formally proclaiming the new colony, a reception committee was organized as early as September to arrange the celebrations.
Inclement weather intervened meaning Governor Bowen did not arrive until the evening of December 9. The following day, Governor and Lady Bowen were welcomed by an estimated crowd of 4,000 exultant colonists when they stepped ashore at the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane. They were then conveyed by carriage to the temporary Government House, a building which now serves as the deanery of St John’s Cathedral. After ascending to the balcony, the resident Supreme Court Judge, Justice Alfred Lutwyche administered Governor Bowen’s oath, after which the Queen’s Commission was read to the assembled throng by the newly appointed Colonial Secretary, Robert Herbert. The formalities concluded with the proclamation of the Letters Patent being read by Governor Bowen’s acting private secretary, Abram Moriarty, who was to become the new colony’s first civil servant after being appointed Under Colonial Secretary on December 15.
The Letters Patent were published in the inaugural issue of the Queensland Government Gazette on December 10, 1859, and this has given rise to confusion over whether that date should be remembered as Separation Day or Proclamation Day. The former may be preferred, for it was only with the publication of the Letters Patent in Queensland that separation became a legal reality, though it can be equally accepted that this was also an official proclamation of their content.
The Letters Patent was located in the National Archives of the United Kingdom after a long search for the document brought to Brisbane by Governor Bowen in 1859. This search started in the Queensland State Archives, where the covering letter is held in the volumes of Original Despatches from the Secretary of State (Volume 1, pages 1-3). The collection of the Queensland Parliamentary Archives and other collections in the Queensland Parliament were also searched without success. Researchers also looked unsuccessfully in the records of the Executive Council, and those in Government House. At the suggestion of Miss S.J. Webbe, then Clerk to the Executive Council, a search was made in the State Records Office of New South Wales. An opinion was then sought from Doctor Glyn Davis, Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland, who advised on July 20, 1999:
The Letters Patent was issued by Queen Victoria under the provisions of an Imperial Act and was addressed to Sir George Ferguson Bowen (as an individual and not Governor of Queensland). The Letters, amongst other things, established the separate Colony of Queensland and appointed Bowen to be Governor. In other words, the original of the document was Bowen’s Commission and, as such, Bowen was entitled to treat the document as his personal property. This is the situation with all Letters Patent – they are the property of the persons to whom they are addressed. This is undoubtedly what occurred and, if the document exists today, it is most likely contained in Bowen’s papers. An authenticated copy of the Letters Patent was forwarded, for publication purposes, to Queensland by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, London, on 12 August 1859.
The Bowen family presented to Queensland Bowen’s ‘Instructions’ (37 handwritten pages), now held at Government House in Brisbane. A copy is in the collection of the Queensland State Archives. The original Letters Patent sent to the Governor has not been located. The four-page published version of the Letters Patent 6 June 1859 appeared in the first Queensland Government Gazette on December 10, 1859.
On December 10, 1859, Bowen also appointed an Executive Council to operate as a provisional government until a parliament had been elected. Under the terms of separation, however, it was left for Sir William Denison, Governor of New South Wales, to appoint 11 members to the first Queensland Legislative Council in May 1860 for a term of five years. Bowen was to appoint their successors for life, and from the outset the nominee character of the Upper House proved highly unpopular. Attempts to amend the Constitution to make the Upper House elected were to continue until the Legislative Council was finally abolished in 1922.
Not so the Queensland Legislative Assembly, where the 26 elected members sat for the first time on May 22, 1860. In Queensland’s first parliament there was little evidence of the party politics which would only begin to emerge when the second elections were held in 1863. Instead, they acted with a considerable degree of unanimity to pass legislation which set Queensland on its future course. The agenda largely revolved around land and immigration, primary and secondary education, extension of voting rights, state aid to religion, the census, transport, primary industry and the provision of labor.
On January 1, 1901, Australia was federated, following a proclamation by Queen Victoria. At this time Queensland had a population of half a million people. Brisbane was proclaimed a city in 1902. In 1905, women voted in state elections for the first time. In 1908, Witches Falls, now part of Tamborine National Park on Tamborine Mountain was declared the first national park in Queensland. The University of Queensland was established in 1909. In 1911, The first alternative treatments for polio were pioneered in Queensland and remain in use across the world today. The 1912 Brisbane General Strike lasted for five weeks.
World War I had a major impact on Queensland. The United Kingdom declared war against Germany on August 4, 1914. As Australia’s new constitution was silent on the declaration of war, on August 20, Queensland made an independent proclamation of war between His Majesty the King (George V) and the German Emperor (Wilhelm II). Later, Queensland made further independent proclamations of war against Austria and Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Initially in 1914, the war in Europe did not impact greatly on life in Queensland, although the existing militia were deployed in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force attack on German New Guinea.
The outbreak of war created a heightened sense of patriotism; the call for Queenslanders to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force met its initial quota of 2500 men by September 1914. With so many willing to enlist, the army could insist of a high standard of physical fitness. However, the only women accepted by the army were single women nurses. Women doctors were not accepted by the army, arguing they could not stand the conditions (despite nurses enduring the same conditions) and, perhaps more tellingly, that male doctors would be unwilling to work with them. This led to a number of Queensland women finding unofficial ways to serve the war effort. There was also a heightened suspicion of Germans with any known German military reservists being immediately arrested and detained.
On January 10, 1916, Canon David John Garland was appointed the honorary secretary of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland (ADCCQ) at a public meeting which endorsed April 25 as be the date promoted as Anzac Day in 1916 and ever after. Devoted to the cause of a non-denominational commemoration that could be attended by the whole of Australian society, Garland worked amicably across all denominational divides, creating the framework for Anzac Day commemorative services. Garland is specifically credited with initiating the Anzac Day march, the wreath-laying ceremonies at memorials and the special church services, the two minutes silence, and the luncheon for returned soldiers. Garland intended the silence was used in lieu of a prayer to allow the Anzac Day service to be universally attended, allowing attendees to make a silent prayer or remembrance in accordance with their own beliefs. He particularly feared that the universality of the ceremony would fall victim to religious sectarian disputes.
Over 58,000 Queenslanders fought in World War I and over 10,000 of them died.
In 1918, Queensland’s largest recorded earthquake occurred near Rockhampton with a magnitude of six. Australia’s first major airline, Qantas, was founded in 1920 to serve outback Queensland. That year also saw Matthew Nathan become Governor after which he actively promote British migration to Queensland. The Mount Mulligan mine disaster killed 75 workers in 1921. In 1922, the Queensland Legislative Council was abolished, making Queensland the only Australian state (to this day) without a bicameral legislature. In 1927, the Duke and Duchess of York toured Queensland. They were here to open Parliament House in Canberra but spent time in southern Queensland to meet and greet people.
In 1928, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia makes first flight, departing from Cloncurry. Also, in 1928, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed the Southern Cross in Brisbane, completing the first trans-Pacific flight. Smith was a native Queenslander, having been born on February 9, 1897, in Hamilton, Brisbane. He also made the first non-stop crossing of the Australian mainland, the first flights between Australia and New Zealand, the first eastward Pacific crossing from Australia to the United States as well as making a flight from Australia to London which set a new record of 10.5 days. On November 8, 1935, Smith and co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge were flying the Lady Southern Cross when they disappeared over the Andaman Sea west of Thailand. Their bodies were never recovered. Eighteen months later, Burmese fishermen found an undercarriage leg and wheel (with its tire still inflated) which had been washed ashore at Aye Island in the Gulf of Martaban, 2 miles (3 km) off the southeast coastline of Burma. Lockheed confirmed the undercarriage leg to be from the Lady Southern Cross.
In 1935, 101 cane toads were deliberately introduced to Queensland from Hawaii in a poorly-thought-out and unsuccessful attempt to reduce the number of French’s cane and greyback cane beetles that were destroying the roots of sugar cane plants which are integral to Queensland’s economy. They quickly bred to 3,000, released into areas around Cairns, Innisfail and Gordonvale and have since spread to many parts of Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
In late 1936, a lightning strike hit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, destroying the distillery without any loss of life. It was rebuilt and is currently operating on the same site today.
During World War II, many Queenslanders volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. Following the outbreak of war with Japan, Queensland soon became a virtual frontline, as fears of invasion grew. Several cities and places in Northern Queensland were bombed by the Japanese during their air attacks on Australia. These included Horn Island, Townsville and Mossman.
There was a massive buildup of Australian and United States forces in the state, and the Allied Supreme Commander in the South West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur, established his headquarters in Brisbane. Facilities were assigned or constructed to accommodate and train these forces such as Camp Cable south of Brisbane. Tens of thousands of Queenslanders were conscripted into Militia (reserve) units.
On May 14, 1943, the Australian hospital ship Centaur was sunk off North Stradbroke Island, by a torpedo from a Japanese Navy submarine. Later in the war, the 3rd Division, a Militia unit made of predominantly Queensland personnel, took part in the Bougainville campaign.
The 1948 Queensland Railway strike was a nine-week strike over the wages of railway workshop and depot workers. In 1952, Queensland’s only whaling station opened at Tangalooma and closed a decade later. The Shearers’ strike of 1956 saw Queensland shearers off work between January and October in a dispute over wages. Henry Abel Smith became Governor in 1958. In 1962, the first commercial production of oil in Queensland and Australia began at Moonie, as does a program of drum lines to reduce shark attacks at beaches. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was elected as Premier in 1968. He remained in that role for 19 years. In 1969, the first natural gas pipeline in Queensland and Australia, connecting the Roma gasfields to Brisbane, became operational.
Daylight Saving was introduced to Queensland in 1971 only to be abandoned the following year. The Box Flat Mine explosion took the lives of 18 men in 1972. Two years later, the 1974 Brisbane flood caused widespread damage. In 1976, sand mining on Fraser Island is halted. The humid climate — regulated by the availability of air conditioning — saw Queensland become a more accommodating place to work and live for Australian migrants. To this day, it is one of Australia’s economic powerhouses and the third-most populous state in the country.
Brisbane hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and during the same year Eddie Mabo began action in the High Court to claim ownership of land in the Torres Strait on behalf of the indigenous inhabitants, following the Queensland Amendment Act, which was passed that year. In 1985, the Queensland government tried to end proceedings in the High Court by passing the Queensland Coast Islands Declaratory Act 1985, which claimed that Queensland had total control of the Torres Strait Islands after they had been annexed in 1879. This act was held as contrary to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 by the High Court in 1988. The well known Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) decision was handed down in 1992, which recognized native title.
In 1987, the Brisbane Bears Australian rules football team joined the Victorian Football League (VFL) — predecessor to the Australian Football League (AFL) — as the second team outside Victoria. It was merged with Fitzroy to become the Brisbane Lions in 1997. Brisbane hosted games of the first ever Rugby World Cup in 1987. Expo ’88 held in Brisbane in 1988 to celebrate the Bicentenary of the First fleet founding the colony of Australia. The event was very successful and helped promote Brisbane and Queensland on the world stage. Also that year, the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast-Tweed Giants rugby league teams were founded, followed by the South Queensland Crushers and North Queensland Cowboys in 1995. In 1989, Queensland commenced a three-year trial of Daylight Saving.
In 2009, Queensland celebrated Q150, its 150th anniversary as an independent colony and state. The Queensland government and other Queensland organizations commemorated the occasion with many events and publications, including the announcement of the top 150 icons of Queensland by the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, and the creation of monuments at significant survey points in Queensland’s history to honor the many early explorer/surveyors who mapped the state.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology 2010 was Queensland’s wettest year on record. At the end of 2010 and into the next year the state experienced widespread floods. Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley experienced severe flash flooding in January. In February 2011, Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast in February, causing more damage than Cyclone Larry.
In April 2018, the City of Gold Coast hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXI Commonwealth Games and commonly known as Gold Coast 2018. Held between April 4 and 15, it was the fifth time Australia had hosted the Commonwealth Games, the second time for the state of Queensland and the first for Gold Coast. It was first time a major multi-sport event achieved gender equality by having an equal number of events for males and female athletes.
More than 4,400 athletes including 300 para-athletes from 71 Commonwealth Games Associations took part in the event. The Gambia which withdrew its membership from the Commonwealth of Nations and Commonwealth Games Federation in 2013, was readmitted on March 31, 2018, and participated in the Games. With 275 sets of medals, the games featured 19 Commonwealth sports, including beach volleyball, para triathlon and women’s rugby sevens. These sporting events took place at 14 venues in the host city, two venues in Brisbane and one venue each in Cairns and Townsville.
The host nation Australia topped the medal table for the fourth time in the past five Commonwealth Games, winning the most golds (80) and most medals overall (198). England and India finished second and third respectively. Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, British Virgin Islands and Dominica each won their first Commonwealth Games medals.
With the celebrations of Queensland Day on June 6, many bands and choirs in the state perform the song “The Sunshine State” by prolific Queensland composer Clyde Collins. This was written for the centenary of Queensland in 1959. Songwriter, harmonicist and clarinettist Horrie Dargie (1917-1999) recorded the song in 1959 with the Horrie Dargie Quintet. The quintet’s farewell concert in Sydney Town Hall before their tour of England in 1952 became Australia’s first Gold Record, selling 75,000 copies.
Since 2001, the Queensland Greats Awards have been presented as part of Queensland Day celebrations. These awards recognize outstanding Queenslanders for their lifetime of dedication and contribution to the development of the state and their role in strengthening and shaping the community. A posthumous category was added in 2015 and from 2016, an institution has been acknowledged annually.
Scott #90 was released by Queensland in 1890, a 1-penny stamp which the Scott catalogue calls orange red in color and Stanley Gibbons terms vermilion-red, utilizing the familiar left-facing portrait of Queen Victoria. This issue was perforated by a new vertical comb machine, gauging about 12¾ x 12¾. An imperforate variety exists, collected in pairs as it can be forged by cutting off the perforations.