Brisbane too warm for intellect

Media release: Friday, 14 March 2014

Brisbane never had a chance of becoming the capital city of Australia because of its warm climate, says Greg Cope from the National Archives' Brisbane office, who has been delving into Australia's nation-building records in preparation for two public talks next week.

'When the colonies were arguing about the site of the proposed capital, there was a strong, if mistaken, view that colder climates resulted in better intellect,' he said. 

He also discovered that, when Brisbane residents thronged into the streets to celebrate the new Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901, some of them may have had a change of heart since voting in the referendum about Federation some time earlier.

'The results of the Queensland referendum in 1899 were close,' said Greg. 'It could have gone either way, making the colony of Queensland for or against Federation.

'While nation building never ends, you can see its beginnings long before Federation. Colonial governments had a mission to open up the land at all odds. They tried to outdo each other with palatial public buildings and ornate parliament houses. Such efforts drove Queensland to the brink of bankruptcy and it was only the gold rush that saved us.'

In researching the grand schemes, events and plans that helped build our nation, Greg found some other interesting links to Queensland.

'While many of the major projects such as the trans-Australia railway, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the Sydney Harbour bridge were in other states, Queensland's contribution was extremely significant,' said Greg.

'For example John Bradfield, the engineer who designed the widely-recognised Sydney Harbour bridge, was a Queenslander, born here in 1867. Before the official opening of the Sydney bridge, he was asked by the Queensland government to design a bridge for Brisbane. His subsequent design of the Story Bridge holds a record as the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.

'And Queenslanders also played a major role in building the Snowy Mountains Scheme after World War II. A third of the workforce on the scheme were Australian-born and a large percentage of those were from Queensland.'

Greg will expand on the stories behind the dreams, plans and schemes that helped create Australia next Wednesday 19 March at 10am and again on Friday 21 March at 2pm. A reference officer will be on hand to help researchers find their topic of interest. The talk will be held at the National Archives of Australia, 16 Corporate Drive, Cannon Hill, Brisbane.

Contact information

  • Greg Cope (Director, Queensland State Office)
    t (07) 3249 4224 m 0400 753 854
  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014