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On April 19, 2018, Redlands Library published a book entitled Remembering Them to which I was a contributor. It’s a tribute the Redlanders who volunteered to serve in WWI and it’s still available as a free download at:

https://redl.sdp.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/search/asset/1006314/0

It includes much of what I had written but omits the following piece, which I now include as a reminder of that far away era:

‘We, therefore, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council, have thought fit to issue this Our Royal Proclamation, and We do hereby declare that on and after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and one, the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia shall be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia.’

and so, with these words, Queen Victoria in England issued her Proclamation of Federation of Britain’s former Australian colonies to become the Commonwealth of Australia. 

Although now independent of Westminster’s rule, Australia chose to remain within the British Empire, and retained a direct link to the Monarch through its Governor General and its individual State Governors. Australia also retained its strong ties with Britain both economically and emotionally, and for the majority of Australians coming from British stock, ‘home’ was still Great Britain.

Crowds gather to listen to his Excellency the Governor reading the Queen’s proclamation on Federation from the balcony of the Treasury Building in Queen Street, Brisbane in 1901. (State Library of Qld 2 202947)

After Federation, the following factors were to affect the average Australian’s outlook, and, in some cases, more so the people of the Redlands:

  • In 1901 the Australian Government passed a range of legislation, which marked out the racial boundaries of the nation. The Immigration Restriction Act restricted the entry of non-Europeans by means of a dictation test, which could be given in any language. People suffering physical or mental diseases, convicted criminals, prostitutes and those reliant on charity were also refused entry. The Pacific Islands Labourers Act, 1901, enabled the deportation of over 9,000 Pacific Islander labourers, who had been working in the sugar cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales. In 1903, the Commonwealth Naturalization Act excluded all non-Europeans from becoming naturalized and severely restricted their ability to bring spouses and children to Australia.1
  • Australia was fast becoming a homogenous people. The ideal of the white, egalitarian Australian became increasingly widespread around the time of Federation. Publications such as the Bulletin, and organisations such as the Australian Natives’ Association, fostered this identity, contrasting it with Great Britain’s ‘old world’, class-based society. Yet Australian nationalism and loyalty to the Empire went hand-in-hand.1
  • Ideas about racial superiority dominated the development of policy. Prime Minister Edmund Barton, 1901-03 was to state: ‘The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman. There is a deep-set difference, and we see no prospect and no promise of its ever being effaced. Nothing in their world can put these two races upon an equality.’ Unions had long argued against the influx of immigrant workers, particularly Chinese, fearing an erosion of jobs and pay. The Labor Party won control of the House of Representatives in 1910 after and election run on an explicitly racist platform.1
  • The new Constitution gave the Commonwealth Government power to legislate on matters relating to migration, naturalisation and aliens, but not Aborigines.1
  • The White Australia Policy was born from such policies.

So, with these factors influencing their outlook, just what was life like for the Redlanders in the pre World War 1 era?

The Redlands was then basically a series of isolated fishing, oystering and farming communities connected by the waters of Moreton Bay and on the mainland by a series of dirt tracks encompassing tiny settlements from Wellington Point in the north, to Stradbroke Island in the east, to Mount Cotton in the west, and south to Redland Bay and the Southern Moreton Bay islands. If Australia felt isolated from Europe and the rest of the world then Redlanders must have felt more isolated not just from the rest of the world, but also from the rest of Australia.

Before the war, Redlanders travelled by horse and cart, or walked. The farmers rose early with the sun and after dark they lit their houses with candles or hurricane (kerosene) lanterns. On Sundays they dressed up to go to church, not just to worship their Maker, but to socialise and break the monotony and isolated life on the farm. Then the hot roast Sunday lunch would be the highlight of the family’s week. Their families tended to be large and they stayed together, often labouring together in the family livelihood. They made their own entertainment, often with a sing-song around the piano. Or they made their own music on the violin, harmonica or accordion. They could borrow books from the library of their local School of Arts. The men could quench their thirst at their local hotel after a hard day’s work in their fields, and while there, swap stories on farming problems such as the epidemics of the flying fox and the dingo, the drought, the incessant rain, or just gossip. Sometimes a travelling entertainer, singer, or band would put on a performance for them at the School of Arts, or they would present an amateur play production themselves. Then of course were the dances in the local hall. They could contact others living further afield by using a communal telephone often situated in a store, post office, or railway station. To communicate even further afield they could write letters or, if urgent, send telegrams. Life then was uncomplicated and predictable.

From 1885 the area from Tingalpa Creek, Capalaba, to Eprapah Creek, Victoria Point, and north of Boundary Rd, had come under the control of the Cleveland Divisional Board. Previously, it had been administered by the Tingalpa Divisional Board.

Cleveland Central railway station 1890 (photo Qld Govt Railways)

The railway line to Cleveland, opened in 1889, led to the development of urban areas along its length, as it became possible for commuters to live some distance from Brisbane. The railway line also meant that the district’s farmers were more easily able to transport their produce to the Brisbane markets. Other users included day trippers and others visiting the area for its fresh sea air. Train Stations then were Birkdale, Ormiston, Barinia Siding, Raby Bay (where present Cleveland station is situated), Cleveland Central (down the hill from the present RSL), and Cleveland (Paxton Street). In 1906 special fruit excursion trains to Wellington Point, Ormiston and Cleveland were run on Saturday afternoons during the strawberry season and excursionists were encouraged to visit the fruit gardens and vineyards. Cheap excursions of one sort or another continued to draw crowds to the district throughout the early decades of the century. The Railway Department introduced rail motors or McKeen cars on the line between Manly and Cleveland, considerably improving the service.2

Cleveland Point Western Jetty

To showcase the produce of the area’s farms, the Wellington Point Agricultural Horticultural and Industrial Association’s Hall, next to the school, was used for local shows and community activities for many years.2 Cleveland, too, had its agricultural show. Its showgrounds were situated adjacent to the Cleveland Station at Paxton Street.

In 1909, residents of Capalaba and surrounds renewed their request for a railway service to the area. A line opened to Belmont and operated until 1926 when it was declared uneconomic. It never went through Capalaba, Mt Cotton and Redland Bay.3 Also, the Sunnybank-Mt Cotton Railway League and the Redland Bay Railway League were formed about 1912 to lobby the Queensland Government to establish a railway between the two centres and on to Redland Bay. This too was to no avail.3

Wilhelm Schmidt’s cab (Wilhelm Schmidt’s horse drawn cab used to take passengers from Cleveland train station to Redland Bay Hotel)

Across the waters of Moreton Bay, the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum had been set up since 1867 to house Moreton Bay’s elderly and homeless.4 In 1893 a new Aboriginal mission had been established at Myora/Moongalba, and in 1897 the Aborigines Protection Act came into being. It was effective until 1977 and was based on isolating Aborigines.4 In 1903 Billy North won a contract to supply beef to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. He also established a fish canning business at Two Mile near Myora. 

Land in the township of Amity, the island’s other settlement, had been proclaimed for sale at the end of 1886. The purchasers were enthusiasts, mainly bay folk and yachting men like Tom Welsby. 4

On Peel Island, situated between Cleveland on the Mainland and Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island, a lazaret (leprosarium) was established in 1907 to house and isolate Queensland’s leprosy patients. Both the Lazaret at Peel Island and the Benevolent Asylum at Dunwich were serviced from Brisbane by the Government supply vessel ‘Otter’.

At Mount Cotton, a large German community was busy farming the area. They had been recruited by Johann Christian Heussler who had been appointed by the new Queensland Government in 1859 to recruit German settlers for the new colony. In the following years, many Germans settled in Queensland, including at Mt Cotton. Chinese farmers also began taking up land at Mt Cotton in the early 1880s. By the turn of the century, dingoes and flying foxes had become a perceived pest in the Mount Cotton and Redland Bay area.5

In the early 1900s Mr Henry Heinemann worked to secure a telephone service from Cleveland to Redland Bay, which he later had extended to Mount Cotton in 1910. He ran the Post Office from his home and also the telegram service. This was a popular means of communication for the Mount Cotton settlers from 1900 onwards.5,6 (In the latter part of World War 1this war the Post Office was to be transferred from Henry Heinemann to the home of Dennis O’Hara Burke for ‘security’ reasons.) 6

At Redland Bay by the turn of the century, at the sugar plantation established in 1870 fruit had almost replaced sugar as the main crop in the district.7 Farmers, too, began to move to the islands in the 1860s. At first, they grew cotton and sugar but these crops were not very successful so they started growing fruit instead. Later on, they grew vegetables. Some farmers swam cattle across to the islands and tried to set up herds. One of the early fruit crops was mangoes. Later on, pineapples and bananas were very popular.

Butcher’s cart (John Dawson with Tom Cross’ butcher’s cart, Cleveland)

Sources of Information:

  • Immigration Museum, Melbourne
  • Redland City Council – Wellington Point Timeline
  • Redland City Council – Capalaba Timeline
  • Redland City Council – North Stradbroke Island Timeline
  • Redland City Council – Mount Cotton Timeline
  • Deutsche Auswanderer – Hope and Reality
  • Redland City Council – Redland Bay