On 24th September 1824 the brig Amity, under the direction of NSW Surveyor General Lt John Oxley, brought officials, soldiers, their wives and children, and 29 convicts to Redcliffe to set up Moreton Bay’s first penal settlement, with Lt Henry Miller as its first Commandant. Fresh from fighting in the Napoleonic Wars with the 40th Regiment of Foot, Lt Miller was accompanied by his wife and family. The Moreton Bay penal colony was initially very primitive. There were no buildings, except huts. The only link to civilisation was the occasional arrival of a ship from Sydney into Moreton Bay (for no ship in that time had ever entered the Brisbane River). It was in these surroundings that Miller’s wife gave birth to a son, who was afterwards christened Charles Moreton Miller, the first European child born at Moreton Bay and the first Queenslander.
The settlement progressed well with temporary huts being built for the soldiers, their wives and children, and the convicts. Gardens were dug and vegetables planted. However the death of Private Felix O’Neill in March 1825 combined with Aboriginal attacks, hordes of mosquitoes and the lack of safe anchorage facilities, led to the settlement being moved in the middle of 1825 from Redcliffe up the Brisbane River to a site recommended by John Oxley.
When the decision was made to relocate the settlement, Redcliffe was deserted and remained so until the 1860s when the area was declared an agricultural reserve. The land was used for dairying, sugarcane, wheat, cotton, beef, honey, cattle feed, oranges and potatoes.
21 years after Matthew Flinders’ journey to Moreton Bay, Surveyor John Oxley was dispatched from Sydney in the Mermaid in November 1823 to find s spot for a new penal depot. When he cast anchor at Point Skirmish on Bribie Island on 29th November, he was surprised to be met by a white man, Thomas Pamphlett, who was living with the natives there.
(With John Finnegan, Richard Parsons and John Thompson, Pamphlett had set out from Port Jackson for the Five Islands [Illawarra] to cut cedar. Blown north by a storm in which Thompson died, the boat was wrecked on the outer shore of Moreton Island. After some hardships, mitigated by help from Aborigines, they crossed to the mainland. Believing themselves south of Sydney they had sought a northward route homewards. Aborigines again helped them with food and directions during which they had crossed a large river.)
On the day following Oxley’s meeting with Thomas Pamphlett at Bribie, John Finnegan returned to Point Skirmish from a hunting trip, and on 1st December accompanied Oxley and his crew in the Mermaid when they set sail to explore Moreton Bay further. Oxley landed at Redcliffe Point on December 2nd 1823. This he chose as the site for the new penal depot as there was plenty of fresh water, fertile soil and plenty of timber for building.
Oxley also explored the inlet to the north of Redcliffe Point which he named Deception Bay (Oxley originally thought the bay was a river which he named Pumice Stone River. Later, when he discovered his mistake, he changed the name to Deception Bay.)
As well as exploring the western part of Moreton bay, Oxley sailed 80 kilometres up the river that Pamphlett had described (and which Flinders had missed). This he named the Brisbane River in honour of the NSW Governor Brisbane, who had sent him on this mission.