Tomas Petrie arrived in the penal colony at Moreton Bay with his parents in 1837 when he was just 6 years old. His father, Andrew Petrie, was to become Clerk of Works in the colony. Thomas was educated by a convict clerk and was allowed to mix freely with Aboriginal children. He learnt to speak the local language Turrbal and was encouraged to share in all Aboriginal activities. He was witness to convicts labouring in chains on the government farms along the river and saw numerous floggings of convicts on Queen Street. At 14 he participated in a walkabout to a feast in the Bunya Mountains. He was accepted by the Aborigines and was often used as a messenger and invited on exploration expeditions. He also learned about surveying, bushcraft and the local geography while travelling with his father, Andrew Petrie.
After his marriage to Elizabeth Campbell in 1858, Tom bought property in the North Pine district, which he called Murrumba (Good Place) and where he was helped by friendly Aborigines to clear his land and construct his first buildings. He continued to explore widely, his main aim being the search for new timber areas and places for further settlement along the coast.
When the Government opened Queensland’s first Aboriginal reserve on Bribie Island in 1877, Petrie became its chief adviser and overseer. The experiment was terminated next year largely because Petrie’s report on Aboriginal attitudes and activities was not encouraging
Petrie died at Murrumba in 1910, and the name of the North Pine district was changed to Petrie in his honour. There is also a new suburb in the area named Murrumba Downs.