First settlement on the Brisbane River [chapter 48 of “The story of Australia” by Martin Hambleton]

[Editor: This is chapter 48 of “The story of Australia” by Martin Hambleton. Published in The Sunday Mail, 26 May 1935.]

The story of Australia — XLVIII.

First settlement on the Brisbane River

John Oxley’s report of his explorations, in which he recommended Moreton Bay as a place for establishing a suitable settlement, was readily accepted by Governor Brisbane, who was very anxious to get rid of a certain class of convicts as soon as possible. Preparations were made for carrying out the project, and by September, 1824, the arrangements were completed.

During the early part of this month the brig Amity sailed away from Sydney with 30 to 40 of the worst criminals that ever set foot in Australia. Lieutenant Miller, with a detachment of soldiers, was in charge of these felons, and with him came Captain Miller, the commandant-elect of the new settlement, with his staff. The party also included Allan Cunningham, the King’s botanist, and John Oxley, who had been appointed to survey and select the site for the reception of the convicts.

Redcliffe Point

The voyage of 500 miles was safely accomplished, and the Amity was anchored off a point to the north of Stradbroke Island. This was named Amity Point, after the name of the vessel, and here, from some reason or other the convicts were first landed The fixing of the site for the new settlement had now to be completed, and Oxley, who had, as we have already seen, been favourably impressed with the land in the vicinity of Redcliffe Point, made a second survey in company with Captain Butler.

The latter was pleased with the situation, as it had the essentials for good settlement. There was permanent water, plenty of suitable timber, which could be used for building purposes and the soil was good.

On September 24 the Amity reached Redcliffe Point. Oxley had reported that there was safe anchorage, but this did not prove to be the case, and some difficulty was experienced in effecting a landing. For a time tents were utilised, but these were soon superseded by slab and bark huts and brick buildings.

Change of settlement

For a short time the work of the settlement proceeded smoothly, but gradually a feeling of discontent arose. Captain Miller, who had been so highly pleased with the site, now declared that it was unhealthy, and that if they remained there much longer “they would all die off.” Oxley, with a boat crew and party, sailed up the river and landed somewhere in the vicinity of the present Customs House. Here it was decided to establish the new camp, as it would be more convenient for shipping, and the soil was very suitable for cultivation. No time was lost in removing the prisoners.

Probably the real cause why Commandant Miller and Oxley had found Redcliffe unsuitable was the open hostility shown by the natives to the newcomers. They resented their presence, and openly harassed the work of the settlement, not only by continual thefts of tools, etc., but by spearing the men when chance gave them an opportunity.


In December, 1824, the Amity brought Sir Thomas Brisbane, Chief Justice Forbes, Captain Macarthur, and Francis Stephen, clerk of the Council, to inspect the new settlement. Oxley’s second choice was confirmed, and the Chief Justice named the new settlement Edenglassie after his own birthplace. This name was afterwards discarded in favour of Brisbane, but it was not until 1839 that it received official confirmation. The native name was Meeangin, and Maginchin, said to be derived from the land now occupied by the Botanic Gardens and the University of Queensland.

The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 26 May 1935, p. 29

[Editor: Corrected “vicinty” to “vicinity”.]

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