QLD Day Dinner 2019

QLD Day Dinner 2019
From the Archives: Possession Island

From the Archives: Possession Island

This plaque, from Possession Island off the tip of Cape York, commemorated Captain James Cook’s claiming of the “whole eastern coast of Australia from the Latitude of 38 degrees south” (from near Melbourne north to Cape York) in the name of the British king.

The British believed that Australia was terra nullius (empty land) whereas, in fact, human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago. People migrated by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now South-East Asia. These first inhabitants were the ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal Australian culture is one of the oldest continual civilisations on earth – human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 years ago.

The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland is attributed to the Dutch. The first ship to chart the Australian coast was the Duyfken captained by Willem Janszoon in 1606. The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines during the 17th century and named the island continent “New Holland“.

Later in 1606, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through, and navigated, the Torres Strait islands.

Next, William Dampier, an English explorer and privateer, landed on the north-west coast of New Holland in 1688 and again in 1699 on a return trip.

Then in 1770, Captain James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain. Cook named the tiny island off the tip of Cape York Possession Island on 22 August 1770.

In 1992 Mer (or Murray) Islander Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo began a fight to change Australian laws because he believed the land belonged to the Torres Strait Islanders who had lived there for thousands of years. The Mabo case ran in the High Court of Australia for over ten years.

On 3 June 1992, the High Court ruled that “terra nullius” should never have been applied to Australia. The “Mabo ruling”  found that the Mer people had owned their land prior to annexation by Britain.

Native title is the legal recognition that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to, and interest in, certain land because of their traditional laws and customs.



From the Archives: Tom Elliott and Early Television in Queensland

From the Archives: Tom Elliott and Early Television in Queensland

Tom Elliot conducting TV experiments at the Observatory Tower, Wickham Terrace, 1937

While television broadcasting officially commenced in Queensland in 1959, Queenslanders first started experimenting with television broadcasting technology in the 1930s. Thomas Elliot was part of a group of dedicated amateur radio operators, who, in 1934, began broadcasting television signals from the Old Windmill in Brisbane’s Wickham Terrace. Elliott was an established technological pioneer, having previously been one of the first people in Queensland to register as a ham (amateur) radio operator.

The group performed demonstrations for politicians and journalists and successfully broadcast Australia’s first test transmission, which was received in ‘a cottage on the outskirts of Ipswich’. The group used the experimental radio station 4CM, which belonged to the radiologist Dr. Val McDowall. In 1935, they obtained a license permitting them to broadcast television. At the time, 4CM was the only station in Australia capable of television broadcasting. Initially, the group experimented with broadcasting still images including a picture of the American actress Janet Gaynor and pages from the Courier-Mail.

They progressed to experiments with moving images, broadcasting animated films. To widen participation, they released instructions outlining how to build receiving equipment. At its height, the group’s broadcasts were being received by roughly three-dozen people, who The Telegraph referred to as ‘televiewers’. Buoyed by this success, one commentator, quoted in a 1935 edition of The Courier-Mail, declared that ‘Australia can have television here and now if the authorities are willing to cooperate…An efficient system of low definition television could be put on the air almost immediately’.

These early experiments were brought to an abrupt halt by the outbreak of the Second World War. By the time the war ended, their time had passed, with television broadcasting coming to be regarded as largely a professional matter.

Gordon Donaldson, Tom Elliott, Ron Carter, and Peter Gorrie, early television researchers, Brisbane


  1. “Newspaper in Television Test: Success of Brisbane Transmission.” The Courier-Mail, 10th October 1935 (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/35923566).
  2. “Television Here and Now: Experiments in Brisbane: Close-Up Picture.” The Courier-Mail, 28th March 1935 (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/35860209).
  3. Elizabeth Anne Davies. “Film, Television and the Urban Experience: A Case Study of Brisbane.” PhD diss. Griffith University, 2009 (https://www120.secure.griffith.edu.au/rch/file/f878c698-13ba-0c72-2e00-e8862d775259/1/Davies_2010_02Thesis.pdf).
  4. Harvey. “Claim of Queensland’s “Backroom Boys”: “We Had Television Fifteen Years Ago.” The Courier-Mail, 9th April 1949 (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/49687701).
  5. Ipswich City Council. “When Television Came to Ipswich.” Ipswich City Council Planning and Development Update, 17th March 2014: 11 – 13 (https://www.ipswichplanning.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/11310/PDU-Edition-17.pdf).
  6. Simon Miller. “Brisbane Had Television in 1934.” State Library Blogs: John Oxley Library, 20th March 2019 (http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2019/03/20/brisbane-had-television-in-1934/).
The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple

Big Pineapple opened in 1971, as part of the Sunshine Plantation – an early example of agricultural tourism.

Located in Woombye in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Region, the sixteen-metre-tall fibreglass Big Pineapple is arguably Queensland’s most iconic ‘big thing’.

Pineapples have long been a significant crop in the area around Woombye, Palmwoods, Eudlo, and Beerburrum, with production increasing following the opening of the Golden Circle cannery (then the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing Company cannery) at Northgate in 1947.

Big Pineapple opened in 1971, as part of the Sunshine Plantation – an early example of agricultural tourism. Inspired by local farming practices, Bill and Lyn Taylor purchased a pineapple farm and established it as a tourist attraction, showcasing tropical produce, including fruit, nuts, and sugarcane. The plantation was also a working farm. Visitors could ride a small train through the farm’s crops, watch demonstrations of cultivating and harvesting methods, and consume food made from homegrown produce in its restaurant.

In 1978, the plantation added the ‘Nutmobile’ tour, in which visitors rode a train with carriages shaped like macadamia nuts and visited a macadamia processing factory. The Big Pineapple was at the peak of its popularity in the 1980s, when it attracted 800,000 visitors a year and was even visited by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

In 1981, the Taylors sold the property to Lanray Industries Limited. The new owners purchased additional land and extended the Nutmobile tour to include a section of rainforest. During the 1980s, the Big Pineapple also opened a new restaurant and an exhibition of Queensland minerals and gems. In 1985, Lanray sold the property to Queensland Press Limited.

During the 1990s, the Big Pineapple added a rainforest walk, an animal nursery, an ‘Arts and Crafts Gallery’, and a ‘Wildlife Garden’ housing native animals including koalas. Its popularity was waning by 1996, when it was purchased by Roughend Pineapple Pty Ltd. By 2003, it owed the Australian Taxation Office $500,000 and was so far in debt it was facing the possibility of sale or closure.

In 2009, it went into receivership. Ironically, the pineapple and surrounding buildings were heritage-listed the same year. Closed between 2010 and 2011, in 2011 it was purchased by a consortium who used it as a much-diminished tourist attraction and a site for the sale of Queensland produce. The current owners are considering adapting the site as a food and eco-tourism destination. Today, it houses the Wildlife HQ Zoo and the Big Pineapple visitor area. Since 2013, it has also hosted the Big Pineapple Music Festival.

Photograph of The Big Pineapple from the RHSQ collection

The Miss International Air Hostess Quest

The Miss International Air Hostess Quest

Entrant in the 1967 Miss International Air Hostess Quest

Between 1963 and 1969, the Gold Coast hosted the Miss International Air Hostess Quest.

It lived up to its name, attracting contestants from countries as diverse as the United States, West Germany, Sweden, India, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Peru. It was intended partially as an opportunity for flight attendants to compare notes on how different airlines approached in-flight service.

Despite the name, its founder, former Surfer’s Paradise newspaper editor Alex McRobbie, insisted that it was not a beauty contest with contestants ‘judged solely on their ability as flight attendants’. (In 1967, the entrant from QANTAS was the former beauty queen Miss Carolyn Haby. This was, no doubt, a wise choice, as the previous year, Peggy McCullough, ‘the North Carolina photo queen’, was placed second. In 1963, second place went to India’s Perin Spencer, who was also Miss Bombay 1962 and 1963.)

Protests notwithstanding, beauty was generally considered an essential quality for an air hostess in the 1960s and airlines often imposed strict guidelines monitoring their hostesses’ appearances, including their beauty routines and weight. Being married or over thirty were disqualifying factors.

Hostesses were also required to wear a range of striking uniforms. (Japanese hostesses flying with QANTAS between Australia and Japan were required to wear kimonos and hostesses working as part of Ansett-ANA’s ‘Golden Supper Club Service’ wore gold lame dresses.) The competition did have a charitable side. In 1969, it collected donations for the International Multiple Sclerosis Society. It also provided an opportunity to showcase the Gold Coast, with entrants in 1967 being photographed with a lobster, in a vintage car, and feeding lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.