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How should Brisbane’s future meeting point recognise the history of its people?

Picture Brisbane, especially the stretch of river opposite South Bank, ten years from now.

We can now see a glimpse of the future: new bridges, railways, bus lanes, venues, a new casino and hotels.

But some of the planned legacy of the 2032 Olympics continues to be explored, mostly out of the public eye.

For First Nations people, the Brisbane River – Meanjin – has been at the center of their creation stories for at least 32,000 years. For European Australians, that history dates back to 1825 and centers on the grounds of Queen’s Wharf Brisbane.

How should Brisbane recognize its evolution from a penal colony in 1825?Credit:Tony Moore

The new $3.6 billion casino, hospitality, retail and resort complex is being built by the Destination Brisbane Consortium and will officially open this year.

If brisbane times reported this week, the consortium no specific plans to recognize the city’s first colonial site. However, there will be a subtle acknowledgment of the 1825 transformation – in words in riverside seating.

The Destination Brisbane Consortium will make its money where the city evolved in May 1825 – originally as a penal colony – from the land of the Jagera and Turrbul First Nations people.

The Royal Historical Society of Queensland (ironically based in Queen’s Wharf) was disappointed and asked for consultation, while the National Trust of Queensland sought more formal recognition of the past.

The consortium provided examples of words for use on chairs. It will be said: “Queen’s Wharf – originally known as King’s Wharf – built in 1827 Convicts and military disembarked, provisions unloaded Brisbane’s only landing place in the early 19th century.”

The 'Brisbane Stairs' under construction as part of Queen's Wharf Brisbane.  They lead from the resort's main shopping center and casino to the Brisbane River.

The ‘Brisbane Stairs’ under construction as part of Queen’s Wharf Brisbane. They lead from the resort’s main shopping center and casino to the Brisbane River.Credit:Destination Brisbane Consortium.

Another will say: “From the 1840s to the 1860s, many Aboriginal people with local knowledge and experience worked along the Brisbane River as pilots, skippers and ferrymen.”

The pinky yards – under the Riverside Expressway pointing to South Bank – will also have words and seating blocks or crates telling stories of early life on the wharf.

The words will refer to the two main landmark buildings – the 1829 Commissariat Store and the 1865 Immigration Depot – that will be incorporated into the sprawling complex.

It will be said: “A wide range of the essential cargo – from tea and flour to spirits and ammunition – made its way from the wharf to the Customs and Immigration Office in the nearby Commissariat building.”

The text on the seats on South Bank is similar to the displays in the Queen's Wharf Brisbane complex under construction.

The text on the seats on South Bank is similar to the displays in the Queen’s Wharf Brisbane complex under construction.Credit:Tony Moore

However, Quandamooka elder Cameron Costello, Deputy Chairman of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council and Chairman of the First Nations Tourism Council, sees a missed opportunity.

“I think it should be part of a multi-layered truth-telling story across the state,” Costello said.

“I think there’s potential for big pieces — say potentially 10 or 12 big pieces of art in the state.

“And then there are several ‘truth-telling in the park’ exercises all over the state that we could have.”

The final choice of sites in Queensland would be made by traditional owners, but Queen’s Wharf should be one of them, Costello said.

“Part of the legacy of the 2032 Games is well known. We have now Brisbane City Council inner city planswe have the SEQ City dealand we have the Olympic venue upgrades,” he said.

Cameron Costello.

Cameron Costello.Credit:MONKEY

“If we integrate with that, Indigenous design principles — which is at the heart of storytelling and truth-telling — we should be committed to that as state and local governments.


“And if we have a (First Nations) Cultural Center as part of that, that’s an added layer as well.”

The Brisbane River flows through it.

“Our stories begin with the origin of the river. So hence the history of when there was colonization. So to me, there are all these different layers of storytelling that are all beautiful.

Another truth-telling site Costello suggested could tell the story of how Quandamooka people cared for shipwrecked Thomas Pamphlett in Moreton Bay until found in November 1823 by explorer John Oxley.

It was Pamphlett who showed Oxley to the Brisbane River, which led to the final decision to abandon Redcliffe (1824) and settle instead in what we now know to be the CBD.

An artist's impression of Miller's Park at Queen's Wharf Brisbane.  It recognizes Lieutenant Henry Miller, the first commander of the original Brisbane penal colony.  The building to the right is Queensland's second oldest building, the Commissariat Store, built by convicts in 1828-1829.

An artist’s impression of Miller’s Park at Queen’s Wharf Brisbane. It recognizes Lieutenant Henry Miller, the first commander of the original Brisbane penal colony. The building to the right is Queensland’s second oldest building, the Commissariat Store, built by convicts in 1828-1829.Credit:Destination Brisbane Consortium.

“We can tell hard stories about colonization, but also stories about where we interacted and rescued each other,” Costello said.

“It’s a great opportunity. We want every visitor to connect with the country, and the country to connect with people, and this is a great way to do it.”

His idea was supported by Stuart Lummis, the National Trust’s chair of heritage and advocacy, and a former chair of the Queensland Heritage Council.

“More formal stories need to be told. I think the idea of ​​linking it to something bigger around the state is excellent,” Lummis said.

“The seats are nice, but if someone is sitting on the seats, you’re not going to see the story.”