History of Gold Coast, Queensland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The history of the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia began in prehistoric times with archaeological evidence revealing occupation of the district by Australian Aborigines for at least 23,000 years. The first early European colonizers began arriving in the late 1700s, settlement soon followed throughout the 19th century, and by 1959 the town was proclaimed a city. Today, the Gold Coast is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.

Kombumerri Aboriginal history in the Gold Coast region[edit]

Archaeological evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have inhabited the Gold Coast region for about 23,000 years before European settlement and the present. By the early 18th century there were several distinct clan estate groups (previously referred to as tribes) living between the Tweed and Logan Rivers and bounded approximately in the west by the town of Beaudesert; they are believed to be: the Gugingin, Bullongin, Kombumerri, Minjingbal, Birinburra, Wangerriburra, Mununjali[1] and Migunberri[2] Collectively they were known as Kombumerri people and spoke the Yugambeh language,[3] for which there was and is evidence of several distinct dialects in the region.

The historical Kombumerri people were hunters, gatherers and fishers, and are reported to have trained dingos and even dolphins to aid them in the hunting and fishing processes. Various species were targeted in various seasons, including shellfish including eugaries, (cockles or pipis), oysters and mudcrabs. In winter, large schools of finfish species "running" along the coast in close inshore waters were targeted, those being sea mullet, which were followed by a fish known as tailor. Turtles and dugong were eaten, but the latter only rarely due to their more northerly distribution. Various species of parrots and lizards were eaten along with bush honey. Echidnas, (an Australian native similar to a porcupine, but a monotreme not a rodent), are still hunted with dogs today and various marsupials including koalas and possums were also consumed. Numerous plants and plant products were included in the diet including macadamias and Bunya nuts and were used for medicinal purposes.

Unlike their neighbours to the north of the Logan and west and south west of Beaudesert, the Kombumerri people not only spoke dialects of a different language group, but along with other members of the Y-Bj dialect chain to the south, subscribe to an originary myth known as "The Three Brothers", which is based on the arrival to this part of the eastern Australian coastline by 3 men/mythical culture heroes and their wives and children in a canoe:

Berang-ngehn gurilahbu, ngering Mumuhm, Yabirahyn or Berrungen korillåbo, ngerring Mommóm, Yaburóng Berrung came long long ago, with Mommóm (and) Yaburóng

Long ago, Berrung together with Mommóm (and) Yabúrong came to this land. They came with their wives and children in a great canoe, from an island across the sea. As they came near the shore, a woman on the land made a song that raised a storm which broke the canoe in pieces, but all the occupants, after battling with the waves, managed to swim ashore. This is how ‘the men,’ the paigål (baygal) black race, came to this land. The pieces of the canoe are to be seen to this day. If any one will throw a stone and strike a piece of the canoe, a storm will arise, and the voices of Berrúng and his boys will be heard calling to one another, amidst the roaring elements. The pieces of the canoe are certain rocks in the sea. At Ballina, Berrúng looked around and said, nyung? (nyang)and all the paigål about there say nyung to the present day. On the Tweed he said, ngando? (ngahndu)and the Tweed paigål say ngando to the present day. This is how the blacks came to have different dialects. Berrúng and his brothers came back to the Brunswick River, where he made a fire, and showed the paigål how to make fire. He taught them their laws about the kippåra, and about marriage and food. After a time, a quarrel arose, and the brothers fought and separated, Mommóm going south, Yaburóng west, and Berrúng keeping along the coast. This is how the paigål were separated into tribes.[4]

The area around present day Bundall, proximate to the Nerang River and Surfers Paradise, along with various other locations in the region was an established meeting place for tribes visiting from as far away as Grafton and Maryborough. Great corroborees were held there and traces of Aboriginal camps and intact bora rings are still visible in the Gold Coast and Tweed River region today, including the bora ring at the Jebribillum Bora Park at Burleigh Heads.

Captain James Cook was the first recorded European to have visited the Gold Coast when he sailed past on 16 May 1770.

As Europeans settled the Gold Coast region and began farming and timber-gathering in the 19th century it was thought by some that the Kombumerri were driven from their traditional hunting, gathering and fishing grounds into the hinterland and missions and Aboriginal reserves which followed the passage of the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (61 Vic, No.17), generally cited as the 1897 Act:[5]

"... (it) was the first comprehensive Aboriginal protection act in Queensland and, indeed, in Australia; it ushered in the long era of protection and segregation during which Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders lost their legal status as British citizens and became, in effect, wards of the state".[6]

"Regional administrative control of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of the State was achieved by dividing the State into Protectorates. Each Protectorate was administered by a local Protector of Aboriginals who was a police officer in all cases except for Thursday Island. The appointment of local Protectors began in 1898. Local Protectors had many responsibilities including the administration of Aboriginal employment, wages, and savings bank accounts. Local Protectors also played a significant role in the removal of Aboriginal people to reserves".[5]

However, analyses of historical and anthropological records show that many of the Kombumerri remained in their traditional country and found employment with farmers, oyster producers and fishermen, timber cutters and mills constructed for the production of resources like sugar and arrowroot, whilst continuing to varying degrees with the Kombumerri cultural practices, laws and customs that were in evidence at the time of the arrival of the colonists. Many of them, both men and women (and sometimes children), found employment as servants or staff in the houses of the wealthy squatters and businessmen.

Due to the harshness of the 1897 Act, and the various equally draconian amendments to it in the last century, and with respect to various government administrations, Kombumerri Aboriginal people have to date maintained a relatively low political profile in the Gold Coast region so that they would not be removed from their families, or from their traditional country with which they had (and retain) strong spiritual links. As a result, and since that time, the Kombumerri people have maintained close and generally closed networks of communication amongst themselves regarding their cultural practices and use of language which were not accommodated by the authorities.

Early European history[edit]

Springbrook Road was built in the 1920s

English navigator Captain James Cook became the first European to visit the Gold Coast when he sailed past on 16 May 1770. As an explorer under the commission of the Royal Navy he had the foresight to name Mount Warning (a volcanic outcrop 25 kilometres (16 mi) inland) as a natural beacon for a hazardous reef off the mouth of the Tweed River near a rocky outcrop he named Point Danger. Captain Matthew Flinders, an explorer charting the continent north from the colony of New South Wales, sailed past again in 1802 but the region remained uninhabited by Europeans until 1823 when explorer John Oxley landed at Mermaid Beach, (named after his boat, a cutter called Mermaid). Despite the area's relatively early appearance on colonial maps, it wasn't until New South Wales government surveyors charted the region in 1840 that the area was really brought to the attention of European settlers.

Southport in 1910

The hinterland's supply of redcedar began drawing timber cutters to the region in large numbers in the mid-19th century and in 1865 the inland township of Nerang (named after the local aboriginal word neerang, meaning ‘shovel-nosed shark’) was surveyed and established as a base for the industry. The surrounding valleys and plains were quickly developed as cattle, sugar and cotton farms and by 1869 settlement had reached the mouth of the Nerang River on the Southern edge of Moreton Bay. The township of Southport was surveyed in 1875 in a location known as Nerang Creek Heads. In 1885 Queensland Governor Musgrave built a holiday home known as the 'Summer Place' on the banks of the Nerang River near Southport [7][8] and the surrounding coastal area began to get a reputation as a resort for Brisbane's wealthy and influential. Summer Place remains in situ at The Southport School and serves as Biddle House, the senior school boarding house.[9]

The rough bush tracks and numerous creek crossings be between Brisbane and Southport made it difficult to reach without a boat, but in 1889 a railway line was extended to the town [10] and numerous guesthouses and hotels were soon established up and down the coastline.

During the 19th century many ships ran aground along the Gold Coast. One of the most famous of these shipwrecks was the Scottish Prince. Where in 1887, ""The Scottish Prince"", a 3 steel-masted iron barque 64 metres long, sank as she was sailing from Glasgow, Scotland to Brisbane with a cargo of whiskey, mousetraps, linen and other assorted cargo. The reason for it running aground, is because it is believed that the captain and many of the crew were drunk at the time. Today only the hull remains which is covered with soft corals and sponges, and is a haven for crayfish, Shovelnose rays, Leopard and wobbegong sharks, and other tropical fish.[11]

The permanent population of the region increased slowly until 1925 when a new coastal road was built between Brisbane and Southport. That same year, Jim Cavill built the Surfers Paradise hotel 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of Southport in an area between the Nerang River and the beach known as Elston, and the real tourism boom began.

Crowds on Main Beach in 1933

As automobile technology became more and more reliable in the 1930s, the number of holiday makers traveling down the coast road from Brisbane increased, and by 1935 most of the coastal strip between Southport and the New South Wales border had been developed with housing estates and hotels. Elston residents successfully lobbied to change the name of their town to Surfers Paradise in 1933. The Surfers Paradise hotel burnt down in 1936 and was quickly replaced with another much grander structure, which had art deco styling and even included a zoo; complete with kangaroos and other wildlife.

The Gold Coast during WW2[edit]

ANZAC Memorial park in Southport.

Although the Gold Coast was not attacked by a foreign power in WW2, the war itself had a dramatic impact as well as most other coastal towns. It was in 1942, when the Americans began arriving. They commandeered the beach area at Coolangatta to establish rest areas. The Coolangatta Rest Area included five rest camps for Enlisted Men, and two hotels specifically for submariners. Camp No. 1 was located at Kirra Beach, along the foreshore north of Musgrave Street, in today's Roughton Park. Huts, ablutions and latrines, a kitchen/mess and an Officer's quarters and sick bay were located between the intersection with Winston Street and Lord Street, as well as down the east side of Lord Street. Camp No. 2 was at Kirra Hill, while Camp No. 3 was on Marine Parade at Coolangatta Beach. Camp No. 4 was located at Greenmount, and Camp No. 5 was at Greenmount Hill. The latter camp was located in today's Pat Fagan Park, to the north of Marine Parade. Camp No. 5 included five huts divided into 10 single cabins, a mess and recreation room, ablutions and latrines.

The Royal Australian Air Force also operated a seaplane alighting area at Southport Broadwater during World War II;[12] however, it is not known whether any particular on-shore installations were constructed as distinct from possibly floating moored pontoon landing structures.

Post-war years and the birth of the name Gold Coast[edit]

Burleigh Heads Beach circa 1990s.

The South Coast region was a very popular holiday destination for servicemen returning from World War II.

However, inflated prices for real estate and other goods and services led to the nickname of "Gold Coast" from 1950.[13][14][15][16][17] South Coast locals initially considered the name "Gold Coast" derogatory.[18] However, soon the "Gold Coast" simply became a convenient way to refer to the holiday strip from Southport to Coolangatta.[19][20][21][22][23] As the tourism industry grew into the 1950s, local businesses began to adopt the term in their names, and on 23 October 1958 the South Coast Town Council was renamed "Gold Coast Town Council". The area was proclaimed a city less than one year later.

Specific Gold Coast areas became the holiday destinations for many who lived inland. Coolangatta had a caravan and camping park on the New South Wales border and numerous families from Ipswich spent their Christmas holidays there. In later times, many holiday rental flats sprung up in the area. The Ipswich roots remain as the Currumbin Lifesavers, share with a similar Ipswich swimming club the title 'Vikings'. Many Vikings swimming club members joined the life saving squads at Currumbin during the holiday periods.

A view from the QDeck at night, 2008

By the 1960s the Gold Coast's infrastructure had grown considerably, and the local building industry was able to support the development of high-rise holiday apartments and hotels (the first of which, Kinkabool, was completed in 1959). Surfers Paradise had firmly established itself as the leading destination and the introduction of bikini-clad meter maids in 1965 to feed parking meters by the beach to prevent holiday makers from getting parking fines was a particularly popular innovation. In 1965, the World water skiing championships were held at the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens, now known as Sea World.[24] This was the first international event held on the coast.[24]

The hi-rise boom continued in earnest during the 1970s and by the time the Gold Coast Airport terminal opened in Coolangatta in 1981, the region had become Australia's most well-known family holiday destination and much of the vacant land within 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of the coast had been developed. Japanese property investment during the 1980s made the skyline soar, and the construction of modern theme parks including Dreamworld, Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet'n'Wild Water World confirmed the Gold Coast's reputation as an international tourist centre.

Some unethical business practices and State Government corruption during the late 1980s tainted the Coast's reputation as a place of business, and property marketeering (seminars which duped interstate and overseas investors into paying premium prices for new Gold Coast property developments) during the 1990s did little to help the region's image.

In 1994, Queensland Local Government Commissioner, Greg Hoffmann began reviewing the local government boundaries in the Gold Coast, Albert and Beaudesert areas. After public debate, the 'Local Government (Albert, Beaudesert and Gold Coast) Regulation 1994' provided for the amalgamation of Gold Coast City Council and the Shire of Albert to create a new local authority called the City of Gold Coast Council. An election was held on 11 March 1995 and the first Council meeting was held on 24 March 1995.

21st century[edit]

The Clock Hotel in the Corner of Elkhorn Avenue is an example of classical architecture revival, in an attempt to give the city more character.

By the turn of the 21st century the Gold Coast had shrugged off its shady past and fully embraced the real estate boom. This boom reached its physical, and economical peak in 2005 with the opening of the 322.5m 'Worlds Tallest Residential Tower' Q1, in Surfers Paradise.

In September 2010 the Gold Coast Native Title Claim QUD346/06 was registered by the Registrar of the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT). This administrative decision was made under the Australian Federal Government's Native Title Act 1993 which is administered by the Federal Court of Australia. A registered claim entered on the Tribunal's Register of Claims,[25] (which in this case is currently in mediation in the Federal Court) means that in all matters which may affect the claimants' native title rights and interests in the claim area, and under the procedural rights afforded by the Native Title Act (Cwth 1993), consultation and often negotiation with the claim group is required. Jabree Limited on behalf of the claim group is the registered cultural heritage body.[26] Yugambeh people are now recognised as significant stakeholders in the Gold Coast region.

Notable historical figures[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holmer, Nils M. 1983. Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Pacific Linguistics Series D, No. 54. Canberra: ANU
  2. ^ Allen, John and John Lane 1913. Grammar, Vocabulary, and Notes of the Wangerriburra Tribe, appendix to the Report of the Protector of Aboriginals, Brisbane.
  3. ^ Cunningham, M 1969 A Description of the Yugumbir Dialect of Bandjalang. University of Queensland Papers 1:69–122
  4. ^ Livingstone, Rev. H. 1892. Short Grammar and Vocabulary of the Dialect spoken by the Minyung People, Appendix A in Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward; Fraser, John; Taplin, George; Ridley, William; Livingstone, H; Günther, James; Broughton, William Grant (1892). An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales): being an account of their language, traditions and customs. Charles Potter, Govt. Printer. Retrieved 23 November 2019 – via Internet Archive. Re-arranged, condensed and edited with an appendix by John Fraser CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) (NLA catalogue entry)
  5. ^ a b "Brief History of Government Administration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Queensland.doc" (PDF). Slq.qld.gov.au. Retrieved 28 May 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Henry Reynolds, ed. (1993). "Race relations in northern Queensland, Townsville" (PDF). James Cook University. pp. 20, 24.
  7. ^ "Current News". The Queenslander. XXXIV (681). Queensland, Australia. 20 October 1888. p. 693. Retrieved 9 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "SOUTHPORT SOCIAL". The Brisbane Courier. LVIII (13, 611). Queensland, Australia. 27 August 1901. p. 6. Retrieved 9 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Musgrave House". The Southport School. Retrieved 9 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "THE SOUTHPORT RAILWAY". The Brisbane Courier. XLV (9, 682). Queensland, Australia. 25 January 1889. p. 6. Retrieved 9 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Dive into History: Scottish Prince (1887)" (PDF). Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 May 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  12. ^ "WWII sites on the Gold Coast" (PDF). Gold Coast City Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 May 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  13. ^ "BEACHES NOW NOT SO GOLDEN BOOM FOR LAND IS EBBING". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 29 October 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Talk of the Town". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 24 December 1950. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "DAY by DAY". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 28 August 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "DAY by DAY". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 22 November 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "'Can get it-at a price'". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 26 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "Don'ts for South Coast 1951-52". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 18 November 1951. p. 7. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ "DAY by DAY". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 14 November 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ ""Gold Coast" jinks". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ "NSW will have own Riviera". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 17 February 1952. p. 5. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ "Day by Day". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 18 February 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  23. ^ "TALK of the TOWN". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 24 February 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 21 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  24. ^ a b Faulkner, Herbert William; Bill Faulkner (2003). "Movers and Shakers: Chaos Makers in Tourism Development". In Fredline, Liz; Jago, Leo; Cooper, Christopher P. (eds.). Progressing Tourism Research: Volume 9 of Aspects of tourism. Channel View Publications. p. 239. ISBN 1873150474. Retrieved 17 August 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  25. ^ "QCD2013/008 - Gold Coast Native Title Group". Archived from the original on 30 May 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  26. ^ "Map showing area registered by Jabree Ltd as a cultural heritage body" (PDF). Queensland Government. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2017.


  • Steele, J.G. (1983). Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River. U.Q.P.: University of Queensland Press.
  • O'Connor, Rory (1997). The Kombumerri: Aboriginal people of the Gold Coast: ngulli yahnbai gulli bahn bugal bugalehn: we are still here. Self Published.
  • Barlow, Alex (1997). Kombumerri – saltwater people. Reed.
  • "Gold Coast City Council". History. Retrieved 22 November 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)