- History of Cairns, Queensland
The transition of the port of Cairns from shanty town to modern city proceeded relatively quickly. Following an uncertain start because of competition from the newly created neighbouring community of Port Douglas a succession of major work projects, institution establishments and direct involvement in world enterprise accelerated the settlement's development.
Significant events in the history of Cairns were the construction of the Cairns to Herberton rail line commencing in 1886, the establishing of the Cairns Harbour Board in 1906, official recognition as a city in 1923, military occupation in 1942 by the
World War IIdefence forces, the building of the first concrete high rise apartments in 1981, the opening of the international airportin 1984 and the establishing of an international standard business convention centre in 1996.
Early history / Locals and tourists
Aboriginal population enters
Australia. Current opinion favors migration through various Northern Australiaareas including Cape York. [ R M Berndt R.M.and C H Berndt "World of The First Australians" Ure Smith 1977 p3] Traditional local aboriginal stories recall hunting and fishing on land that once extended past Green Islandduring a time of lower sea levels. [UH McConnel UH "Inspiration And Design In Aboriginal Art", "Art In Australia" 15 May 1935p52] Archaeological evidence shows aboriginals living in Cairns area rainforestfor at least 5100 years and quite possibly for most of the often suggested 40,000 year time period. [Timothy Bottoms quoting Nicky Horsfall in his "Djabugay Country" Allen & Unwin 1999 p107]
The Cairns area was settled by an Indigenous Australian people's tribe the
Irukandji. [Norman B. Tindale, "Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper Names", University of California Press, 1974]
Ancient bronze coin, 1 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch thick, traced to reign of Egyptian
Pharaoh Ptolemy IV[221-204 BC] , found, in 1910, by a contractor digging fence post holes at McKenzie's Pocket outside Kuranda. ["Did Ptolemy Know Of Australia?" ["Walkabout" / August 1965] vol 31 #9 p30-31] The coin was buried two feet beneath the surface of a gravel ridge in rain forest on an old aboriginal walking track 4 miles inland from Taylor's Bay on the coast suggesting a possible visit to the area by unknown ancient sailors. [Shep Humston "Kuranda - the Village in the Rainforest 1888 - 1988" p42]
June 10, English maritime explorer Captain James Cookvisited and gave a European name to the inlet. Writing in his journal he commented "The shore between Cape Graftonand Cape Tribulationforms a large but not very deep bay which I named Trinity Bayafter the day - Trinity Sunday - on which it was discovered." ["Captain Cook Journals Facsimile Edition" 1893 Libraries Board of South Australia 1968 p274] Cook hauled his ship, the HM Bark "Endeavor" into Mission Bay, at the southern end of Trinity inletbetween Cape Grafton and False Cape, and went ashore for a couple of hours with Sir Joseph Banksat a place approximately near the present site of the Yarrabah aboriginal community. [Log book Lieutenant Cook extracts Allan McInnes CHS Bulletin 178]
Captain Parker King one of early Australia’s most important coast charters made three marine surveying expeditions to Northern Australia. All three expeditions included visits to
Fitzroy Island, located just outside Trinity inlet. On King's first visit he drew attention to the ready supply of good drinking water and the presence of aboriginals in the nearby country. [Parker King "Narrative of a Survey of Intertropical Western Coasts of Australia" 1818-1822 p12/13]
In June, Captain Owen Stanley and crew undertook a ten day hydrographic depth sounding survey of the Trinity Bay region. His consequent official map listed "Native Huts" at present day Palm Beach and "Many Natives" and "Native Village" on the stretch of coast immediately north of this position. Green Island was marked "Low Bushes" while the future site of Cairns was indicated as "Shoal" and "Mangroves" [Owen Stanley 1843-1848 "Australian East Coast Double Point to Cape Tribulation" [detail] CHS map N606]
DECADE ONE: 1866 - 1875
The first historical event of significance in the lead up decade to the establishment of Cairns was an essay published in a Sydney newspaper in 1866. The article by J S V Mein, a ships commander appointed to set up a beech de mer plant at
Green Island[Sydney Morning Herald 26.2.1866, Mein family documents p1 Cairns Historical Society ] helped increase southern awareness of the northern location.
In 1873 the extensive and detailed reports of the
George Dalrympleexploration party indicated the assets and potential of Trinity Inlet - "The excellent anchorage and watering place appear to have been used some years since as a beech de mer fishing station and to be now a place of frequent call by vessels of that trade and passing ships. I believe very little engineering difficulty will be encountered in forming the necessary wharves on deep water and, from the appearance of the ranges, I do not anticipate any difficulty in obtaining a passable road over them to the interior." Dalrymple also noted the number of aboriginal groups in the area - "Many blacks were seen round the shores of the bay. Blacks camp fires burn brightly during the night in glens of the mountain sides." [George Dalrymple, "Narrative and Report of the North Coast Expedition" 1873 p630 / 632]
The most significant development in this period of exploration however was the September 1873 announcement of an extensive gold field found in the
Palmer Riverarea by James Venture Mulligan working from information collected by the William Hannprospecting expedition the year before. The resulting influx of prospectors became the basis for the first large non-indigenous populations to inhabit Far North Queensland. ["Discoverers of the Palmer River Gold Fields Petition" Qld Votes and Proceedings 1874 Vol 2 p755]
DECADE TWO: 1876 - 1885
In March 1876, three years after the Palmer River discovery, James Venture Mulligan announced an even larger and more extensive
goldfield had been found at the Hodginson Riveron the Atherton Tablelands122km west of Trinity Inlet. [Warners expedition notes published Brisbane Courier 14.4.1876] This site was of sufficient size to warrant serious consideration being given to the building of a track to the coast and the establishing of a coastal wharf and settlement to ship out the mineral. The access track from the tablelands to the coast was cut through twenty miles of thick lawyer vine scrub in three days by Inspector Douglas' party reaching Cairns on September 23, 1876. [Jones, Dorothy "Trinity" Phoenix p 69]
The first government officials, on their arrival by boat, pitched their tents opposite the site of the present day Pacific International hotel. ["Cairns Post" Cairns Jubilee Special Issue 1.11.1876 p18] On
October 7, 1876, the Governor of Queensland, William Wellington Cairns, proclaimed a new northern port at Trinity Bay. ["Cairns Post" Cairns Jubilee Special Issue 1.11.1876 p4] On November 1, 1876the township was inaugurated at a luncheon given by Captain Lake on board the Government ship the Victoria. This is the date regarded as the official birth date of Cairns. ["Cairns Post" Cairns Jubilee Special Issue 1.11.1876 p18]
The first public land sales in February 1877 [Jones, Dorothy Trinity Phoenix p102] were supplemented, three months later, by the construction of the first local
saw millmaking full use of the abundant natural timber resources. [W B Ingham erects sawmill May 1877 JW Colinson Early Days of Cairns p131]
After five years battling competition from the already established Port Douglas and the newly created Barron River siding, Smithfield, ["Cairns Post" Cairns Post Jubilee Issue 1.11.1876 p18/38] Cairns became secure with a series of successful agricultural ventures by Chinese businessmen and coolies frustrated with the overworked northern goldfields. [May, Cathie "Topsawyers, the Chinese in Cairns 1870-1920" James Cook Uni 1984 p8 ] Matching the Chinese achievement three Englishman, Thomas Swallow, George Clayton and Thomas Hill developed 1000s of acres of crop plantations directly south ["Australian Sugar Journal" January 1976 p473] and east [Clayton and Hill wish to start dairy farm cp 3.7.1884 p2] of the Cairns settlement.
By 1885 the growth of a stable local population base and the achieving of an efficient social organisation made it possible for the borough of Cairns to be declared a municipality and for alderman to elect their first Mayor, R A Kingsford. [cp 23.7.1885 p2]
DECADE THREE: 1886 - 1895
The 1886 start of the Cairns to Herberton railway line [cp 13.5.1886 p2] brought many immigrant workers [predominantly Italian and Irish] to the area. [ micro filtch Cairns Electoral Roll April 1889] These new residents, in turn, created a demand for the opening up of land that was to be used for
agricultureon the lowlands ( sugar cane) and fruitand dairyon the Tablelands. This increased the importance of Cairns as a regional centre [conscious of its new status Cairns aldermen were even persuaded to upgrade to such then perceived luxuries as street lighting] . [“Why make the darkness visible ” – Kingston cp 14.4.1887 p2 + various items cp 14.4.1887 p2 to 17.9.1887 p2]
In April 1887 the second stage of the rail line, the Redlynch to Myola section, commenced. [Hudson, Alan “Tracks of Triumph” Cairns 2003 p43] Numerous worker settlement communities and hotel stores were created on the range around the 15 tunnels used in the lines construction.The village of Kuranda, the first large area at the top of the range suitable for development, was surveyed in 1888. [Humston, Shep “Kuranda The Village in the Rainforest” p22 Watson Ferguson 1988]
In 1891 the most important political figure in the early history of Cairns, A J Draper, became Mayor, the first of his eight elections to that office. [ cp 29.8.1891 p2] Well connected socially because of his family background, Draper's aggressive stance on issues of public importance achieved many benefits for the local community. ["Life of A J Draper" Cairns Post Pty Ltd 1931 ]
Another important early activist was
Church of Englandminister Ernest Gribble. Following the Rev John Gribble's unexpected death, his son, Ernest, continued his father's plans to try and halt the degradation of the local aboriginal population now forced to exist in fringe camps after their traditional lands had been gradually appropriated by the new Cairns settlers during the previous 15 years. [Hodes, Jeremy “Darkness and Light Yarrabah 1889 - 1910” treatise Central Queensland University 1997 p19] The arrival, in December 1893, of thirty aboriginals seeking a safe place to live at the Gibble outstation is considered to the unofficial foundation of the Yarrabah mission settlement. [Rapkins, Denise "Ernest Gribble of Yarrabah” CHS bulletin 413]
The most progress however in this cycle of increased activity was made by the local Chinese community whose agricultural production had risen to tens of thousands of bushels of rice, corn bananas and pineapples. [May, Cathie “Top Sawyers” James Cook University 1984 p246-251]
DECADE FOUR: 1896 - 1905
Decade four was a period of consolidation and internal progress. The construction of the Cairns to Mulgrave Tramway in 1897 linked areas immediately south of Cairns to the port [Rapkins, Denise "A Remarkable Achievement" CHS 1997 p11] and a local Gas Supply company was established in 1899 helping the domestic comfort of residents. ["Morning Post" 21.6.1899 p2]
In 1900, the importance of preserving the natural environment around the
Barron Fallswas recognised and 7500 acres were gazetted by the Government as a national park. ["Morning Post" 25.9.1900 p2]
Three years later, Cairns, with a registered population of 3,500 was declared a town. [ CMC minute book "from 31 March 1903 Cairns Municipal Council became Cairns Town Council"] Also, in 1903, the memoirs of R A Johnstone were first published in the Brisbane based "Queenslander" newspaper. [Queenslander newspaper various dates 2.5.1903 - 11.3.1905 see "Spinifex and Wattle" book for text] These memoirs, later collected in book form under the title "Spinifex and Wattle", [ Robert Arthur Johnstone "Spinifex and Wattle" G K Bolton printers 1947] were significant because of the details given of many aboriginal customs observed by Johnstone in the Trinity Bay and Barron River area during the Dalrymple expeditions of 1872 / 73.
DECADE FIVE: 1906 - 1915
Cairns established itself as an independent community during its fifth decade. After intense public debate a local harbour board was established in 1906 [ "Morning Post" 8.3.1906 p2 [adjourned from planned late Feb meeting] ] and a boom in architectural creativity followed during which many currently listed heritage buildings [Bolands, St Monicas, Central Hotel, Adelaide Shipping offices, Burns Philp building (site of Cairns International Hotel)etc] were constructed. [May,Dawn "Cairns Building Boom CHS 1999]
The Cairns Postnewspaper commenced business with a six day a week publishing schedule and an editorial policy that saw it survive and thrive to the present day [ cp 5.7.1909 microfilm record ] [an earlier unrelated paper also called "The Cairns Post" was published between 17 May 1883 and 20 May 1893] . [Rod Kirkpatrick "The First Cairns Post" chs bulletins 282/283 June/July 1983]
The first town water supply started flowing in 1911 and was described in the local press as "a valuable aid to sanitation" [ cp 1.8.1911 p4]
In a tropical environment matters of public health were always a major concern so the official opening of a large brick and timber Cairns District Hospital in July 1912 helped foster confidence in the towns self reliance in times of medical emergency. The Esplanade located two storey building had taken two years to construct and replaced an earlier bungalow style quarters so basic that, where necessary, the hospital office had been used as an operating theatre. [Balodis, Midge “Drill Till You Get Blood” p4/cp 29.7.1912 p2]
Towards the end of this decade a community used to hardship and deprivation was faced with its biggest challenge yet, the outbreak of
World War Iin 1914. [cp 3.8.1914 p5] This conflict created many labour and consumer good shortages for the physically isolated Cairns population.
DECADE SIX: 1916 - 1925
The sixth decade of European presence was, generally, a cycle of reconstruction and quiet growth after the shock of World War I ["armistice signed at last" cp 12.11.1918 p4] with the highlight for the cycle being the Government granting, on
October 12, 1923, of approval for Cairns to be listed as a city. [cp 13.10.1923 p4]
The 1924 opening of the Daradgee Bridge outside Innisfail further strengthened the bonds between Cairns and the rest of Australia. [cp 9.12.1924 p5]
The start of public electricity [cp 15.1.1925 p5/6] and the opening, in the same year, 1925, of the Cairns High School and Technical College [cp 3.6.1925 p5] were both major steps forward in catering for the industrial power and education needs of the immediate future.
DECADE SEVEN: 1926 - 1935
The seventh decade commenced with the "Cairns Post" newspaper commemorating the settlement's 50th birthday by publishing a 50 page, large format historical essay and photo supplement. ["Cairns Post" Jubilee Supplement 1876 – 1926 [cp 1.11.1926] ]
A following year Cairns suffered widespread destruction from
Cyclone Willis. [ cp 11.2.1927 p4] The extensive 33 year old East Trinity dairying, timber and agricultural estate of Glen Boughton, located directly across the inlet from Cairns City, never recovered from its losses. [Hawtin S L “Rise and Fall of the Glen Boughton Estate” Mulgrave Historical Society Bulletin #227/#228 2000]
The city's first Council Chambers was opened in 1930 [Souvenir of official opening program Cairns City Council Chambers 11.8.1930 / cp 12.8.30 p4] while an aerial visit in 1932 by aviation pioneer, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, [cp 18.7.1932 p4] the first Cairns Mayors' grandson, previewed an air traffic world that would be of utmost importance to the city 5 decades later.
1935 was very much a year of mixed fortune. The misguided introduction earlier in the year of the giant American cane toad to sugar cane fields to the south of Cairns to assist in the control of the grey back beetle [Qld Parliamentary Papers Vol 2 1937 p983/35] resulted in ecological disaster to many native species when the toxic animal developed into one of the worst feral pests in Australia’s history while the commencement, in November, of the Barron Falls Hydro Electricity scheme [cp 21.11.1935 p9] provided the power for an era of major industrial expansion.
DECADE EIGHT: 1936 - 1945
The eighth decade saw the end of the foundation cycle of Cairns history and a time of many lasting changes. The period began with the first commercial radio station, 4CA, becoming operational in 1936, freeing the city from communication isolation during the wet season. [cp 18.5.1936 p6,8] Also, in 1936, the former inner city red light district of Sachs Street, a name regarded as an embarrassing coincidence to respectable Cairns citizens, had a name change to Grafton Street. [cp 17.6.1936 p6]
In 1939, after a series of cyclonic floods stretched its boundaries to breaking point, the mouth of the
Barron Riverchanged its ocean outflow from Cassarrina Point on the Northern Cairns Esplanade to Ellie Point on the Northern beach coastline. [Dept Harbors and Marine, “Barron River Delta Investigation” 1981 p13]
The outbreak of
World War IIin 1940 had a number of positive local developments. The need for an emergency evacuation route out of the city in the event of hostile invasion forced the making of a much needed, traffic usable road to the tablelands via Kuranda. This road, which took 18 months to construct with a single bulldozer, [May,Ernest, Kuranda Range Road p22] opened June 1942, [Neilsen, Peter, Diary of World War II p40 ] and would later be used extensively for post war scenic excursions.
During the 1942 Pacific Phrase of World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces; in particular, the
United Statesstationed troops through the region to supply the Pacific fleet. [Bradley, Vera “I Didn’t Know That - Cairns and District in the War Years”p175ff] The fall of Singapore precipitated a mass evacuation of local residents to the south. Many homes were sold cheaply and a year later the local population had been reduced by nearly 7000 people. [Timothy Bottoms "A History of Cairns" PHD treatise 2000 p524] Many who left never returned with the end of the conflict in 1945.
Of lasting benefit to the health of the northern population was the extensive anti
malariadrug experimentation and swamp drainage work undertaken by the Australian Armybetween 1943 and 1946. [Ernie Stephens "Memorial to Malaria Control" CHS bulletin #149 March 1972] This work cleared Cairns of many mosquito breeding grounds, the source of numerous local fever outbreaks and contributed significantly to scientific knowledge, control and treatment of tropical insect borne diseases.
DECADE NINE: 1946 – 1955
The ninth decade opened with post war reconstruction. A two week series of auctions of ex Australian army equipment in August 1946 attracted buyers from throughout Australia anxious to boost depleted stocks of everything from textiles to building equipment. [cp 3.8.46 p5 – 19.8.46 p5] Highlighting the danger posed by the presence of many still active war mines the
CorvetteHMAS "Warrnambool" was badly damaged in September 1947 after it hit one such weapon killing three crewmen and injuring 86 others. [cp 15.9.47 p1] By 1948, after nearly three years of quickly scaled up operations, the official mine sweeping flotilla disbanded having collected over 2000 allies laid weapons and cleared the shipping lanes for normal traffic [cp 7.8.48 p5 “on way south to be disbanded”]
In 1949 long time Cairns Mayor, William Collins, was defeated at the local council elections by Labor party candidate WH Murchingson ending Collins record 22 years in office. [cp 30.5.49 p1] Further opening up the potential of Cairns a second plane service,
Trans Australia Airlines, joined passenger carrier, ANA, for regular domestic flights in 1949 [first cairns post ANA advert 4.6.40 p2] [cp 14.7.47 p1 ] and a second radio station, ABC 4QY, began broadcasting in 1950. [cp 21.1.50 p5] Adding to the return of prewar services harbor dredging operations, suspended during wartime, were resumed in the early 1950s. [16.9.52 p3]
In an effort to restart local industry and establish a major outlet for tableland fruit crops a tropical fruit
canning factorywas opened in December 1950. Located in the Smiths Creek area in a former navy store with a floor space of 30,000 feet, Amberglow's initial production figures were good but it succumbed to financial problems and closed in 1957. [chs bulletin 184 Stepens S E “When Cairns Had A Cannery”] In September 1951 Cairns second hospital, the Calvary Hospital, opened in Abbot Street. It was run by the Catholic Little Company of Mary nursing nun order. [cp 17.9.51 p1] In October the city's 75th Anniversary, “Back to Cairns” celebrations revealed a new sense of pride in local accomplishment and a large parade of over 100 floats depicted the history and industry achievements of Cairns and District over the previous 75 years. [cp 6.10.51 p5]
Several years of significant advancement in tourist facilities and publicity followed, starting with the 1953 release of “There’s A Future For You In Far North Queensland” an 8mm film made by Cairns printer Bob Bolton. This locally funded movie was well received by audiences and was later taken to London and shown for many years at the British Office of Immigration. [cp 31.1 52 p5] Starting in June 1953 the weekly arrival of an air conditioned tourist train, "The Sunlander", from Brisbane,encouraged southern state vacationers [cp 8.6.53 p3]
The newly enthroned Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Cairns in March 1954 was enthusiastically attended with an estimated 40,000 people, twice the official population number, showing their loyalty to the British monarch. [cp 15.3.54 p1,4,5 ] Three months later extensive featuring of Cairns scenes in the official film of the Queen's visit to Australia increased international awareness of the Cairns district. [cp 19.6.54 p6] Coinciding with the release of the royal tour movie Bob Bolton released the first NQ hardback tourist information book “Displaying North Queensland In General and the Mulgrave Shire In Particular” [Bob Bolton "From England to Australia" book p160] In October the city's water supply was boosted by the addition of the Behana Creek intake [cp 8.10.54 p7] an event highlighting a productive twelve months in Cairns post war transformation.
In May 1955, the arrival of the Italian migrant worker ship, "Flaminia", brought European influences and culture and a new generation of much needed farming families [cp 27.5.55 p1] while the August opening of a modern steel framed railway station replaced a badly degraded wood and rusting iron structure. [cp 8.8.55 p1]
DECADE TEN: 1956 - 1965
The decades first significant event was a direct hit on Cairns city by Cyclone Agnes with winds of 70 miles per hour. Although considerable damage was done to vegetation and property the effect was greatly lessened by it being a "dry" cyclone with little or no rain [cp 7.3.1956 p1] . Towards the end of the year the 16th Olympic games was held in Australia. In November the Olympic torch arrived in Cairns from Darwin and was carried first by Australian born Greek Constantine Verevis and then by North Queensland aboriginal Anthony Mark a runner especially chosen to represent the aboriginal people of Australia. [cp 10.11.56 p1,"Anthony Mark bio" cp 2.11.56 p5 ]
Sections of a Cinerama movie, “Cinerama South Seas”, were filmed in Cairns in 1957. This three screen color movie revisited the places seen by Captain Cook during his southern hemisphere maritime voyages 187 years previous. The showing of a Cinerama documentary film was regarded as a major boost for the tourist trade of any region depicted. [cp 9.9.57 p3 11.9.57 p5]
In September 1958 Government horticulturist S E Stephens and a small team of volunteers created the Cairns Historical Society with the express aim of encouraging the collecting and sharing of Cairns history. [cp 6.9.58 p8]
The remainder of the 10th decade saw many developments in catering to a tourism based economy. In 1958 the Cairns Council embarked on a much needed sewering of the whole city providing the basic plumbing infrastructure for the high rise boom of the nineteen eighties. [cp 21.3.58 p7 "Erection of small huts means sewerage has begun" ] An official tourist area was declared between Trinity Bay, Cassarina Point, Green Island, and Ellis Beach on
August 4, 1960[cp 5.8.60 p7] and the 1962 opening of a new Green Island jetty was turned into the first annual Cairns Tourist festival [cp 28.5.62 p7] and renamed “Fun In The Sun” the following year. ["one week festival next year" cp 29.5.62 p3]
In December 1962 the
Saddle Mountainall weather radar and cyclone warning station was opened at Kuranda [cp 10.12.62 p1] Operated by remote control from Cairns Airport the station was recognized as a necessity after an unpredicted 1958 cyclone inflicted extensive damage to the northern town of Bowen because of a 25 degree blind spot in the then prevalent Townsville section of the Queensland Coast warning system. [cp 5.4.58 p1]
The 1963 coming on line of the Barron Gorge Hydro Electricity Scheme and its linking into Townsville and Mackay via the Northern Power Grid greatly increased the electrical power available for future large scale population and industrial requirements. [cp 9.9.63 p1]
The decade ended with the opening of a bulk sugar terminal on the Cairns waterfront in October 1964 which ensured that the still dominant sugar industry would not be neglected. [cp 5.10.64 p1,p5]
DECADE ELEVEN: 1966 - 1975
The release of the first issue of printer Bob Bolton's glossy large format color photo tourism magazine "The North Queensland Annual" in 1966 was a major advance in local area promotion and opened a decade of change and modern attitudes. [ North Queensland Annual 1966 CHS archive copies] Later that same year the first local TV stations started broadcasting - ABC 9 in July [cp 25.7.66 p9] - FNQ 10 in September [cp 7.9.66 p13-21] and in October the first independent Cairns newspaper since the 1930s, "The Northerner", started publishing. The paper lasted until April 1968. [1966 CHS archive copies cp 14.4.70 p3] Percy Trezise published a much acclaimed book on the
QuinkanAboriginal cave paintings of Cape Yorkin 1969. [ book copyright information] These existence of these ancient paintings, long known to Cape residents, soon became a much discussed Australian and international topic because of Trezise's publicizing.
A year later the City Council went high tech [for the time] and proudly became the first local authority in Queensland to take possession of a Burroughs mainframe computer the size of a large domestic freezer and with “a memory capacity of 200 words”. [cp 14.4.70 p3]
In 1972 a group of young people retreated from the modern world and started a large hippy colony at Weir Road, Kuranda near the
Barron Falls National Parkafter earlier attempts at Holloways Beach in 1967-71. [interview with Richard Bickford long time Weir Road Kuranda resident] [see CeS cartoon "The Northerner" July 28, 1967p3] The commune only lasted a few years before it was abandoned with some determined individuals setting up splinter colonies at more isolated North Queensland areas like Cedar Bay on Cape York. Some members of the Weir Road community later rejoined society and became local tourism business personalities.
In October 1972 the new Captain Cook motel started daily advertising. [7.10.72 p14] The motel was notable for the colossal and controversial statue of Captain Cook outside its entrance in Sheridan Street. The building of the statue was unwittingly given approval by the Council because an officer failed to realize the plan of its proposed height was given in metric measurement and not linear feet and inches. [David Clark "Big Things" Penguin Books 04 p16 ]
In 1973 the Royal Australian Naval presence in Cairns was a large warehouse/shed in the southern end of Grafton Street (opp. the current General Post Office) as Patrol Boat Facility under HMAS Penguin's command in Sydney. It was during this year it was commissioned as HMAS Cairns under the command of Cdr Jim Yates and Executive Officer Lt Cdr Geoff Burrell. A new base was constructed in the present site in later years. The Naval wharf was No.1 where 'Trinity Wharf' was later constructed.
The long awaited Cairns Civic Center was officially opened by Australian Prime Minister
Gough Whitlamon May 31 1974.In his address Mr Whitlam pointed out that Cairns was in the unique position to absorb ideas and styles from three cultures, the European, the Aboriginal and the Torres Straitislander. [cp 1.6.74 p1]
At the end of February 1975 local identity Rusty Rees took over a loosely structured "hippy" market that had been operating in various locations since late 1974 and founded Rustys Markets on the previous site of the old 1800s Chinese produce markets. [p13,14 Michael Chatenay "Rusty's Markets" Bolton Imprint 05 ]
DECADE TWELVE: 1976 - 1985
1976 saw the commencement of supply from the
Copperlode Dam, providing the extra water needed for a projected rapid increase in population. [cp 26.3.76 p1] Later that same year, the 100th anniversary of Cairns founding was celebrated with various public events one of the most important of which was the release of the first serious attempt at a comprehensive history of Cairns, the book "Trinity Phoenix" by Dorothy Jones. [cp 25.11.1976 p1] Three years later the opening of a modern public library meant quicker access to local and international printed material. [cp 5.2.79 p3 [library opened 3.2.79] ] Wet seasondisruption to the Northern Beaches road traffic flow in and out of Cairns, always a problem because of the Barron River's lengthy Tablelands catchment area, was considerably relieved by the construction of two modern bridges at Stratford and Kamerunga in 1977 and 1980 [cp 17.12.1977 p1,cp 11.10.1980 p3] Before this construction the present Freshwater creek bridge at Freshwater swimming hole used to be the last crossing to 'go over', now it is the first.
The opening of "Ruth's Women's Shelter" second hand book shop in November 1980 was a practical way to provide a vital independent community service. [cp 29.11.1980 p9] Staffed by volunteers and relying on the sale of donated stock the shelter provided funds for the setting up and ongoing running of a women and children's crises accommodation shelter.
A major advancement in the modernization of Cairns was the construction of four modern high rise apartment and hotel complex buildings between 1981 and 1983. [tuna towers cp 21.2.81 p3, lyons cp 8.10.81 p3, aquarius cp 19.7.82 p3, pacific cp 28.2.83 p1] Although regarded by some builders as not desirable or possible for the Cairns environment [cp 20.8.1947 p5] such architecture heralded the start of the local high rise era. During this period the Queensland Government decided to issue two Casion licences, one for the north part of the state and one for the southern. There were three massive applications from Cairns' developers, the biggest involving reclaimation work creating a massive 'penisula' jutting out from the Esplanade and creating a marina, was costed at $300 million. These proposals were opposed by the majority and the then Mayor of Cairns, Keith Goodwin, lead peaceful demonstrations on the mudflats. The Government decided to choose Townsville's proposal of $35 million from the Thiess Group, Sir Leslie Thiess, being a big supporter of the Bjelke Petersen Government.
The event having the most long term significance for the Cairns region was the 1984 opening of the Cairns International Airport which made Cairns and its reef, range and rainforest attractions more accessible to the modern world's air traveling population. [cp 3.4.84 p1]
The decade finished with the October 1984 opening of a controversial road through the ancient Cape Tribulation rainforest. Much media attention was given to prolonged clashes with protesters in December 1983 when bulldozing first cut the track and August 1984 when the actual laying of the road commenced. [cp 8.10.84 p3,30.11.83 p1,3.8.84 p1]
DECADE THIRTEEN: 1986 - 1995
The 1987 founding at Kuranda of the Tjapukai Dance Theatre had far reaching consequences for the commercial tourism potential of Cairns and the cultural pride of the local indigenous population. ["a decade of highlights" cp 17.5.1997 p41] The same year, and also at Kuranda, a butterfly sanctuary, later named by the
Guinness book of recordsas the largest on Earth, commenced public operation. [North Queensland Register 22.7.1987 p5]
Two events in 1988 increased Cairns reputation as an area of natural beauty and scientific interest. In February a lengthy board walk was opened through the mangrove swamps alongside the Cairns airport allowing visitors to immerse themselves comfortably in the natural environment that surrounded the first aboriginal and European settlers [opened 27.2.1988 Boardwalk pamphlet Cairns City Council ] and in December wet tropical rainforest between Cooktown and Townsville was included on the
World Heritagelist ["included on list December 9th last year" cp 10.5.89 p2]
A change of position to Grafton Street for the cities mail sorting and central post box office in 1990 ["private boxes to move this week [from old location] " cp 10.3.90 p7] was followed in 1992 by the opening of a multi storey court house and police station in Sherdian Street. The complex, costing $46.5 million, was constructed to cater for the present and future legal needs of a rapidly expanding North Queensland population. [police complex opening today cp 20.11.1992 p5,8,21.11.92p13]
Recognising that, because of its location as the last large city on Australia’s east coast, Cairns is frequently the end of the road for many homeless and disadvantaged young people, local chiropractor Harald Falge created, early in 1993, the Street Level Youth Care organization, a church volunteer, seven days a week, after hours service assisting the homeless with food, blankets and non judgmental assistance when requested. Current mission plans include an accommodation house. [City Life December 2003 p12/13]
Five developments in 1995 demonstrated Cairns was capable of a modern sophisticated cultural attitude towards political cooperation, artistic endeavor, eco tourism, public computer access and higher level education. The Mulgrave and Cairns Shires amalgamated to for the present day
City of Cairns, ["115 year history of mulgrave shire to end 11.3.1995" cp 8.3.95 p35] a $1.5 million Art Gallery opened, [cp supplement 13.7.1995] Sky Rail introduced the cable car to the rainforest experience ["Skyrail started operating a day earlier to beat protesters" cp 1.9.95 p1/p2 ] the first public Internet café was opened at Ricks Motel Sherdian Street [cp 19.9.1995 p3] and James Cook Universityopened a full size campus at Smithfield [officially opened 6.12.1995 "from cardboard to campus" cp 1.3.97 p32]
DECADE FOURTEEN: 1996 – 2005
The Cairns community, increasingly conscious of a potential international audience for its products and services, gained a higher world profile in the 14th decade.
The opening of the 25 acre $8.8 million Tjapakai Aboriginal Theme Park in July 1996 showed a society which previously ignored the history of its original inhabitants had developed the understanding to celebrate it in a commercial yet sympathetic way using the best resources of contemporary technology. The theme parks many subsequent Australian and Overseas awards indicated ongoing recognition of the achievement. ["opens to public today" cp 8.7.96 p1]
In contrast the commencement of the
Cairns Convention Centrelater that same month was an important development away from relying completely on tourism and towards catering for modern corporation events [opened 20.7.96 cp 22.7.1996 p1] The centers first major conference, in 2000, was for the omnipresent computer software company Microsoft. [cp 5.8.2000 p9 "conference starts tomorrow"]
On the suggestion by the Cairns City Council, the creation in October 1996 of an annual Reef Festival combining the resources and publicity of the city's major festival, the 'Fun in the Sun' and the increasing number of other minor festivals presented greater local group cooperation and integration of the community resources. [cp 12.10.96 p5 “starts tonight”’]
Updating the Cairns civic administration environment various public buildings and facilities relocated premises during the 14th decade. In May 1996 the Cairns Railway Station had moved to Bunda Street [ officially opened 7.5.96 cp 11.5.96 p94-97 ] while the old station was demolished and the site replaced by the Cairns Central Shopping Centre in 1997 [ opened 26.8.97 cp 22. 8.98 p49 "retail overload...center opened a year ago" ] A new Cairns City Council Chambers was occupied in 1998 [cp 1.10 1998 p3 "officially opened tomorrow"] and the City library moved into a refurbished version of the previous Council Chambers building in 1999 [cp 14.9.99 p3 "yesterdays official opening]
In May 2000 a decade long battle between the Queensland State Government and private developer Sailfox’s plans to build a $1.2 billion resort on East Trinity land fronting the Cairns Esplanade was resolved when the land was bought for the state [ cp 18.6.91 p1" 1.5 billion plan for inlet", cp 8. 5. 2000 p1 "State Government buys East Trinity]
In June 2000 Australia was once again the host of the Olympic Games. During the North Queensland section of the opening relay extensive world wide television and print media attention was given to the carrying of the 27th Olympic torch down a Skyrail cable car by a Djabugay Aboriginal elder [cp 27.6.2000 p1 "torch carried yesterday"] and then underwater over the
Great Barrier Reefby an Australian marine scientist. [cp 28.6.2000 p1 "reef torch images flashed around world yesterday"]
2002 saw the creation of the annual Cairns Festival incorporating all the activities of the previous Reef,Dive and Fun in the Sun festivals [Sept 1- 21 2002 official program ]
In March 2003 a public swimming lagoon and large scale Esplanade foreshore board walk and redevelopment project was officially given to the public allowing Cairns a white sandy beach [if only in a very limited area] [ cp supplement 29.3.03 p1]
The year 2004 included two important events.The Cairns Convention Centre was named the worlds best congress center by the annual general assembly of the International Association of Congress Centers [ cp 7.8.2004 p3 "won award yesterday"] and the local Djabugay rainforest Aboriginal group were given native title over the
Barron Gorge National Parkthe first such claim to be recognized in Queensland and the first in Australia to be granted without a court battle. [cp 18.12.04 p3 "title granted yesterday"]
The 14th decade closed, in 2005, with the withdrawal from North Queensland of the Japanese
Daikyo Companybecause of economic problems elsewhere in the organisation. This departure ended 17 years of major tourism investment in the Cairns area which had included a $30 million upgrade of facilities at Green Island. [cp 10.9.2005 p12 demise complete cp 1.7.2006 p28  ]
DECADE FIFTEEN: 2006 – 2015
24 April 2006, the Yarrabah based Mandingalbay Yidinjipeople became only the second aboriginal clan in Queensland, after the Djabugay group, to win recognition of their traditional lands. This western Government validation took 12 years to be approved and was made 236 years after Captain Cook made his brief visit to the Yarrabah area. [ cp 25.4.06]
On 2 April 2007 the Bureau of Meteorology reported a possible
Tsunamiwas headed for Cairns. The Tsunami had been triggered by an earthquake in the Solomon Islands that registered 8.1 on the Richter Scale. [ [http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/eqinthenews/2007/us2007aqbk/ EarthQuake.usgs.gov] - Magnitude 8.1 - Solomon Islands 2007 April 1 20:39:56 UTC] . The warning was displayed on the Bureau's website, as well as broadcast on local radio stations. Ill informed radio reports are thought to be the major cause of the panic that ensured. Both the Kuranda Range Highwayand the Gillies Highwayleading to the Atherton Tablelandsbecame blocked as thousands of residents attempted to flee to higher ground. Schools abandoned classes, businesses closed their doors and staff were sent home for several hours before and after the tsunami was expected to arrive. The panic was later considered helpful in that it exposed major faults in the city's current emergency response planning. These included the lack of air raid sirens to warn people on The Esplanade, as even up until the admittedly small tsunami made landfall, there were still tourists swimming in the Esplanade's Lagoon. The question of Quaid Roadbeing used as a possible evacuation route during emergencies was also raised again. [ cp 3.4.2007 p1,2,3,5 cp 4.4.2007 p1,2 cp 8.4.2007 p5 ]
Notes: The actual event date is usually one or two days before or after the publication date of the newspaper article cited. "cp" is abbreviation for "The Cairns Post" newspaper. "CHS" is an abbreviation for the Cairns Historical Society
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