QUT Home
facebook icon QUT eNews icon tripadvisor icon map pin icon

Key Political Events

A number of key political events took place in Queensland between 1859 and 1910, including:

1866 BREAD RIOTS
In the midst of a financial depression, government funding for public works dried up leading to the cessation of work on the Ipswich to Toowoomba railway line. Resultant food shortages prompted 250 angry men to march on Parliament House chanting “bread or blood!”. Police read the Riot Act and charged the stone-throwing mob at the corner of George and Elizabeth Streets, while guards were stationed around Government House to protect it from the ruckus.
1876 QUEENSLAND'S OFFICIAL FLAG
Queensland's official flag was unfurled, featuring an imperial crown inside a Maltese Cross against a blue background. It is not clear exactly why the Maltese cross was selected but one argument is that the Maltese cross was drawn from the crown worn by Queen Victoria at her coronation.
1876 INDIGENOUS RIGHTS RAISED
Duncan McNab, a Scottish Roman Catholic priest and pioneering Indigenous rights supporter, petitioned the government to grant reserves and individual family homesteads to Indigenous people, advocating that as Aborigines “…had always the right of tillage and pasturage, they ought to be acknowledged, without expense, as the rightful owners of the specified homesteads.”
1883 FOREIGN NATION ANNEXED
In response to the perceived threat of other European powers who were colonising in the South Pacific, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, Premier of Queensland, ordered the formal annexation of a section of Papua New Guinea. The British Government rebuked McIlwraith for his actions and repudiated the claim, only to claim the same region five years later and name it British New Guinea.
1887 GAYUNDAH INCIDENT
Parliament House very nearly came under fire when the naval ship Gayundah docked at Brisbane and Captain Henry Townley-Wright refused the orders of the premier to relinquish command. He anchored across the river from the Botanic Gardens and threatened to train the ship's 200mm main gun on Parliament House, claiming that because his ship flew the Queen's White Ensign he was not under colonial authority. The tense situation was eventually defused when a party of Queensland Police raided the vessel and arrested Townley-Wright at gunpoint.
1891 SHEARERS' STRIKE
A central Queensland shearers' strike lasting almost four months was one of Australia's first major industrial disputes. Unionists stopped work and staged parades in protest against a proposed reduction to shearers' wages. Many were arrested and jailed. Despite the strength of the protest, the strike was unsuccessful although it hastened the call for a political movement to represent the interests of working people, leading to the creation of a Labor party.
1897 INDIGENOUS RIGHTS RESTRICTED
The Queensland Parliament passed the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. This legislation included extensive clauses that substantially restricted the rights of Aboriginal people. It took almost a century for it to be fully overturned by the Community Services Act 1984.
1899 FEDERATION REFERENDUM
Queenslanders voted to decide whether the colony should join in a Federated Commonwealth. Sir James Dickson, the Premier at the time, joined the majority in favour of the Federation, although the strength of support in Queensland was less than in the other colonies.
1899 WORLD'S FIRST LABOR GOVERNMENT
The world's first Labor Government, headed by Anderson Dawson, was sworn in on 1 December. Dawson's administration lasted only six days in total, but in that time Dawson uncovered corruption in the granting of leases to mining magnate, John Moffatt, in his attempts to generate electricity from the Barron River for his Chillagoe mines.
1901 FEDERATION
Australian Federation - the six independent colonies combined to form a united, self-governing nation. The new Commonwealth's ‘White Australia Policy' deported many of Queensland's 61,000 Pacific Islander sugarcane workers without consideration of the hardship this would cause. Only those who had immigrated before 1879 or had children born in Australia were allowed to stay.
1905 WOMEN GET THE VOTE
Queensland women were granted the right to vote after many years of campaigning by the likes of Emma Miller, a key member of the suffragist movement and first President of the Women's Equal Franchise Association.