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The penal settlement closed in 1839, with free settlers greatly expanding the Moreton Bay District’s productivity and population from 1842. By the 1850s the ‘tyranny’ of mismanagement and neglect practised by the remote Sydney-based government was a core grievance that led to calls for independence.

In 1851 a public meeting was held to propose the colony separate from New South Wales. The ensuing campaign lasted almost a decade – Queen Victoria finally gave her approval and signed Letters Patent on 6 June 1859 to establish the new, self-governing colony of “Queen’s Land”. The colony was the first in Australia to begin with its own parliament, instead of spending time first as a Crown Colony. On 10 December 1859 Queensland’s first governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, arrived in Brisbane. The official proclamation of independence was read to jubilant crowds from the first-floor balcony of a local doctor’s house – the Bowen family’s temporary home until a ‘more-fitting’ vice-regal residence could be built for the Queen’s representative.