People and Places

Investigation 1

What was life like on the land in Queensland in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 1

Investigation 2

Why were workers from the South Pacific Islands important to Queensland’s development?
Resource Sheet 2

Investigation 3

What were the characteristics of Queensland’s mining communities in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 3

Investigation 4

Why did workers want fairer voting for the Queensland Parliament in the 1890s?
Resource Sheet 4

Investigation 5

Who were some of the political leaders in the colony of Queensland in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 5

What are you thinking now?

Additional activities and exercises to explore in the classroom.


From the 1860s to the early 1890s, Queensland had laid the foundations for a prosperous colony. Agricultural industries had been established and gold mining had played an important part in developing the colony. Britons made up the largest percentage of migrants, followed by Germans. Non-Europeans in Queensland had also made their contributions under more difficult conditions, and to a greater extent, than in any other Australian colony.

Brisbane was the colony’s proud capital and commercial centre, developed through the wealth of sheep and cattle farmers, called pastoralists. Large homes were built on the banks of the Brisbane River for merchants, lawyers, stockbrokers and government administrators. The homes of domestic servants and workers on the wharfs and in the factories, however, were sometimes little more than shanties. The Brisbane Courier, the town’s major newspaper, carried the news and opinion of the colony, and told of the comings and goings of prominent people in its detailed shipping and overland travel lists.

In an area as large as Europe, distance was playing a part in shaping the character of the colony. The sugar plantations of Mackay were almost a thousand kilometres north of Brisbane, while the mining communities of Charters Towers to the west were even further. In a parliament dominated by ‘southerners’, the cattlemen, plantation owners and miners felt ignored and neglected. They began to think of forming one or two more colonies, and separating from the south.

Other problems also threatened the achievements of the colony. Economic depression and then a drought in the 1890s troubled those in government. The defeat of the Shearers’ Strike in 1891 encouraged workers to band together for better wages and conditions and to strive for representation in the Queensland Parliament. They also wanted a fairer parliament in which workers and not just the rich were represented.