Creation of a state


Queensland was first seen by Europeans in the 1600s. Dutch explorer Willem Jansz landed on the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, and in 1623 Jan Carstens explored the Gulf of Carpentaria. An Englishman, Lieutenant James Cook, is acknowledged as the first European to encounter Queensland's east coast in 1770 in HMS Endeavour.

Europeans settled in Queensland in 1825 when Brisbane was selected as a penal settlement for the more difficult convicts. The penal settlement was officially closed in 1839 and the land was prepared for sale for permanent settlement.

Queensland was originally part of the British-administered colony of New South Wales. This occupied a large part of the Australian continent.

A desire to separate from New South Wales began to emerge as Queensland's economic significance increased and its productivity and population expanded. The people of Queensland began to realise the importance of Brisbane as a port and urban centre.

The physical remoteness of Queensland from the centre of government in New South Wales and concern about the maintenance of public infrastructure, contributed to a desire for independence.


In 1851, a public meeting was held to consider Queensland's separation from New South Wales.

Queen Victoria granted approval and signed Letters Patent on 6 June 1859 to establish the new colony of Queensland. On the same day, an Order-in-Council gave Queensland its own constitution.

Queensland became a self-governing colony with its own Governor, a nominated Legislative Council and an elected Legislative Assembly.

Queensland Day is celebrated on 6 June, recognising the birth of the state.

Early development

After the separation from New South Wales, towns outside Brisbane began to develop. In 1860 Ipswich and Rockhampton were officially declared towns. Maryborough and Warwick followed in the next year.

Queensland's first elections were held in 1860. Robert George Wyndham Herbert led the first elected government as Premier. On 22 May 1860, Queensland Parliament opened for the first time. Immigration, communications and development issues broadly occupied Queensland's early politics. The railway network extended as towns demanded their own link.

One of the earliest decisions of the new parliament was to increase the population of the new colony as rapidly as possible. A land-order system was devised to attract new settlers. Over the next 3 years, nearly 25,000 people landed in Queensland attracted by the idea of owning land.

The discovery of payable gold near Rockhampton was one of many discoveries that encouraged development in Queensland and helped to protect the state from the effects of the 1866 Depression.

Queensland pioneered the state secondary education system in the early 1860s when the government subsidised municipalities to set up grammar schools—the first free education in Australia. In 1866, Queensland Treasury banknotes were issued for the first time.

The Constitution Act 1867 defined the formal institutions of government including parliament and the executive government.

In 1876, the current design of the Queensland flag was officially adopted. Local government was established in 1879 with the passage of the Divisional Boards Act 1879.

By 1891, wool had become an enormous industry in Australia. Thousands of shearers, already dissatisfied with their pay rates and conditions, refused to work when a Darling Downs Station employed non-union men. When Aborigines, Kanaka Islanders and Chinese immigrants began working for even cheaper wages, the potential for revolution dissolved. The strike is remembered as an event that created camaraderie among Australian workers from all backgrounds and launched Labor politics. The first branch meeting of the Australian Labor Party is said to have been held by striking shearers under the gum tree now known as the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, Queensland, in 1891.

As fears were expressed that Aboriginal people in Queensland faced extinction, the Government decided to establish new governmental reserves to accommodate the remaining tribes throughout the state. In 1897, the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was passed, authorising the removal of Aboriginal people to reserves. These powers of removal continued until 1971 when the Act was amended.


On 1 January 1901, the union of the Commonwealth of Australia was created. The majority of Queenslanders voted yes to a referendum asking whether Queensland should join the Federation. The referendum was passed resulting in Queensland losing its colonial status and becoming a state.