Thursday 5 October 2017

Bridge Anniversary 19 October 2017

The Bribie Island Bridge at sunset.
Photo: Janet Shorthouse, 2013, ABC Multiplatform.

Barry Clark, Bribie Island Historical Society

The arrival of Matthew Flinders on the sloop “Norfolk” in 1799 was a very significant date in the long history of the original people of this land.

Perhaps the most significant social and economic event in the 164 years after that was the building of the Bribie Island Bridge. When the bridge to Bribie Island opened on October 19th, 1963 life on Bribie Island, and in Queensland, and Australia, and the rest of the world, was very different from today. Depending how old you are reading this article, you may need to be reminded of some other things that happened back in 1963.

In 1963 when the Bridge was built
U.S. President John Kennedy assassinated in Dallas...
Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip visited Australia...
Government announce Decimal currency to come in 1966...
Charles Perkins “Freedom Ride” to end aboriginal segregation...
The first National Television Network was formed...

Australia was largely an agricultural economy and primary produce accounted for 77% of Australia’s commodity exports. Also in 1963 the Commonwealth Marriage Act came into force legitimising children born out of wedlock by the subsequent marriage of their parents. Now in 2017 we have some similar issues occupying our thoughts, including concerns about an additional bridge, or a replacement bridge, and when and where it might happen.

Bribie a quiet holiday destination
In 1962 the resident population of Bribie Island was less than 600 people, with many more coming for weekends and holidays, but Bribie Island was still a quiet and peaceful holiday destination. There had been much speculation about building a bridge to Bribie island for over 30 years. In those days, even with a small population, there were two Councillors representing Bribie on Caboolture Shire Council and the community worked hard creating what they needed with their own volunteer efforts.

Steamship excursions from Brisbane to Bribie had carried thousands of people for weekends and holidays since 1912, but this had stopped in 1953. A car ferry service had become popular since 1947, after the military built a road from Caboolture in WW2, and motor car ownership increased. Politicians talked about a bridge to Bribie during election campaigns in the late 1950s, and had considered having it paid for by developers, in exchange for land on the island. This did not eventuate, but in 1961 a Contract was awarded for a bridge to be constructed at a cost of 358,000 pounds. 

The Bridge was opened by Premier Frank Nicklin on 19th October 1963 and was the longest precast pre-stressed concrete bridge in Australia. The complex construction had involved driving 206 piles, weighing 12 ton each, laying 38 spans of concrete beams to span the 832-metre length. 

Just weeks before the opening an expensive Toll was announced, to be paid by all vehicles coming to the island. The 10-shilling Toll was a significant cost and came as a complete surprise, people were very disappointed, and it impacted growth and development for some time. Better roads and increased car ownership had led to population growth on both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, but this did not immediately eventuate on Bribie Island. In 1963 the 10 Shilling Bridge Toll would have paid the cost of Petrol to drive a car from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and back, and you could buy a pound of Beef for 2 shillings. The Bribie Bridge toll was 10 times that on the Hornibrook Highway, and was the most expensive road toll in Australia. Land prices and rates on Bribie had risen significantly in anticipation of change, but the expensive Bribie Bridge Toll lasted 12 years and was finally removed in 1975 when the bridge had been paid for by the money collected. The much lower Hornibrook Highway toll was also lifted in 1975 having been in place for 40 years. 

Bridge Opening celebrations
Bribie residents were outraged at the expensive toll and threatened to boycott or disrupt the opening ceremony. The opening day was however a big success, with large crowds and processions of floats, horse drawn carts, vintage cars, marching bands and hundreds of vehicles driving  to the island for the first time. It was so busy that the bridge was declared “One-Way” on to Bribie in the morning, and then “One-Way off in the afternoon.

This photo, taken on the opening day, shows the two lanes of vehicles coming onto the island. 

If you look carefully at the photo you will see many things that are different today.……. footpath handrail, overhead lights, sealed road …… how many more differences can you see ?

The Aerial photo of the mainland end of the Bridge, taken on the opening day, shows the huge number of buses, cars and people that gathered for the event, with the Toll Gates in the divided road surrounded by people waiting to walk across for the first time.

The “Bribie Star” local newspaper of the day produced a special complimentary souvenir edition documenting some fascinating history of the island by many of the pioneer residents. 

There had been an expectation that Bribie residents would not have to pay the toll, and eventually they did get a small concession. Books of tickets for multiple crossings could be purchased at a small discount and there was an exemption for Ambulance, Fire Brigade, Royal mail and Government vehicles. 14,000 cars crossed the bridge in the first week it was open, paying 7000 pounds to the two toll collectors, who were each on an annual salary of 5000 pounds. Many of the new visitors were very disappointed with inadequate parking facilities and amenities on the island, and may never have returned. In the first two years of the new bridge over 300,000 cars crossed over, but population growth was much lower than anticipated reaching just 2000 by 1975 when the toll was lifted.

50 years of Anniversaries
For the 10th Anniversary in 1973 the toll was still in force, but by the 20th Anniversary in 1983 the toll had been lifted and a major celebration was held in conjunction with the “Bribie Island Festival” organised by the Lions Club, who sold “Passports” to the Island as a fundraiser. 

In 1988 a “Silver Jubilee Carnival” was held for 25 years, together with a special edition of the local newspaper, and a souvenir T-shirt was produced.

The 30-year anniversary in 1993 was held in conjunction with a “Bribie Aquatic Festival”. 

I had only just come to live on Bribie Island in 2004 and knew nothing at all about Bribie History, or the significance of the Bridge, but I organised a fundraising walk for Rotary in which several teams of 10 people each walk over the bridge and back  4 times. So each sponsored team walked 40 kilometres and raised $4000 for Rotary causes. As a result of organising this event I met Stella Ray, a very long-term resident of the island, who sparked my interest in the unique history of this Island's community.

In 2008, I and many other enthusiastic people founded the Bribie Island Historical Society, and in 2013 the Historical Society placed a 50 year commemorative bronze plaque on a stone beside the bridge, and invited people involved in the bridge construction to participate. 

The Past …and Future
There has been much talk in recent years about the age and limitations of our 54-year-old bridge, and the need for a second or replacement bridge. There are some who say, “Bring back a Bridge Toll” and other who say “Blow the bridge up” and return to the peaceful days of water access only. Six years from now in 2023 the Bridge will be 60 years old, and will no doubt still be very much in use, whatever decisions are made about the location and timing of a second bridge.

Some readers of this article may have personal memories and photos of the original bridge opening, or photos and souvenirs from subsequent anniversary events. The Historical Society is keen to hear from you and capture your memories. 

Please contact us on if you have photos or stories from attending a Bribie bridge anniversary celebration from 1973, 1983, 1988 or 1993.

Capturing memories


At the September 2017 meeting of the Bribie Island Historical Society, Don Mullen was our honoured guest as he shared his memories of Bribie Island.

L-R: Barry Clark, Anne Mullen, Don Mullen, Graham Mills
September 2017 BIHS meeting
Photo: Barry Clark
Don Mullen first came to Bribie as a small boy in 1937 when his grandparents had a cottage here. He continued to have memorable weekends and holidays on the Island, coming by steamship and catching loads of big fish, for many years. When he later graduated as a Pharmacist and married his nurse girlfriend Anne in 1960, he purchased the one small Pharmacy business on Bribie Island and set up shop in Toorbul Street.

Over the next 50 years Don moved the growing Pharmacy business to other locations in First Avenue and later to Benabrow Avenue, where with his business partners he developed new commercial premises. As well as being the only “go to” person on the Island for heath and emergency needs, he involved himself in  many community projects and committees as a willing volunteer. He served on the Volunteer Fire Brigade, Ambulance, ANZAC Committee, RSL sub-branch, State School P&C, Catholic Church, Caboolture Rotary, Meals on Wheels and developed the Bribie Island Golf Club. He was also invited to be Patron of Chamber of Commerce, RSL, Golden Age and the Bribie Island Golf Club…..and has served this community long and hard for so many years.

Founder of the Bribie Island Historical Society, Barry Clark, conducted a filmed interview with Don a few months ago to capture, first hand, Don's recollections of life on Bribie over the past 80 years or so.

This video recording was then edited by past President Graham Mills with the addition of several hundred old photos from the Historical Society Database collection, illustrating the subjects spoken about by Don during the interview.

Don Mullen was a guest at the Historical Society September 2017 meeting where the video was first screened to the public, to a large and appreciative audience of over 80 members and friends. The video recording runs for just over an hour and is available for showing to interested groups on request.

Society President Lynne Hooper paid tribute to all the work Don and Anne have done over so many years and invited them to speak and answer questions. Both Don and Anne are still very active in the community and have contributed much to the success of the Historical Society. The large crowd also paid tribute to Warwick Outram who died last week after more than 40 years, writing more than 50 books about Bribie Island history, and also contributing to many of the same organisations as Don. Warwick Outram was invited to be the inaugural Patron of the Historical Society and has left a lasting legacy of the rich history of the Island.

We are reminded of how much some of the long-term Island residents have contributed to the wonderful community facilities we enjoy here today.

The Historical Society plan to conduct further interviews and capture other peoples stories while they can, so please contact us on if you would like to offer some information.


Warwick Outram in 2013.
Photo: Barry Clark
Few people have served the Bribie Island community in so many important ways, over so many years, as Warwick Outram. He passed away peacefully on 7 September 2017 in the company of his loving family.

Warwick lived 43 of his 90 years on Bribie Island, serving in many business and community roles, and documenting the rich history of the Island. He came with his wife Dot and family in 1974, at the time of the Brisbane floods, and took over the lease of the Bongaree Caravan Park for his retirement.

Born and educated in Newcastle Warwick grew up during The Great Depression, and became the youngest trainee technician with Burroughs Ltd during WW2. As a young man in a pioneer Information Technology industry he was required to take on significant responsibilities, travelling extensively to service customers with Adding and early Computing machines. Over the next 31 years with the company he progressed through the ranks, managing the transition to decimal currency, until a major job in a Capital City became inevitable.

That’s when Warwick and Dot decided to opt for a different lifestyle for their family, and came to live on Bribie Island to run the Caravan Park. Over the next 43 years Warwick was committed to his new home, devoting his energy and business skills in so many ways for the good of Bribie Island community. He served as President and Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce for 10 years, and for 20 years compiled the “Holiday Guide and Business Directory” to promote the Island's tourism and services. He volunteered on numerous community committees and Projects, including the Golden Age, Heritage Walks, the concept of Museum for Bribie Island, and for Council to recognise the value of the Island's rich history.

It was Warwick who coined the phrase “Bribie Island – the Cradle site of Queensland” in recognition of the first landing by Matthew Flinders and Bongaree in 1799. He started writing articles for the local “Island and Mainland News” newspaper in 1993, which led eventually to him writing his first book of “Heritage Tales”. The more he wrote, the more the fascinating stories emerged from long term residents, and over the last 20 years he has written, and personally published 57 books about Bribie Island History and heritage.

His wife Dot became very sick and they gave up the Caravan Park while he nursed her to her end in 2001, while developing commercial fishing interests and representing the Queensland State Fishing industry. With his Information Technology background, he worked hard to keep pace with modern computer developments, capturing historical records and an extensive photo collection.

In 2006 he moved to Bribie Cove Retirement Village where he continued his prolific writing, resulting in Bribie’s most extensive history book production. All typed, compiled, illustrated, printed, bound and distributed by an octogenarian who had a passion for the Island's rich and colourful past. As each of his 57 books were produced, copies were sent to both the National and Queensland State Libraries, as well as Queensland University and the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, and local Libraries. Warwick was also commissioned to write a “Remembrance Handbook” for the RSL Community Link, and the History of the “Chamber of Commerce”. He was invited to be the Patron of the Bribie Island Historical Society when it was established in 2008, and dedicated several of his books to the Historical Society including the “Bribie Bridge 50th Anniversary” in 2013.
Warwick was still writing about his beloved Bribie Island until just a few weeks before he died.

Warwick recently celebrated his 90th Birthday with 24 of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who have all remained living in the area. He was a very determined and generous man, who stood by strong principles and was determined to leave a legacy for future generations. He believed firmly in the old saying 

Happiness is found along the way, not a reward at the end of the journey”.

Barry Clark
Bribie Island Historical Society