What’s in a name? Before the name Brisbane was officially chosen in honour of Governor Thomas Brisbane, the settlement was also known as Moreton Bay and Edenglassie (a combination of Edinburgh and Glasgow).
The city centre sits on a finger of land on the north bank of the river, known by the word Meanjin, meaning ‘shaped like during a spike’. The name also references the shape of a tulipwood spear tip. Tulipwood is a small tropical tree which once grew locally in large groves, often utilised to create spears.
Before the 1820s, the riverbanks of the inner city were lush with blue gums, swamps and rainforest.
It was described by British settlers as a jungle with a “tangled- mass of trees, vine, flowering creepers, stag-horns, elk-horns, towering scrub palms, giant ferns… beautiful and rare orchids, and the wild passion-flower” (The Brisbane Courier, 22 March 1930). Danie Mellor’s Natura Pacifica (balan mulgal) (2018) imagines what this rich landscape would have looked like.
In stark contrast, Cedric Flower’s painting Brisbane 1830 (c1965) illustrates what the city looked like its convict era. The central spike of land was selected as the site of Brisbane’s penal settlement between 1825 – 1859, due to its cool, elevated location close to fresh water. However, Cedric Flower painted this scene long after 1830. Although it was based on an original 1830 drawing by an unknown artist, when Cedric recreated the scene in 1965 he took some creative licence by adding in people and colour, a reminder that artists are not always driven by accuracy when interpreting place.
The city centre has seen the construction of many iconic landmarks, including Old Government House, Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the Botanic Gardens and City Hall. Newer landmarks include skyscrapers such as 1 William Street, and the next decade will bring further change through the Queen’s Wharf development, new transport hubs and projects such as the proposed Eagle Street Pier transformation.