Surprising Brisbane facts
From creating the humble lamington to leading the nation in cutting-edge ecoscience research, Brisbane has a rich tradition of landmark feats that underline the myriad talents of its residents. After reading this list you will agree that the Queensland capital can rightly claim its place as a high-achieving hub where invention and creativity have produced a wealth of enviable results across a wide variety of fields!
The lamington was first concocted in 1900 at Old Government House by French chef Armand Galland. According to sources, the chocolatey-sponge treat was born of necessity – it was Monsieur Galland's solution to the perennial problem of unexpected visitors coming up the path!
In order to provide a timely High Tea for the lady of the house, Lady Lamington, Galland sliced leftover sponge cake and dipped the pieces in a melted chocolate sauce. He then rolled the resulting individual cakes in coconut and presented them to guests.
The cakes were an immediate hit – so much so, that the recipe was requested and circulated among ladies of the society. The recipe was titled "Lady Lamington’s Chocolate-Coconut Cake", but was verbally abbreviated to "lamingtons", as we know them today.
In 1882, a demonstration of what electricity could do was held with eight arc lights along Queen St. Power was supplied by a 10hp generator driven by a small engine in a foundry in Adelaide St. This was Australia's first recorded use of electricity for public purposes.
The first practical use of electricity was for lighting in the Government Printing Office in George St in April 1883. In 1886, the Roma St railway yards were using arc lights. In the same year, an underground cable connected Parliament House from the printing office, the first such move for any Parliament House in Australia. The supervision of the laying of cable was done by E.C. Barton. Barton formed a company with C.F. White and in 1888 they built a powerhouse in Edison Lane behind the General Post Office. The generating capacity was 30kW. The GPO became the first consumer of electricity in Australia and Barton and White the nation’s first electricity supplier.
In 1928, the New Farm Powerhouse (now known as the Brisbane Powerhouse) became operational. It was owned by Brisbane City Council until it was sold in 1963 to the Southern Electricity Authority and then decommissioned in 1971. It has been redeveloped as a performing arts and dining precinct.
The City Sounds is Australia’s largest free live-music program, hitting the stage in nine CBD locations every week. The program is committed to bringing Brisbane’s emerging music talent to light on a public stage and offering audiences a chance to discover original music.
Home to some of the most influential Australian bands and artists of the past 40 years, there’s no doubt Brisbane has a distinct music DNA. From 1970s rock band The Saints, ’80s jangle-pop outfit The Go-Betweens and ’90s alternative rock group Powderfinger, the Queensland capital has spawned a galaxy of musical stars. More recent examples include indie rockers Last Dinosaurs, high-energy band Little Odessa and folk-pop songstress Emma Louise, who are all enhancing the city’s pedigree.
In 2013 alone, The City Sounds presented more than 750 artists in 2300-plus performances in 155 days – making it the nation’s largest program of its kind. A continuation of the long-established Queen Street Mall Live program, it covers a wide gamut of musical tastes, from alternative, acoustic and folk to jazz, reggae and electro.
Brisbane’s Ecosciences Precinct is Australia's first centre dedicated to solving some of the country's biggest environmental issues.
Its researchers are positioning Queensland as a global leader in finding the balance between enhancing our quality of life, reducing the human impact on our environment and developing strong industries.
Part of the Boggo Rd Urban Village at Dutton Park, the centre focuses on delivering an improved understanding of our natural resources and environment, to improve their management, and is helping key industries such as agriculture, forestry and marine industries to develop sustainable growth strategies.
The precinct houses research staff from the Queensland Government, CSIRO and University of Queensland through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation). Their state-of-the-art facilities include laboratories, insect houses, controlled environment rooms, glasshouses, greenhouses, offices, workshops and a science education centre.
The laboratories are certified to stringent Australian standards—Physical Containment Level 2 (PC2) and Quarantine Containment Level 3 (QC3). PC2 is the rating for a standard, low-risk research environment. The QC3 facilities allow researchers to conduct secure and carefully controlled studies on insects and bacteria to help control weeds that threaten Queensland’s ecosystems, and pests and diseases that destroy crops.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane is proudly home to the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. From humble beginnings in 1927 with just two koalas, Jack and Jill, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has expanded to include more than 130 koalas and over 100 species of native Australian animals.
A favourite visiting spot for international tourists, the sanctuary found fame during World War II when many Americans visited the park to view the native wildlife. Since then, the sanctuary has had numerous famous visitors pass by, including Pope John Paul II and the British Royals.
Today, Lone Pine is dedicated to the conservation of koalas and all native Australian animals. Visitors can enjoy an organic coffee in the “Koala Forest”, participate in wildlife presentations and activities, and cuddle up close to the sanctuary’s main attraction.
It may seem an unlikely setting, but Brisbane was the place in which Australia's space industry blasted off – as early as 1934.
Few people are probably aware, but the first Australian rocket was launched from the middle of the Brisbane River on 4 December, 1934, thanks to the vision of Alan H Young, president and founder of the Queensland Air Mail Society.
The aim of Young's experiment was far more modest than to achieve orbit: it was to dispatch a mail-carrying rocket from a ship, the Canonbar, to the river bank at Pinkenba. The unnamed rocket contained hundreds of empty envelopes, each rocket cover bearing special labels and mail cachets, an overprinted stamp declaring this to be the first Australian rocket flight.
In 2009, The Australian newspaper ran an article marking the 75th anniversary of the rocket launch. It said the result was not quite the spectacle Young had hoped for, despite the romantic image he had designed for the commemorative stamp. As The Courier-Mail reported the next day, The Australian said, on leaving the ship the rocket hit a pile on the river bank and the container fell into the water. However, the rocket and its precious philatelic cargo were salvaged thanks the Canonbar’s captain, who had secured a long line to the rocket. Young’s later efforts were called Zodiac and Orion.
More than a convenience for Brisbane locals, the Kurilpa Bridge is the world’s largest structure based upon the principles of "tensegrity". Used to describe its structural formation, the term refers to the system of balanced compressive and tensile forces in the bridge’s design. In 2011, the Brisbane landmark was awarded World Transport Building of the Year the World Architecture Festival.
Connecting Kurilpa Point in South Bank to Tank St in Brisbane’s central business district, the bridge stretches 360m across the Brisbane River. Designed by local firms Cox Raynor Architects and Arup Engineering, the bridge carries an estimated 50,000 Brisbane pedestrian and cyclists per week.
Originally proposed as the Tank Street Bridge, a public competition was held in 2008 to name the structure. The name Kurilpa was chosen in reference to the Aboriginal word meaning "place for water rats". The bridge is considered one of Brisbane’s most iconic landmarks and contributes to the intricate skyline of the CBD.
The Translational Research Institute (TRI) is a unique, Australian-first initiative of “bench to bedside” medical research. The aim of TRI is to promote and facilitate the discovery, manufacture and testing of treatments and therapies that will have a positive and profound impact on global health.
The concept of a major research institute on the Woolloongabba site arose from the thinking of notable Queensland clinicians including Professor Brian Emmerson and Dr John Golledge, and the vision was conceived and brought to fruition by the clinicians and scientists of the four institutions that were its founding partners: The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Mater Medical Research Institute and Queensland Health.
The collective expertise of the initial partners in the project will be brought to bear on common and serious diseases including cancers, diabetes, HIV, malaria, bone and joint illnesses and obesity, with a view to enhanced prevention and treatment and improved public health worldwide.
Brisbane was the first place in the world to have an ambulance service manned by paid staff.
Formed in 1892, Queensland Ambulance was the first service of its kind to be manned by paid staff. Established to transport the ill and injured to hospital, funding for the service was initially sourced from community donations. Originally, services were provided by unpaid volunteers.
In 1985, the Queensland Government saw the value of the service and provided a subsidy based on £1 for each £1 raised by the service. This subsidy was revolutionary for its time, especially considering the great depression substantiating in the 1930s.
The innovative concept of “paid” staff came into existence and brought with it the need for a reliable cash flow. While records are vague, a public subscription scheme was introduced in Brisbane in the late 1890s. Today, Queensland Ambulance Service is an integral part of Brisbane’s health care sector and provides the community with health-related transportation and care.