Why do we celebrate Queensland Day on 6 June?

Crowds at a 1988 Queensland Day march in Airlie Beach (IID: 436181)

Because it’s Queensland’s (unofficial) birthday!

It was on 6 June 1859 when Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent to create the new colony of Queensland, separating us from New South Wales.

However, it wasn’t until a proclamation of the separation was made that Queensland was born, and that proclamation (pictured below) was made on 10 December 1859.

The Proclamation of Queensland document, 10 December 1859 (DIID 5827)

The Proclamation was read to a crowd of 4000 people – almost the entire population of Brisbane, at the time – by Governor Bowen’s acting private secretary Abram Moriarty at The Deanery of St Johns in Ann Street.

Deanery at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, 21 July 1958 (DID 2818)

The text reads:

By His Excellency Sir George Ferguson Bowen, Knight, Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, Captain-General and Governor-in-chief of the Colony of Queensland and its Dependencies, and Vice-Admiral of the Same:
Etc. etc. etc.

Whereas Her Majesty has been graciously pleased, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date at Westminster, the Sixth day of June, in the twenty-second year of Her Majesty’s Reign, to separate from the Colony of New South Wales, the Territory described in the said Letters Patent, and to erect the same into a separate Colony to be called the Colony of Queensland, and has further been pleased to constitute and appoint me, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, Knight, Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, to be Captain-General and Governor-in-chief in an over the said Colony of Queensland and its Dependencies. Now therefore, I, the Captain-General and Governor-in-chief aforesaid, do hereby proclaim and declare that I have this day taken the prescribed Oaths before His Honour Alfred James Peter Lutwyche, Esquire, Judge of the Supreme Court, and that I have accordingly assumed the said Office of Captain-General and Governor-in-chief.

Given under my hand and seal at Government House, Brisbane, this tenth day of December I the Year of Our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and fifty nine, and in the twenty-third year of Her Majesty’s Reign. (Signed) G. F. Bowen

By His Excellency’s Command
(Signed) R. G. W. Herbert

God Save the Queen!”

The Proclamation of Queensland’s separation from New South Wales, and the formation of the former ‘Northern Districts’ into a new and independent colony (Queensland) is significant for several reasons.

It meant economic independence for this new colony; that the needs of the Northern Districts were no longer the responsibility of politicians in Sydney; and it represented the final phase of settler-colony expansion in Queen Victoria’s empire.

The highly fragile and priceless physical document is rarely taken out of Queensland State Archives’ respositories.

The words of the Proclamation are written in iron gall ink, which over time oxidises and burns through the paper.

In this sense the Proclamation is doubly cursed as it has iron-gall writing on both sides of the paper, meaning that oxidisation process will be more rapid than normal.

The document is stored away in the best and most stable conditions in QSA’s repositories, so deterioration is hundred of years away.

In the meantime, thanks to our ongoing digitisation work, you can see the Proclamation of Queensland on the Queensland State Archives website and on Flickr.

About Queensland State Archives

For more information about Queensland State Archives visit www.archives.qld.gov.au.

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