Our Island History



There is a great deal of evidence of Aboriginal people living on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands of Russell, Lamb, Karragarra and Macleay.
On Macleay Island, Corroboree Point is believed to be a ceremonial ground and dreaming site. There is also a midden (a collection of shells, tools and bones formed after hundreds of years of gathering at that spot by Aboriginal people). Thompson’s Point was also an Aboriginal campsite and was possibly used for spotting turtles.

On Lamb Island, Harry Brook Reserve has a midden.
On Russell Island, there is an Aboriginal crossing point from the northeast tip across Canaipa Passage to Stradbroke Island.


Where did the names come from?
Russell Island was originally called Canaipa. It was named Russell Island in the 1840s after Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for the colonies in the 1840s.
Macleay Island was called Jencoomercha and in the 1840s was named after Alexander Macleay, the Colonial Secretary of NSW. At the time Queensland did not exist. All of Queensland was part of New South Wales.
Karragarra Island has retained its indigenous name.
Lamb Island was originally called Ngudooroo. The origins of Lamb are not clear but it is possible that it was named after British peer William Lamb, also known as Lord Melbourne.

Who were the first European settlers?
Some of the first Europeans to live on the islands were convicts. When the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement was operating (between 1824 and 1842), convicts were sent to North Stradbroke Island to help with timber-getting and growing crops.
Some convicts escaped and lived on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. Other convicts who had served their sentences and were set free also lived on the islands.
Tim Shea was taken to Dunwich as part of a convict timber-cutting gang. He escaped about 1834 and lived on Macleay Island. For a while Macleay Island was known as Tim Shea’s Island.

After the convicts
After the convict period ended in 1842, many people came to the islands for the timber.
Fishermen also moved to the islands. They hunted dugong for their oil and harvested oysters, firstly for their shells and later for their shellfish. They also farmed oysters. Oystering was the biggest fishery in southern Queensland for many years.
Farmers began to move to the islands in the 1860s. They grew cotton and sugar but these crops were not very successful so they started growing fruit instead. Later on, they grew vegetables. Some farmers swam cattle across to the islands and tried to set up herds.
One of the early fruit crops was mangoes. Some of the trees planted in the 1890s are still growing. Later on, pineapples and bananas were very popular.
Many of the jetties were built so the farmers could get their crops to markets on the mainland. Once the farmers began to do well, they built community halls, churches and schools.
As the years went by, the farmers found it harder to make a living and by the 1960s, they began to sell their farms. Many property developers bought the land on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. The Bay Islands were subdivided into suburban blocks over the next 10 years.

When was it?

In 1915, the first passenger boat service began
In 1916, the Russell Island state school opened. It moved to its present location in 1926
In 1920, a Methodist church was built on Russell Island
In 1967, Russell Island got electricity. The other islands had to wait until 1983
In 1986, the Macleay Island State School opened