The Wacol immigration centre was the first port of call for some European migrants after World War II. Countries of origin included Poland, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Malta, Greece and Italy. Probably the largest group was the Poles who established a community centre opposite the cement works. Together with the brickworks, the cement works was one of the major employers of migrant labour.
The suburb of Ellen Grove was named after the grandmother of the sub-divider of the land R P Spinks. Her name was Ellen Dabing. She often recalled playing with local Aborigines in a grove of trees along the bank of Bullockhead Creek. The area was originally known as Ellen’s Grove. The land was originally part of the Archerfield Station, which was occupied by the Durack family during the 1880s.
One of the early industrialists was Mr W Brittain who discovered clay deposits in the area, suitable for brick and pipe manufacture. He established his brickworks in Harcourt Road in 1889. The brickworks and the cement works are two of the major landmarks of the area and until recently, were the major source of employment. The Brisbane River and the railway have always been important transport links between Darra and Brisbane.
Italians were responsible for transforming Richlands from a collection of acreage paddocks to a thriving market gardening and fruit-growing district. Its reputation stretched as far away as Melbourne and Cairns. This eminence lasted for nearly 50 years.
Italians first came to Richlands in the early 1930’s. Chain migration to the north Queensland cane fields or the fruit-growing region of Stanthorpe continued on to Richlands. This tightly knit group of (Ostigliesi) Italians embarked on small-crop farming and raising poultry. After World War II, a large influx of Sicilian and Veneti immigrants aided by family sponsorship settled in Richlands. They in turn followed their sponsors into farming. It is from this point that Italians transformed Richlands into a prosperous market gardening area.
Most of these Italians also worked in local industries as a way of supplementing their farming income and to repay mortgages. The Queensland Cement and Lime factory (QCL) at Darra, Brittains Brickworks at Darra and Oxley and Huttons Meatworks at Oxley attracted many of these immigrants. They were highly regarded as hard workers. Construction of houses in the new suburb of Inala absorbed many new Italian arrivals.
Small crops, strawberries and poultry were soon surpassed by a thriving Richlands grape growing industry. So significant was this production that Mac Pola formed the Richlands Grape Growers Association.
Other nationalities to settle in Richlands after World War II, via the nearby Wacol Migrant Hostel, were Dutch, Polish, Yugoslav, German and Ukranian.
Richlands had been aptly named because of its fertile and rich agricultural lands, promoted by its subdivison developers in the early 1930s. However, Richlands is now a rapidly evolving residential and industrial area with a decreasing presence of agricultural activity.
The regional area of Darra around the railway line was first settled in about 1915. The school opened in 1916 with an enrolment of 26. The Queensland Cement and Lime Company commenced operations at this time. The Queensland Railways Department named the station Darra, which was adopted by the school and post office.
In November 1960, the year after the Centenary of the State of Queensland was celebrated; Hooker Rex announced a major satellite residential development covering 1,295 hectares and a bridge (later named Centenary Bridge) linking the new then named Darra development with the western suburbs of Brisbane. Early subdivisions in the Darra area included all of what is referred to as the Hooker Centenary suburbs. The land from Wolston creek north to the river had been previously subdivided into 54 farms ranging in size from 18 to 54 acres.
The Centenary Bridge is a highway crossing of the Brisbane River built to service the new “Centenary” suburbs. During the renowned 1974 floods, the bridge was badly damaged when a barge drifted into it. The barge blocked the flow of floodwaters under the bridge and there were real fears that the bridge would collapse. The barge was deliberately holed using explosives and allowed to sink to reduce the floodwater pressure on the bridge. When the floodwater receded the barge was refloated and beached downstream to be cut up for scrap. The damage sustained by the bridge required its partial closure for repairs for two years. (Ref: Wikipedia)
While early development revolved around farming, the Darra suburb is now better known for its industrial development. The Queensland Cement and Lime plant dominated the landscape for many years, supplying cement for some of Brisbane’s most famous landmarks including the City Hall and Story Bridge, although the operation has now relocated to Gladstone. When production was at its peak during the 1960s, the level of cement dust was problematic and in 1971, $1 million worth of anti-pollution equipment was installed and the problem was significantly reduced.
1. Text contributed by Rizieri Formigoni, Richlands Italian Monument Committee.
2. Photo of Centenary Bridge courtesy of The Satellite, 30 Sep 1992 (flashback to 1974) and Centenary Suburbs Historical Society.