Mostly, our general approach among local historical societies of Brisbane is as if we still living in pre-1925! And the commemorative centenary – if there is to be a centenary – is only a blink of an eye away for modern historians – six years to 2025.
There are times I think that the Greater Brisbane approach is too much for local history organisations. The Brisbane History Group Inc. does great work but, if you study its scope in publications, it is fairly bounded in the ‘Central Brisbane’ region — Toowong, St Lucia, West End, South Brisbane, City, Petrie Terrace, Bowen Hills, Spring Hill, Fortitude Valley, New Farm, Teneriffe, and then across to Herston and Kelvin Grove. In the recent decade, an effort has been made to form a Western Suburbs History Network, and I have been working with other local historians in the last few years to get a Brisbane Southside History Network (BSHN) up and going. It is hard work, endeavouring to get that level of cooperation, even though there is a genuine desire in local historical societies to find collaborations.
I am waging a small and quiet campaign among local historians that we have to start thinking regionally in our local historical work. Most of us are not that parochial to ignore what’s happened outside of the old shire boundaries. For goodness sake, I am very pleased to hear as much as possible about Sandgate, an area which is far away from my own area of main interest, the Brisbane Southside. If we are honest, we are thinking about the ‘other’ places in history as distant townships.
Networks are a start but the fact is that, if we are going to be true local historians of Brisbane post-1925, we need to be developing historical scholarship at that scope. And is plain fact that in 2016 we don’t have that. The work of the late emeritus Professor John Robert Laverty (1923-2013) was up to 1925 and focused on the Central Brisbane region, and although I have a great respect for the work of Dr Denver Beanland, his anticipated history of the Brisbane City Council will mostly likely be about the institutional history of the Council, rather than the local history of Greater Brisbane in the sense of social histories and broad community histories.
The type of vision for an inclusive history of Greater Brisbane is what a few of us have started in the Mapping Brisbane History Project (http://mappingbrisbanehistory.com.au/). It is very open for anyone who like to participate, and the only requirement is a respect for the historical and geographical methodologies we are employing to make the project work. I would be very pleased to provide any guidance and training free of charge. The project has been going since 2012 and has been funded from three Brisbane City Council Community History Grants. We would welcome further support.