The facades of the industrial precinct along Montague Road hide a rich history of the river, the land and the people.

There are old chronicles of Aboriginal cultures and important heritage from settlements and industry since 1825. The Aboriginal place name for the area is Kurilpa meaning ‘place of the water rat’. A new community publication Walking with the Water Rats … Kurilpa Point to Davies Park and beyond celebrates the history of this very special section of the 4101.

The West End Making History Group was founded in 2010 and consists of locals who love our community and are intent on treasuring it and sharing it. After the recent launch of the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Government’s Kurilpa Riverfront Renewal project, their timely publication is the third instalment in their A Street Walker’s Guide to West End series. The guide acknowledges the traditional owners and elders of the land — Kurilpa provided a sustainable home for the Jagera and Turrbal peoples for more than 60,000 years. Although their way of life was disrupted when Europeans arrived, Aboriginal people still live locally and play significant roles in the Kurilpa community. An early European account of the area describes it as “a tangled mass of trees, vines, flowering creepers, staghorns, elkhorns and towering scrub palms”.

The book narrates the history walk which begins at the Gallery of Modern Art, breezing around the river bend past heritage sites along Montague Road such as the Pauls factory and the handsome brown brick Foggitt Jones building. Progressing through Davies Park, the walk finishes at the Thomas Dixon Tannery near Orleigh Park. Our intriguing history is clearly presented in the comprehensive guide, covering the industrial, social and commercial history that every lover of Brisbane and West End should know.

Former Brisbane Lord Mayor Tim Quinn, a West End local, led the research and writing, and gave a walking tour to launch the book. Mr Quinn noted that The West End Making History Group chose the precinct because of its important industrial history in the area, one of the oldest such areas in Brisbane. He emphasised that it is important to recognise the history of the area because it is likely to be redeveloped soon, according to the Council’s latest plans. Mr Quinn says, “The whole precinct and any new surrounding development has to be planned very carefully, otherwise these smaller heritage buildings might end up like scattered curios lost in an overdeveloped forest of 30 to 40 storey towers.”

The latest walk booklet is available from Avid Reader bookshop and at the Kurilpa/West End Library, both on Boundary Street in West End, and from the office of local councillor Helen Abrahams in Woolloongabba. The group’s first publications are also available: A neighbourhood walk through the streets of West End, and Beyond the Boundary: Aboriginal, Greek and Activist History. The fourth in the series is Strolling the Flood Plains of Hill End, and focuses on recreation, inundation and redevelopment.

Words by Chris Hassall

Images by Michael David