A Legacy of Brisbane’s Benchmark Floods of 1893: Creating Dam Dependence



The 1893 Brisbane floods mark the first time when major flooding affected colonial settlement in southeast Queensland, Australia. Subtropical Queensland has episodic climatic conditions of flood and drought. Despite this, settlers developed the floodplains with catastrophic effect in 1893, as floods crippled an already devastated economy. The response reflects typical nineteenth-century solutions—structural engineering to control nature. Dam construction addressed socio-political imperatives and provided flood management and water storage. This encouraged development of the floodplain without regulation, increasing urban vulnerability. The course was set for dependency on dams to ensure human progress.

Author Biography

Margaret Cook, University of Queensland & La Trobe University, Australia

Dr Margaret Cook is an environmental historian, cultural heritage consultant, a Post-Thesis Fellow at the University of Queensland, and an Honorary Research Fellow at La Trobe University. Her PhD, completed in 2018, explored the history of floods in the Brisbane River and her findings have been published in national and international journals and in a forthcoming book, A River with a City Problem, with University of Queensland Press. Her current research deals with the colonial settlement of central Queensland for the production of cotton in the 1920s, particularly gender, climate and water.