Bribie Island, separated from the mainland by the narrow Pumicestone channel, is 45 km north of Brisbane at the point where the Bribie Bridge crosses the channel. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal expression, 'Boorabee', referring to a koala or the island itself.
The island was seen by the explorer Matthew Flinders in 1799, where he named Skirmish Point at its southern end. Bribie Island is 34 km from north to south, including the spit extending nearly to Caloundra, and has a maximum width of 8 km.
The island had an estimated 600 Aborigines on it at the time of Flinders exploration. An Aboriginal Reserve was established near White Patch in 1877, and it is understood that by 1897 most of the island's Aboriginal population had died. (At the 2011 census, 305 residents identifed as having Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander heritage.) Early European settlers were castaways, but a fish cannery was opened at the northern end of the island in 1901. Freight and passenger shipping ran regular services to Bribie Island within ten years, some of the passengers being holiday-makers and campers. A telephone link and a bowls club were established in the 1920s, and a school was opened in 1924 at Bongaree, the island's main settlement. Bongaree, was served by the 'Koopa' which came from Redcliffe. A barge also crossed the channel from Sandstone Point.
Bribie Island was described as a pleasure resort and a Moreton Bay oyster ground. As late as the 1950s Bongaree's main street was a sandy esplanade dotted with holiday houses and a general store. Wallabies and wild ponies could be seen from the verandahs, and a local hall was the social centre. The bridge was opened in 1963, but did not precipitate an immediate population surge. That began ten years later and even more markedly in the 1980s. Bribie Island's notable resident, the reclusive artist, Ian Fairweather, had died in 1974.
Bongaree, and neighbouring Bellara and Banksia Beach, contain over 80% of the island's population on its protected western shore. Woorim on the ocean side is across the island from Bongaree. The northern three-quarters of the island is a Recreation Area, including the World War II fort which is on the Queensland heritage register. Banksia Beach includes canal estates, a marina, bowls and golf clubs, a community arts centre, a primary school (1992) and a shopping centre. Bongaree has two shopping centres, a high school (1989), a bowls club, an aquatic centre, several elderly persons residential facilities, and a hospital. Woorim is north of Skirmish Point. Its ocean beach has the Bribie Island surf life-saving club. There are also a small shopping centre, the Bribie Island golf club and parklands adjoining the beach. A large artificial reef was created just off Bribie Island (2011) by installing giant steel and concrete caves.
Canberra-based think tank, the Australia Institute, controversially identified Bribie Island in 2007 as one of six possible Queensland locations for a nuclear power plant site. But more immediate threats to the island have included heightened erosion problems and concerns about the possibility of the ocean breaking through the northern end of Bribie Island, the oil spill from in Moreton Bay from the cargo ship, Pacific Adventurer, in 2009 and bushfires in 2013.
Bribie Island's census populations have been:
|Bribie Island||Bongaree||Banksia Beach||Bellara||Woorim|
Bribie Island holiday guide, annual
Stan Tutt, From spear and musket 1879-1979: Caboolture centenary, Caboolture Shire Council, 1979
W.R.F. Love, Bribie dreaming: The original island inhabitants, Bribie Island, L. Love, 1994
Warwick Outram, Heritage tales of Bribie Island: jewel of the Glass House coast, Bribie Island, Books and Magazines, 1994, rev 2011
Warwick Outram, Bribie and the koala, Bongaree, Warwick Outram, 2006
Warwick Outram, Bribie Island: people and places, Bongaree, Warwick Outram Publications, 2011
Warwick Outram, Bribie from the beginning, Bongaree, Warwick Outram, 2011
James G. Lergessner, Bribie Island's seaside culture: a potted history and heritage, Woorim, JG Lergessner, c2011