Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By the Rev. A. E. David, M.A.

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1908.

Chapter VI. The Province of Queensland

THE history of the white settlement in Queensland begins with the year 1824, when some forty convicts, accompanied by a guard of soldiers, were placed, first at Redcliffe, on the shores of Moreton Bay, and later at a spot, sixteen miles up the river, which is now the site of Brisbane. Before the close of four years the population numbered one thousand persons, and the district continued to be used as a penal settlement until 1839. Unhappily, the indifference to the spiritual needs of the convicts shown by the Government in connection with the establishment of the original penal colony at Botany Bay was repeated at Brisbane. No chaplain was sent, and the provision of a few Bibles, entrusted to the officers in charge, was regarded as adequate. However, in 1843, when the district was thrown open for free settlement and Captain Wickham appointed first police magistrate, Bishop Broughton, within whose [119/120] jurisdiction Brisbane at that time lay, took the opportunity of commissioning the Rev. J. Gregor, formerly a Presbyterian minister, whom he had admitted to Holy Orders, to minister to the settlers. The white population at the time was very small, and consisted of two hundred and seventeen persons in the Moreton Bay district, and three hundred and twenty-five settled on the rich plains of the Darling Downs. For five years Mr. Gregor ministered to these people, paying occasional visits to the Darling Downs, and penetrating even to New England, several hundred miles from his base. In 1848 he was drowned in attempting to cross a flooded creek, and the district remained for a time without a clergyman. In the meantime the Diocese of Newcastle had been formed, and Moreton Bay came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Tyrrell, one of whose first acts was to send a young deacon, the Rev. Benjamin Glennie, to fill the vacancy. In a building formerly used as a carpenter's shop, and lent by the Government as a church, Mr. Glennie, subsequently Archdeacon, commenced a ministry in Queensland, which continued for a period of fifty-two years. Bishop Tyrrell twice visited Brisbane, for the first time in 1848, when he spent a month [120/121] in organizing the details of Church work, and later (185o), when he travelled from Newcastle overland to lay the foundation-stone of S. John's Church, which, until its demolition in 1903, was used as the cathedral of the diocese.


In 1859 Queensland was separated from the mother-colony of New South Wales, and as soon as it became certain that the grant of self-government would be made, Bishop Tyrrell wrote to the Church authorities in England, urging them to assist in forming the new colony into a separate diocese. He himself granted a loan of £2,300 from the endowment of the See of Newcastle, and with the help of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and an English committee, the minimum sum required was lodged in the hands of the Colonial Bishoprics Council in 1858. In the following year the Right Rev. E. W. Tufnell, Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, was consecrated to the new see.

Bishop Tufnell landed in Brisbane to find that a month previously the new Legislature had passed an Act by which all State aid to religion [121/122] was henceforth to be discontinued, and that he had undertaken the administration of a diocese virtually unendowed and staffed by three clergy only. Aided by an annual grant of £30o from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and with the assistance of six clergy who accompanied him from England, the Bishop was able to provide for the chief centres of population; but from the beginning to the end of his episcopate the work of Church extension in the huge diocese was seriously crippled through lack of clergy. Land, however, was given and purchased, and in the course of a few years sites, in addition to those already granted by the Government prior to separation, were secured in localities where the population was likely to increase. Eight years, however, elapsed before a diocesan synod was constituted.

The whole question of self-government in the Church, as we have seen, was involved in obscurity, and at this time was being fiercely debated. Naturally, therefore, Bishop Tufnell may have desired to watch the issue of the controversy before committing his young diocese to what might prove an erroneous line of action. In 1868, however, a conference was summoned to consider a draft constitution prepared by Mr. [122/123] Justice Lutwyche, at which it was decided that Brisbane should follow the example of Adelaide and New Zealand by basing its constitution upon the principle of consensual compact rather than upon that of legislative enactment. This decision left the synod free during a time of tentative construction to regulate its own affairs without let or hindrance from the State. In after years, when the working of the original constitution had been tested by experience, the synod sought and obtained from the Legislature an Enabling Act, applicable to the Church throughout Queensland, which simplified and facilitated diocesan administration.

In 1874 Bishop Tufnell resigned, after fourteen years of particularly difficult pioneer work, and was succeeded by the Bishop of Perth (the Right Rev. M. B. Hale), who was translated on the appointment of the Australian Bishops. As one of the Archdeacons of the Diocese of Adelaide, Dr. Hale had gained considerable colonial experience, and had especially interested himself, both at Adelaide and Perth, in the evangelization of the aborigines. But he was already advanced in years, and the change from a Crown colony, with a State-aided Church, to a somewhat turbulent [123/124] diocese, scantily furnished with funds, involved a severe strain upon one no longer in the vigour of youth.

A drift of settlement northwards had set in before Bishop Tufnell's departure, and prior to his resignation the Metropolitan had made proposals for forming the whole of North Queensland, including a small strip within the Brisbane boundary, into a new diocese. In 1876 this project, which had received the warm support of the new Bishop of Brisbane, was realized, and though the surrender of territory was small, he was relieved of his responsibilities to a growing population which, lying outside his diocese, naturally looked to Brisbane for assistance.

Soon after his arrival in Queensland, Bishop Hale was involved in a prolonged struggle upon the education question. In 1875 the State, as in Victoria, assumed the whole conduct of primary education, which in five years' time was to be free, secular, and compulsory. This period of grace was occupied by a fierce contest between the combined forces of the Anglican and Roman Churches on the one hand, as advocates of the continuance of the denominational system, and on the other the whole body of Nonconformist [124/125] opinion ranged in support of the Government proposals. Each side nailed its colours to the mast, no via media seems to have been entertained, and in the end the Government triumphed, with the result that public education throughout the colony was secularized. For the last seventeen years Churchmen have been attempting to obtain from the Legislature concessions on the subject of religious education, which would have been welcomed and probably could have been obtained with ease during the time of struggle, and in these attempts they have been supported by the majority of the Free Churches. Comment seems to be superfluous.

On the resignation of Bishop Hale, in 1884, the ' Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the nomination had been delegated by synod, appointed a prominent London priest, the Rev. W. T. Thornhill Webber, Vicar of S. John's, Holborn. Bishop Webber was a man of vigorous energy and statesmanlike qualities; and the diocese, which had gradually drifted into a species of parochial congregationalism, and had made little effort to provide for the stream of immigrants continually flowing into the colony, soon felt the grasp of a master-hand. Sites were secured, and small [125/126] wooden churches built in every direction, whilst the large unwieldy parishes were subdivided and placed in charge of young clergy imported from England; the enactments of synod were also reviewed and re-moulded so as to strengthen episcopal authority. These changes were not introduced without creating some soreness, but, ruthless as they may have seemed at the time, the situation demanded drastic measures. A survey of the diocese, made during the first years of his episcopate, showed the Bishop that the work of supervision was far beyond the ability of any one man, and that the central district of Queensland, already constituted by the State a separate division for civil purposes, formed a suitable area for a new diocese. Pending the raising of an endowment for the new see, the Bishop, with consent of synod, appointed his Archdeacon, the Ven. Nathaniel Dawes, as Bishop-Coadjutor, and delegated to him the oversight of this portion of the diocese. Four years later the endowment fund (£10,000) was completed, and Bishop Dawes unanimously elected first Bishop of Rockhampton. By this subdivision the area of the Brisbane Diocese was reduced by 223,000 square miles. To the vacancy in the Coadjutor-Bishopric the Very [126/127] Rev. J. F. Stretch, Dean of Ballarat, was appointed in 1895.

An erstwhile member of the School Board for London, the Bishop naturally took deep interest in the education question, and in 1891 was instrumental in founding, after the example of Victoria, a Bible in State Schools League, which had as its object the introduction into Queensland of the religious clauses of the New South Wales Education Act. Little was effected for some years, but in 1900, through the energetic action of its secretary, the Rev. G. H. Frodsham, the League undertook a voluntary referendum in order to obtain the views of the parents of scholars, which resulted in an overwhelming majority declaring themselves in favour of the introduction of religious instruction into the schools. Changes in Government prevented any further steps being taken, but more than one Premier has promised to submit to Parliament a Bill empowering the Government to carry out a formal referendum of the whole electorate on this question. [The Referendum Bill has recently been passed.]

Financial disasters, which seriously affected diocesan endowments, the necessity for an increased supply of clergy, and the raising of funds [127/128] for the erection of a cathedral caused Bishop Webber to undertake frequent visits to England, and in this work more than a third of his episcopate of eighteen years was consumed. The policy of relying upon English support, entailing frequent and prolonged periods of absence from his see, is open to question. Financially the diocese was unquestionably advantaged, for through these mendicant journeys, the Bishop, who possessed singular gifts in this direction, succeeded in raising a sum of over £70,000 for various diocesan purposes, including the endowment of the Rockhampton Bishopric, the endowment of a Mission Chaplains' Fund, the replacement of capital lost through floods and bad investments, and the provision for the erection of a cathedral. In connection with the supply of clergy the Bishop for some time relied entirely upon English resources, and was fortunate in the assistance of such men as the Bishops of Rockhampton, New Guinea, and North Queensland, all of whom originally came to Australia at his invitation. But he was not unmindful of the need of making provision for the supply and training of local candidates for the ministry, and set apart one of the cathedral canonries to be held by [128/129] the principal of the theological college which he founded. The institution, established in 1896, has been instrumental in training a number of clergy now working in the diocese, and through a bequest of Bishop Webber, is now possessed of spacious buildings near Brisbane.

Whilst in England, engaged upon the task of collecting funds for the cathedral, the Bishop was stricken by a fatal illness, and returned to his diocese to die in 1903. Synod in the first instance offered the vacant bishopric to the Bishop of Ballarat, but on his declining, delegated the appointment to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who selected the Rev. St. Clair Donaldson, a son of the first Premier of New South Wales, and at that time Vicar of Hornsey. He reached the diocese at the end of 1904, and since that date has addressed himself vigorously to the strengthening of the Home Mission work of the diocese, and to the wider duties of his position of Metropolitan to which he has been recently appointed.


Until its subdivision by the creation of the Missionary Diocese of Carpentaria, the Diocese [129/130] of North Queensland occupied the whole of the northern portion of the State from Thursday Island in the north to an imaginary line drawn south of Mackay, comprising altogether about 250,000 square miles. In 1876, when the diocese was formed, the greater part of this country was unexplored, and inhabited by aborigines, the white population being settled chiefly on the southern portion of the coast in the neighbourhood of Townsville, growing sugar-cane, and also in the interior, engaged in pastoral pursuits. Early in 1879, the Rev. G. H. Stanton, Vicar of S. Giles' in the Fields, who had been appointed to the new bishopric by Bishop Barker, reached the scene of his labours. Up to this time the district, though nominally under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan at Sydney, was practically regarded as an appendage of the Diocese of Brisbane; but the 750 miles which intervened between it and the capital of the colony, virtually cut it off from any direct supervision. The clergy were few, whilst the industrial development, and consequent increase of population, was rapid. On the coast the growth of the sugar industry was attracting not only planters, but caused the introduction of large numbers of South Sea Islanders, for the [130/131] cultivation of the cane at cheap rates. In the interior, the discovery of gold, and other minerals, brought a large influx of miners, and of those who supplied their wants. Thus the work which lay before Bishop Stanton was one of peculiar difficulty. He had to lay the whole foundations of diocesan institutions, and cope with an advancing population, scattered over a large area, on account of the sporadic character of the mineral deposits. That he was able even in a small measure to shoulder this burden is no slight testimony to his resourcefulness and power of evoking lay help. Like Bishop Webber of Brisbane, he was dependent upon England for his clergy, and equally fortunate in their selection, since four at least of the former members of his staff have been entrusted with positions of the highest responsibility in the Australian Church, namely, Albert Maclaren, the devoted founder of the Anglican Mission in New Guinea, and the present Bishops of Goulburn, Riverina, and Carpentaria. The extent of the diocese, and the absence of facilities for intercommunication, rendered diocesan cohesion and synodical activity difficult. None the less, organization slowly grew, and the number of clergy advanced from five to eighteen. During [131/132] the later years of his episcopate the progress of railway construction materially assisted travel; but the Gulf of Carpentaria still remained unconnected, and could only be approached by sea, whilst the western districts on the South Australian border continued almost entirely without spiritual ministrations. Conscious that the needs of the diocese demanded a younger man, Bishop Stanton accepted translation in 1891 to the See of Newcastle, which, with a smaller area, and long-established institutions, he felt to be within the range of his powers.

In selecting a successor, the choice of synod fell upon Canon Barlow, Vicar of the cathedral church, who as a layman had accompanied Bishop Stanton from England, and had spent the whole of his ministerial life in the diocese. Some exception was taken by certain of the Australian Bishops to the confirmation of this election on the ground that the Bishop-elect did not possess a University degree. The objection, however, was overruled as presenting no valid hindrance to the effective exercise of episcopal powers. Notwithstanding the growth of an urban population both at Townsville, and in such large mining centres as Charters Towers, which with its 25,000 inhabitants [132/133] had become the second largest town in the State, the diocese continued to retain its missionary character. In addition to an estimated aboriginal population of 30,000, no less than 12,000 heathen aliens, consisting of Chinese, South Sea Islanders, Japanese, Manilla men, and coolies from different parts of the world, became resident within its boundaries. Probably in no part of Australia has "the colour problem" presented such serious issues, nor can its true solution be said to have been found in the restrictive legislation of the Commonwealth. The Church, however, has not been unmindful of her duty, either towards the ancient inhabitants of the land, or towards these heathen sl4angers. With the assistance of the Australian Board of Missions, a mission to the aborigines was established in 1891 on a government reserve in the neighbourhood of Cairns, which, under the Rev. E. R. Gribble, himself the son of a missionary to the aborigines, has been successful in inducing the blacks to settle and cultivate the land, and, generally, to embrace Christianity and the customs of civilization. Missions also have been founded for South Sea Islanders on the sugar plantations at Mackay and the Herbert River, which have yielded to the [133/134] New Guinea Mission not a few promising pupils as teachers; whilst at Townsville the Chinese residents have been placed under the care of a Chinese catechist, and possess a church of their own. The northern district of Queensland has felt acutely the change from private ownership to that of public companies, which has taken place in connection with pastoral property, and, though the mineral wealth is great, nearly the whole of the dividends are paid to non-resident shareholders; whilst the legislation of the Federal Parliament has seriously affected the sugar plantations. In these circumstances the diocese found itself severely straitened in finance, and the Bishop proceeded to England for men and money. One outcome of his visit was the commencement of a scheme for the subdivision of the diocese. By 1900 the minimum endowment had been raised, and in the same year the Diocese of Carpentaria was formally constituted, with the Right Rev. Gilbert White as its first Bishop. Dr. Barlow had hardly time to experience the benefit to his own diocese, thus occasioned, when the Bishopric of Goulburn became vacant, to which see he accepted translation.

For the second time the synod, in 1902, selected [134/135] as Bishop a clergyman working in Australia, the Rev. G. H. Frodsham, Rector of Toowong, in the Diocese of Brisbane, to whom reference has been made already in connection with the Bible in State Schools League. Both on this ground, and also on account of Bishop Frodsham's efforts, as a member of the Brisbane Synod, to forward provincial action, the appointment was full of promise, for no one in Queensland had worked more earnestly to secure these two objects, the latter of which he was soon to see realized. His experience shortly after reaching his diocese serves to illustrate some of the difficulties to which Church work is exposed in tropical latitudes. A cyclone of extraordinary violence swept the coast at Townsville and its immediate neighbourhood with such disastrous results that not only was the partially completed cathedral unroofed, but every church in Townsville and within a radius of fifty miles was levelled to the ground. The Bishop immediately appealed in person to the southern dioceses for help, and was successful in raising a sum sufficient to replace the buildings. Three years later a similar catastrophe befell the aboriginal mission at Yarrabah, and once more the Church in Australia provided the bulk of the [135/136] funds necessary to repair the loss. In the questions of the supply of clergy and of the heathen aliens the Diocese of North Queensland has serious problems, the solution of which will be aided, no doubt, by the collective wisdom of the recently-formed province.


The Diocese of Rockhampton, created in 1892, consists of a comparatively narrow strip of territory running westward and inland to a great distance. The country is occupied by large sheep and cattle stations, whilst small townships are dotted down at considerable distances from one another. Rockhampton, the see town and port for the district, lies at the head of navigation, about twerty miles up the Fitzroy River. The only other town of any size is Mount Morgan, a mining centre of considerable richness.

With a vast hinterland containing no large centres of population, the chief problem of the diocese lay in the provision of spiritual ministrations for the western districts. Here the Bishop realized an idea which had been long suggested as the best method of mitigating the evils of isolation and the consequent spiritual decline of the clergy [136/137] working in the "Bush." Aided by a strong committee and diocesan auxiliary in England, he founded a "Bush Brotherhood" at Longreach, the terminus of the Western Railway, the members of which, living under a simple rule, were to make periodic circuits through the surrounding country, and, by mutual support in the common home, ,would not only assist one another in maintaining devotion, but also cope far more effectively and economically with the conditions of "Bush" life than if scattered in widely distant centres. Bishop Dawes was fortunate in securing, as the first head of the Longreach Brotherhood, the Rev. G. D. Halford, who had been sent out from Jarrow by Dr. Westcott to occupy the position. The unquestioned success of the experiment has been in no small measure due to his tact, wisdom, and devotion. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the fact that "Bush Brotherhoods" have been successfully started at Dubbo, as already stated, and at Charleville, in the Brisbane Diocese, shows the value, to themselves and to others, of communities of clergy leading a common life in the midst of a scattered population.

Rockhampton, like Brisbane, has depended chiefly upon England for supplies of clergy and [137/138] for some financial assistance, and its history of monetary and other struggles suggests the question as to whether the policy of subdivision, in cases where the endowment provided is slender and the latent resources small, really contributes to the Church's strength. As a rule, the endowments of the mother diocese are not availab e for the daughter, and she is cast off in infancy, as it were, to lead for years a starved life, dependent upon outside assistance for her sustenance. "The day of small things" is not always an inspiring one for clergy or laity.


The youngest of the Queensland dioceses, Carpentaria, was founded in 1900, and presents the unique feature of containing territory in the States of Queensland and South Australia. It consists of the whole of the northern portion of the former, including the Cape York Peninsula and Thursday Island, in which the see town is situate, and the greater part of the Northern Territory of South Australia, the descriptive title of which might well be altered. The coloured population of the diocese, which is made up of thirty-five thousand aboriginals and upwards of seven [138/139] thousand Japanese, Chinese, and other aliens, largely outnumbers the white settlers, and the work, therefore, is chiefly of a missionary character. Soon after his appointment Bishop White accomplished a remarkable journey right through the heart of the Northern Territory, from Port Darwin on the coast to Oonadatta, the terminus of the South Australian Railway, a distance of one thousand three hundred miles. The journey, made with the object of acquainting himself with the conditions of life in the interior, occupied ten weeks of continuous riding.

Reference has been made to the missionary nature of the work. At Thursday Island classes are provided for the Japanese and South Sea Islanders, and the vicar has under his charge the natives of several adjacent islands. On the eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, between the Mitchell and Nassau rivers, the Government, at the instance of the Bishop, proclaimed a reserve of about seven hundred square miles for aborigines; and under the superintendence of the Rev. E. R. Gribble, whose place was, later, taken for a short time by a Melbourne clergyman, the Rev. E. R. Chase, a mission has been successfully started, which is winning the appreciations [139/140] of the white settlers in the neighbourhood, and receives support from the majority of the Australian dioceses. Among the aborigines of the Northern Territory the Anglican Church is represented by a mission at Karparlgoo, which is doing much to rescue the poor blacks from the disastrous effects of opium purveyed by the Chinese.

In order to train and educate clergy for this far-off diocese, the Bishop, assisted by funds from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and a portion of the offerings made at the jubilee of the Australian Board of Missions, founded a theological college at Thursday Island, in which a small number of students are being trained. The climate, however, is not provocative of mental activity, and the wiser policy would seem to be that of sending candidates to the Brisbane College, which should be regarded as a provincial institution. In view of the multifarious nature of the work and the large extent of the jurisdiction, it would be difficult to find a diocese in the whole Anglican communion which deserves better of the Church or furnishes a stronger appeal for external assistance.

The coping stone to the organization of the [140/141] Church in Queensland was placed in position in August, 1905, when the formal constitution of the province was promulgated by the Primate. This consummation had not been reached without much negotiation and tedious delay, chiefly owing to the unwillingness of the Diocese of North Queensland to entertain the scheme. On the appointment of Bishop Frodsham, however, the objections felt were removed, especially since the formation of Carpentaria had added a fourth diocese to the proposed province. At a conference of representatives held in Brisbane at the close of 1904, a constitution, drafted by Mr. Justice Chubb, was agreed upon, by which Brisbane was recognized as the Metropolitan See, and the method of electing the Archbishop provided for by the constitution of a joint committee, in which the Diocese of Brisbane, on the one hand, and the suffragan dioceses on the other, are given an equal voice; also the powers of the provincial synod were defined, so as to make its legislation dominant in all matters of provincial concern.

After these proposals had been approved by the Queensland dioceses and submitted to the Primate, the formal promulgation followed, and in October of the same year the Diocese of New Guinea was [141/142] incorporated within the province. A year later, on October 23rd, the first meeting of the provincial synod was held, at which the Bishop of Brisbane was formally recognized as Metropolitan and Archbishop, and the necessary legislation for the administration of the province was passed. Both through the visitations of the Archbishop, which have carried him as far as New Guinea, and the increased intercommunion through the wider interchange of clergy, the stronger dioceses are helping the weaker, and the new provincial organization is giving cohesion and stability to the Church in Queensland.

Project Canterbury