Hundreds of archived photos show places and faces in Queensland life in the 1990s

These were the days when computers were bulky, the Internet an innovation, and cell phones looked like bricks.

Queensland of the 1990s was brought to life in a collection of images recently uploaded by the State Archives.

The series features places and faces from across the state, focusing on transport, infrastructure and road safety projects that reveal how Queensland has progressed over the past 30 years.


“They were documenting what they were doing and how they were building Queensland,” said senior archivist Julanne Neal.

Six hundred images were digitized after being selected from over 200,000 prints, slides and negatives taken by photographers working for the Department of Transportation and Major Roads during the 1990s.

Schoolchildren wait for the school bus in the Queensland outback.(Provided: Queensland State Archives)

“Everyone loves to flip through a photo album, so we’ve made the ones we have easier for people to navigate,” Ms. Neal said.

There are photos of the Gateway Bridge in 1999, when drivers had to stop to pay their toll.

A woman at a pedestrian bridge toll booth in the 1990s.
An archived image of the Gateway Bridge toll booth.(Provided: Queensland State Archives)

Photos of Brisbane’s CBD in 1990 show a city with far fewer skyscrapers and bridges – and portray an era before CityCats.

It was also apparently a decade where regulations for high visibility and sunglasses were less stringent.

A worker building the sound barrier just off the southeastern highway was pictured in 1993, wearing short shorts and baring his chest in a sleeveless vest.

Protesters with placards saying
The official opening of the Mary River Bridge in Kenilworth.(Provided: Queensland State Archives)

Other footage reveals a motorcade and former rugby league star Gene Miles marching with the crowd as the Sunshine Freeway opened in 1990.

Road safety mascot Hector the Cat makes an appearance, while kids riding bikes from across the state are pictured proudly wearing battery hats.

“It’s stuff that was part of people’s childhood and adolescence,” Ms. Neal said.

“It’s going to confuse you – you’re going to say, ‘I went there, I did this, I remember it’.”

Julanne Neal holds a sheet of photos from the archival collection in a long hallway.
Senior archivist Julanne Neal says the photos show “how they built Queensland”.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

From the Cairns Esplanade to Gladstone Harbor and the Simpson Desert, photographers have captured stills across the state.

“You get some of the lovely backcountry towns and they’ve actually managed to keep some of their older buildings as they were 50, 70 or 80 years ago,” Ms. Neal said.

Back then, smartphones and flattering selfie filters didn’t exist. The cameras used film.

Three office workers look at a computer in the 90s.
The archive image shows the fashion and technology of the office.

Even after adjusting the settings and composing the shot, it was not clear exactly what the image would look like until the film was processed.

Among the many faces, the one that comes up again and again is that of David Hamill, who was Queensland’s Transport Minister from 1989 to 1995.

“My hair was several shades darker than it is today,” Mr. Hamill said after looking at a few photos.

“A lot of other parts of Australia were in recession at the time, but Queensland was experiencing a boom and it was stretching our infrastructure to breaking point.”

High rise buildings in the city of Brisbane in the 1990s
High rise buildings in the city of Brisbane.(Provided: Queensland State Archives)

He said one of the biggest projects of the time was to rebuild a rail line to the Gold Coast.

“My vision for it would have been a six-lane highway with the rail in the middle,” he said.

Additional rail tunnels have also been dug between Brisbane’s Roma Street and the central stations.

“In a way that looks like Cross River Rail today,” Mr. Hamill said.

“One of the projects that I received a lot of criticism for at the time was the road and rail corridor to Springfield – Springfield didn’t really exist at the time.”

“Thirty years later, I can say I was right, we needed this hallway, but it was still a challenge,” he said.

Once again, Queensland is experiencing a boom in transport infrastructure, with major projects such as Cross River Rail, Inland Rail and the Brisbane Metro.

A state in perpetual motion.

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