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  • 21 Jul 2018 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ** CHANGE OF VENUE FOR LECTURE NIGHTS: Following our 3rd July lecture meeting we received notice that Magda Hall was experiencing some difficulties and regrettably could not accommodate any public events over the next few months, including our monthly meetings. Fortunately, we have been able to confirm bookings for our August and September meetings at the Lavalla Marist Centre, 58 Fernberg Road, Paddington. In case you are wondering, this venue was not available when we inquired earlier in the year, hence our use of Magda Hall, Bardon. This turn of events highlights the potential problems of having to rely on hiring meeting venues and the need for RGSQ to have an auditorium/lecture space at the Society’s own premises.

    ** NEW PREMISES: Good news! Council has identified a suitable and very attractive property in Spring Hill for the Society’s new home. After much consideration and advice received from our solicitors that the relevant documents are in order, we have signed a conditional contract for the property. We are now in a period of “due diligence” investigations, seeking confirmation that this property passes all the necessary inspections and answers the remaining questions that we, and our solicitors, have. If all goes well we will confirm a settlement date as soon as possible. I hope to have more news on this to share with members very soon.

    **ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: The time for our AGM is drawing closer. This year the AGM will be held on Tuesday 11th September at the Lavalla Centre, 58 Fernberg Road, Paddington. The AGM is an important event in the Society’s annual calendar. It provides an opportunity for members to hear a review of the Society’s activities and achievements over the past year and the anticipated projects and plans for the year ahead.

    I encourage members to come along to the AGM and to participate in the deliberations.

    ** NEW CONSTITUTION: You may recall that, at a meeting of members on 6 June 2017, then President Jamie Shulmeister, led a discussion which centred on the incorporation status of the Society. A new Constitution is central to adoption of a revised basis of incorporation, which will move away from the Letters Patent structure under which the Society has operated since its inception in 1885, to a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) under the Commonwealth Corporations Act. The proposed new Constitution and By-Laws reflect work that has been undertaken on this over the past 12 months. The draft new Constitution, By-laws and explanatory information on the need for the proposed changes were distributed to members on 22 June with an invitation to attend a “Q&A” session on 3 July 6.30-7.15 prior to the July lecture presentation. Council welcomed input and comments from members who attended that Q&A session and other written comments from members. There is still some work to be done on this, and hopefully it will be ready to present to members later this year.

    ** ELECTION OF SOCIETY COUNCILLORS AND PRESIDENT: Another very important item on the AGM agenda is the election of the President and Councillors. If any member wishes to nominate for Council for the 2018-2019 year, nomination forms are available through the RGSQ office, ph. 07 3368 2066 or email We would appreciate it if any nominations are received by Thursday, September 6. Please send the nominations to or by post to The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, 237 Milton Rd, Milton, 4064.

    Dr Iraphne Childs, President

  • 26 Jun 2018 3:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Well it was new around the mid 18th century. The little pocket globe featured in the image of the 'Latest News' summaries on the Society's Home page was taken at the National Library during the Mapping Group's visit to Canberra in Nov 2017. The NLA's collection of almost a 1M maps, includes several of these wonderful pocket-size terrestrial globes.

    The globe pictured was made by Leonard Cushee of London, most likely between 1754 and 1760. 

    Note in the detail of the map on the right that both New Guinea and Dimen's Land were thought to be connected to the mainland

    A pocket globe dated 1754 did not have the completed east coast of Australia (New Holland as it was called on maps of the day) because it was still unexplored.

    A similar globe produced in 1776 included Cook's voyage along the east coast. New Guinea is now separate from Australia and New Zealand is mapped.

    Information courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Canberra ACT.
    Images by Kay Rees and NLA

  • 23 Jun 2018 5:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The oldest document found in the recent reorganisation of the Society’s archives has nothing to do with geography! It is an 1819 pamphlet produced for the London showing of Benjamin West’s painting Death on the Pale Horse.

     Death on a Pale Horse, B West (Wikimedia Commons)

    West was an American-born artist who specialised in scenes developed from biblical text and this painting completed in 1817, used apocalyptic themes from Revelation 6:8 referring to Death, War, Famine and Pestilence. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts notes on its website that “The biblical narrative of the painting was considered to be so complex that it was originally exhibited with an explanatory pamphlet”. A copy of the 7-page pamphlet (cover shown below) is held by the Society.

    The most likely provenance of the pamphlet has been traced to Sir Thomas Mitchell who was assistant then Surveyor-General of New South Wales from 1827 to 1855. After serving at Salamanca in the Peninsular War, Major Mitchell married in Lisbon then took an army pension and returned to London. He had always been keen on art and took the opportunity to hone his skills. It is supposed that he went to the 1819 London showing of Death on the Pale Horse and purchased the pamphlet for sixpence.

    In 1946 Mitchell’s grandson, an art dealer, sold a number of Mitchell’s paintings to the Society and, after the Society built the Mitchell monument in Mitchell, he donated a number of his grandfather’s artefacts and documents to the Society. Presumably, the pamphlet was one of those.

    To test the significance of the pamphlet, the painting was tracked down to the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) which has a version of the painting but does not mention the pamphlet in its extensive bibliography, suggesting that the pamphlet is extremely rare. The DIA was contacted by email and has requested a digital copy to try to clear up uncertainty about the showings of various versions of the painting. This has been sent. For the time being the document is safely filed away with other Mitchell rarities in new archive boxes while the Society’s archive reorganisation continues.

    by Peter Lloyd, RGSQ member and past President, for the Archives Group

  • 23 Jun 2018 4:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In September 2017, Dr. Karen Joyce was one of nine women worldwide awarded the Honour of Women to Watch in the UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Industry. This award, based in the US, is promoted by the Women and Drones organisation which aims to raise the profile of women doing great work in the drone industry.

    A graduate of UQ’s Geographical Sciences, Dr. Karen Joyce is Senior Lecturer and Remote Sensing Scientist at James Cook University, College of Science and Engineering. Her primary area of interest is in creating, applying and automating remote sensing tools for environmental monitoring and management problems, for example mapping live coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Using remote sensing, Karen has worked as a Geomatic Engineering Officer in the Australian Army, developed models for spatially explicit mapping of recreation opportunities across New Zealand’s conservation estate, and developed techniques for integrating remote sensing into all phases of the disaster management cycle. Karen co-founded She Flies, a drone training academy whose mission is to engage more girls and women with science and technology through the world of drones.;

  • 23 Jun 2018 11:43 AM | Anonymous

     Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago

    Professor Jamie Shulmeister, RGSQ past-President, 2017-2018 Council member and staff member at UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, was a member of a team of researchers (Archaeologists and Anthropologists, Geographers, Social Scientists) led by Archaeologist Chris Clarkson investigating the human occupation of northern Australia.

    The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question which is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. The research highlighted here was conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Arnhem Land. The new excavations revealed artefacts including distinctive stone tool assemblages, grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. The dating of these artefacts, and other analyses of the sediments, confirmed Indigenous Australian occupation at this site around 65,000 years ago. The evidence from this research project set a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

    Jamie’s role was to evaluate the paleoclimatic evidence for the period around 65 ka to support whether human arrival was likely at that time. The research results were published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2017. It was followed by another paper (lead author Archaeology PhD student, Kasih Norman) that looked at the likely routes of migration from Indonesia into Sahul (greater Australia including New Guinea) at 65 ka. Jamie worked with another geographer, Dan Harris (UQ) to determine seasonal current velocities and directions between Timor and Australia and in the Bird’s Head area of New Guinea. The work demonstrated that it would have been significantly easier to venture by boat from Timor to NW Australia than to enter Sahul via New Guinea. This work was published in Quaternary Science Reviews in January 2018.

     “Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago”, Nature volume 547, pages 306–310 (20 July 2017)

    “Modeling modern human maritime migration pathways from Asia to Pleistocene Greater Australia”. Quaternary Science Reviews 180: 229-239 (January 2018).

    By Jamie Shulmeister

  • 22 Jun 2018 9:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sydney L. Kirkby AO MBE Polar Medal

    Mr Syd Kirkby has been awarded the Australian Honour of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2018 Queens Birthday Honours List. The award is in recognition of his 65-year career and his distinguished service to surveying and mapping in Australia, particularly in the Antarctic, to polar exploration, research and mapping expeditions, and to professional scientific societies.


    Courtesy of Syd Kirkby. On the left: observing at Rumdoodle Peak. On the right: sledging in the ‘60s.

    Sydney L. Kirkby, MBE, Polar Medal has been an active member of RGSQ and of the ANARE Club in Queensland since moving to Queensland in 1986 following his retirement from the Division of National Mapping, Melbourne office.

    Syd has contributed enormously to the work of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) since first wintering at Mawson in 1956. It has been stated by P.G.Law AC, CBE, Polar Medal, that

    “Syd Kirkby has explored more of Australian Antarctic Territory than any other Australian. “

    The fact that Syd has been involved in exploration of Antarctica from Cape Adare at 170°East, to the west of the Australian sector at 45°East, west of Enderby Land, and also inland to the Southern Prince Charles Mountains, is unique; while his management of Surveying and Mapping techniques for the extension of knowledge has become legendary.

    Syd has also led the way in communicating Antarctic Affairs to the community with his regular availability to speak at community organisations.

    As a Member of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, Syd Kirkby has been a popular contributor and lecturer. On one occasion, the lecture had to be repeated to satisfy the lack of space for those interested at the first presentation. In April 1993, Syd presented a major paper to the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, titled “From Sledge dogs to Satellites”. This is published in the “Queensland Geographical Journal”, 4th Series, Volume 8, in 1993 and subsequently in the “Queensland Surveyor”, Volume 1998 Number 5, in October 1998.

    The exhibition “Our Frozen Frontier” was also supported by RGSQ and was opened in the RGSQ Auditorium (Brookes Street, Fortitude Valley) in 1997 - the key feature of this venture being the number of display venues over a period of six months: Brisbane (Geographical Society), Rockhampton, Longreach, Mount Isa, Townsville and then was mounted at Brisbane Museum for the month of November.

    At his Thomson Address in 2002, Syd Kirkby was presented with the RGSQ Thomson Medal.

    The award of Officer of the Order of Australia recognises Syd’s wide involvement with the community and his professional career.

    RGSQ congratulates Sydney Lorrimar KIRKBY on the receipt of the Award of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

    By David Carstens, RGSQ member and past President

  • 22 Jun 2018 9:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Members, welcome to Brisbane’s winter! With days in the low-mid 20deg.C and nights usually 8-10 deg.C, we are, indeed, spared from really cold winters. To give our winter woollies an airing, my family recently had a brief sojourn in the Bunya Mountains, 200km or three hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane. We passed the impressive construction of the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, a 41km-long toll bypass route, due for completion in late 2018. It will run from the Warrego Highway at Helidon in the east to the Gore Highway at Athol in the west. The final ascent to the Bunya Mountains National Park is via a steep, winding road. Upon arrival we were greeted by large mobs of red-necked wallabies grazing peacefully in the paddocks surrounding “Bunya village” - accommodation cottages, cafes and a well-stocked park shop.

    The Bunya Mts rise to 1100m, a unique elevated refuge of biodiversity surrounded by plains and cleared farmland. The mountains are the remains of a shield volcano active approximately 24 million years ago, and although there is no visible crater the broad shield shape can be visualised from the west. The biomes comprise wet and dry rainforest, open eucalypt forest, distinctive plant, animal and bird communities, including more than 30 rare and threatened species such as sooty owls, powerful owls and the black-breasted button quail.

    The Bunya Pine trees (Araucaria bidwillii) are the world’s largest remaining stand of these ancient flowering plants, having survived since Australia's Cretaceous and Jurassic environments (65–210 million years ago). Growing to a height of 50 metres or more, they tower above the rainforest along the range crest. While the Bunya pines are protected today from direct human disturbance, it is unclear what effects climate change might have on these pre-historic survivors.

    The intriguing Bunya Mountains balds support rare native grasslands, thought to be the result of firing by indigenous people, combined with drying of the climate and shallowness of soils. The balds are monitored closely as an endangered ecosystem threatened by invasion by woody plants (Willmott, 2004).

    Bunya Mts National Park is Queensland’s second oldest national park. In 1842, Governor Gipps had decreed that no logging licences be granted in lands bearing Bunya Pines, in recognition of their importance to Aboriginal people. In 1881, however, a timber reserve was declared for logging red cedar in the mountains. When the cedar was depleted loggers moved into the Hoop pine and Bunya stands. The Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, Queensland Branch (now RGSQ) played a role in lobbying for protection of the Bunyas against powerful timber and grazing interests. Despite national park status being declared in 1908, logging continued for some time. By the early 1930s, roads had replaced rough tracks to the mountain top and construction of walking tracks in 1939 heralded a new age of conservation and tourism. By the end of the 20th century many private houses and rental cottages had been built in the Dandabah area, the basis of today’s mountain tourism.

    Aboriginal Bunya Gatherings: The Wakka, Jarowair, Djaku-nde and Barrungam people have traditional custodianship of the Bunya Mountains. Every three years the Araucaria trees produce mature edible cones, which local indigenous people traditionally celebrated by holding Bunya Gatherings, sometimes lasting for several months. Tribes from all over Southeast Queensland were invited to enjoy ceremonies, renew friendships, pass on lore, share ideas and resolve disputes. Hunting of wildlife was strictly controlled during the gatherings. Protocols dictated who could harvest Bunya cones. The mature nuts were roasted and pounded into meal for cakes. European clearing for grazing and farming around the Bunya Mts in the 1840s and 1850s made it difficult to travel along traditional pathways and many Aboriginal people were forced to leave the Bunyas.

    The last great gathering was held in 1902 (Queensland Museum) but local indigenous people still maintain ties with the Bunyas through family, trading, songs and stories. There is a 2017 native title claim over part of the area.

    Bunya trees (Araucaria bidwillii); photo I.Childs; Bunya “bald” grassland; photo I.Childs

    Willmott,W. (2004) Rocks and Landscapes of the National Parks of southern Queensland. Geological Society of Australia, Queensland Division

    Dr Iraphne Childs, President

  • 25 May 2018 2:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Bernard Fitzpatrick

    Question Pack Mailout

    A “BIG THANK YOU” to the RGSQ members who helped and registered to help but were not required for the 2018 Question Pack mailout. What a mammoth effort in a tight working space!

    We used the downstairs Unit 2 at 237 Milton Road to do this mailout. A somewhat more confined venue compared to previous years, yet the team of volunteers were able to sort, pack and ship nearly four tonnes of printed material to 768 schools accounting for over 71,100 students.

    On Monday of Anzac Day week all printed materials and other required equipment arrived at RGSQ. Volunteers arrived promptly on Tuesday morning to start the packing process, and again on Thursday and Friday. Milton Post Office at Mary Ryan’s Bookshop picked up the packages for free and lodged them in the Australia Post system.

    We used Australia Post’s tracking numbers this year to allow tracking of parcels over 500g as we did for the 2017 Certificate mailout. While it adds a little more time in the process, it has been a great assistance in allowing the RGSQ Office to address school queries about delivery times.

    THANK YOU for doing the arduous work Ian Francis, Roger Grimley, James Hansen, Paul Lambert, Peter Lloyd, Patrick McKewin, Neville McManimm Peter Nunan, Ron Owen, Mike Piccolo, Kay and Graham Rees, Bob Reid, Sue Reid, Pamela Tonkin, and John Wilkinson.

    Volunteers Required

    Early to mid-June - we would like to call on members to assist with the scanning of the returned answer sheets. At present no specific dates can be given as it depends on when and how many sheets are returned at any time. This job is very repetitive and requires concentration to ensure no mistakes. If you would like to help or enquire about the task, please call Bernard in the Society’s Office on 3368 2066.

    Tuesday 24 to Friday 27 July – we would like to again call on members to volunteer to help with the sorting, packing and dispatch of the Australian Geography Competition’s certificates, results and prizes. If you can assist with this mailout, please contact the Office on 3368 2066.

    The School Round and iGeo

    The Australian Geography Competition is being run in schools around Australia and three overseas from Thursday 17 May to Thursday 31 May. All the best to all schools and students sitting the Competition.

    It is great to see the number of schools and students participating in the Competition on a national basis on the increase again. With RGSQ’s move to regular digital communication with schools, we have seen numbers continue to rise even since the Question Pack mailout in late April. As at 17 May there were 782 schools accounting for over 72,200 students entered.

    The Australian Team to the 2018 International Geography Olympiad (2018 iGeo) will be competing at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada from Wednesday 1 August to Sunday 5 August with the closing ceremony and medal presentation on Monday 6 August. As reported in the RGSQ’s March Bulletin, representing Australia are: Sophie Ohlin, NSW, from Sydney Girls High, Harry Hall, SA, from Trinity College (Gawler), Hannah Wright, SA, from Walford Anglican School for Girls and Phoebe Blaxill, WA, from St Mary's Anglican Girls' School, Karrinyup.

    The Australian Team Leaders are Kath Berg (Australian Geography Competition Committee and RGSQ member) and Liam Sloan (Geography Teachers’ Association of South Australia, 2017 and 2018 Geography’s Big Week Out Coordinator, and Geography Teacher at Endeavour College, Adelaide). More news on the 2018 iGeo closer to their departure in July.

  • 25 May 2018 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Peter Griggs

    Recently, Tracey and I were fortunate to spend some time in Japan. A very noticeable feature of the crowds in the streets and on the trains were those who I identified as ‘stooped’ – elderly Japanese hunched over walking frames, moving slowly along with the assistance of walking sticks or being pushed in wheelchairs. Several of our guides on day trips announced that they were officially ‘retired’ but were continuing to work in a part-time capacity. Many taxi drivers appeared to be elderly. Officials wearing blue uniforms and directing traffic were often elderly.

    The figures in Table 1 show currently that Japan has just over a quarter of its population aged over 65 years, the highest percentage for all countries. Globally, the country has the highest elderly dependency ratio (i.e. the number of over 65-year old citizens dependent upon 100 employed adults) and the highest median age for any national population (i.e. middle value).

    Table 1. Demographic figures for selected countries, 2017 estimates

    Japan has reached this situation due to a combination of two factors. The country, like Australia, Canada and the USA, experienced a ‘baby boom’ after World War II. The total Japanese population rose from 71.9 million (1945) to 111.9 million (1975). This trend has coincided with increased life expectancies. Today, Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy, so all those people born after 1945 have an increased chance of surviving into their eighties (or beyond).

    The implications for Japan are profound. To support so many elderly, the country must maintain its economic prosperity. This task will provide its leaders a challenge, especially at a time when the Japanese population is predicted to shrink from 125 million (2020) to 107 million (2050) due to the country’s very low birth rates. Current Japanese workers may have to come to terms with the idea that they will be required to work until the age of seventy (or beyond), and that they will have to pay higher taxes to support so many elderly persons. Innovative solutions to caring for so many aged, such as the use of robots, may become more common.

    Finally, from a global perspective, the world (and Japan) is in uncharted territory. Five hundred years ago, the life expectancy of some-one living in England was around 38-40 years of age. Currently, the world and individual countries have never had so many aged persons, and the numbers are likely to increase, especially in China where the current number of people aged over 65 is expected to rise from 123 million to 440 million by 2050.

    There are no trends or insights from the past to guide global leaders in formulating policies to accommodate the ‘stooped’ generation. What is probable, however, is that these elderly will not be silent and that their sheer numbers will create new political movements, demanding a greater share of national resources to care for their aged members.

  • 25 May 2018 12:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “The Corporate Geography of Australian Cities: Tracking change in ASX-Listed Firm Headquarters, 2013-2016” By Thomas Sigler

    Dr. Sigler with Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese, who addressed the SOAC delegation on the conference’s opening night. Courtesy of Thomas Sigler.
    Dr. Thomas Sigler, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Queensland’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is working on an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project investigating the corporate Geographies of Australian cities. The geography of firm (business company) location is a longstanding focus in urban studies. Dr Sigler’s work was presented at the State of Australian Cities (SOAC) conference in Adelaide in November, 2017. Written in collaboration with Mr Ben Parker (Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines) and Dr Kirsten Martinus (UWA), the research has found that all major Australian cities except Melbourne lost firm headquarters (HQs) during the 2013-2016 period. A major contributing factor was the downturn in the resources sector. Cities in which mining and energy play a key role, most obviously Perth, had the greatest HQ losses, while Melbourne was the only city to gain between 2013 and 2016. The research showed that within our cities major losses in firm activity were experienced in core areas (CBDs). This was compensated to some degree by suburbs, especially inner-ring suburbs, gaining firm HQs, for example in information technology. These broad changes indicate a shift to the knowledge economy across cities in which central and CBD-fringe locations are desirable from a firm perspective.

    Dr. Sigler’s research was picked up by the Australian Financial Review, Dec 7 2017.

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