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The Royal Geographical
Society of Queensland Ltd

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About the Society

The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland promotes the study and science of Geography and encourages a greater understanding and enjoyment of the world around us. The Society is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation that brings together and welcomes people from all walks of life who share an interest in places, geography and the environment. 

Geography and the Society offer pathways towards an understanding of our complex world. As a nation, Australia faces major challenges of environmental, economic and demographic sustainability, cultural diversity and the advancement of technology, while maintaining a role as a significant player in global affairs. Geography integrates the study of earth’s landscapes, people, places and environments. It bridges the natural and social sciences. Geography has embraced the new age of instant communications and rapid advances in technology which affect the way we live, work and play. Satellites transmit remotely-sensed data to computers, ipads and smart phones, making possible accurate and timely analysis and decision-making in fields of national, local and personal importance. Digital mapping techniques developed by geographers have given the world the basis for every GPS in public use today. Geographic insights and literacy are crucial in addressing environmental, geopolitical, economic and national security issues.

 Geography is the integrated study of the earth's landscapes, peoples, places and environments - their nature, dynamics, interactions and changes. It thus bridges the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities; it is the spatial discipline. 

Adapted from the Royal Geographical Society 's 2012 - 2016 Stratgeic Plan

RGSQ Today

The Society continues to offer and expand a vibrant program of activities and projects including:

  • Monthly public lectures on topics of local, national and global significance;
  • Day trips and longer treks both within Australia and overseas;
  • Support for academic research, fieldwork and publications;
  • Support for geographical education, in particular through the Australian Geography Competition;
  • Input into the status and quality of geography in schools, for example via contributions to the Australian National Geography Curriculum;
  • Special interest member groups in specific fields of geography and aspects of the Society;
  • A library and archival collection which houses a significant collection of maps and publications, and
  • Advocacy of the awareness and value of geography across the whole community.

    The Society's Strategic plan can be viewed here. . 


    Establishment as a Royal Society

    The Geographical Society of Australasia started at a meeting in Sydney, on 22 June 1883, by a gathering of citizens who were concerned that the Geographical Section of the Royal Society of New South Wales had become defunct. The meeting decided to form a new federal organisation that would have branches in all the Australian colonies and New Zealand. The idea was then shared with prominent citizens in Brisbane who were asked to support the scheme. Consequently, the Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland Branch) was established in July 1885. Within a year, Queen Victoria granted the Society the privilege of using the ‘Royal’ prefix. Since 1885 the Society has pursued its main objective of promoting an interest in and the study of Geography through publications, field-based research projects, public lectures and excursions. For all of its history, the Society has had a presence in Brisbane. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Society had fifteen provincial branches, although some were more active than others (e.g. Roma; Thursday Island). All of these earliest provincial branches had folded by 1940. A Western Branch of the Society operated at Dalby from 1955 to 1963. In 2017, a Sunshine Coast Branch of the Society was established.


     JP Thompson 1884

     AC Gregory 1885

    Dr James Park Thomson C.B.E. (1854-1941) is credited with being the Society’s founder. A former Government Surveyor of Fiji (1880-1884) and in 1885 an employee of the Queensland Department of Mapping and Surveying, Thomson became the Society’s first Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for much of the next five decades, except for when he was President (1894-1897). Thomson managed to enlist support for the Society among many of Queensland’s leading citizens of the day including public servants, surveyors, politicians, professionals, businessmen, pastoralists and even governors. The Society honours its founder through the annual Thomson Oration and the awarding of a Thomson Medal (since 1901). The foundation President was Augustus Charles Gregory (later Sir Augustus), the noted Australian explorer, surveyor and scientist. The foundation patron was Queensland’s Governor Sir Anthony Musgrave. Musgrave’s appointment established a tradition of viceregal patronage that continues to this day.

    The Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland Branch) was supposed to be part of a federation of Australian geographical societies. Branches of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia were established in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. The NSW branch ceased activities in the early 1900s and the Victorian branch amalgamated with the Victorian History Society. Only the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland and The Royal Geographic Society of South Australia survived and both continue their promotion and enjoyment of Geography to the present time. The word ‘Branch’ was dropped from the Society’s name in 1900, and this was eventually changed to The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc. in 1990, after the Council decided that the society was no longer an Australasian organisation but focussed upon Queensland. Originally the RGSQ had 60 members, mostly from Brisbane, but it soon expanded to include many country members, several prominent women members, as well as honorary corresponding members living beyond Queensland, and other honoraries appointed for their contributions to the Society or geographical science. By the first decade of the 20th century the Society counted 200 or so members.

    Taking effect from 25th October 2019 the Society's registration as a Public Company Limited by Guarantee had been approved by ASIC thus completing the conversion from incorporated society under Letters Patent.


    By the early 20th century the Society had established a pattern of activities most of which would continue to this day: holding monthly lecture meetings, organising excursions and expeditions and publishing journals. The journals, Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland) published until 1899, and the Queensland Geographical Journal (1900 to 1993), though costly to produce and distribute, were seen as important for showcasing the work of academic geographers, maintaining contact with distant members and for exchanging with other scientific organisations. An initial focus in these publications was the Geography of New Guinea and Melanesia, reflecting Queensland’s territorial ambitions in the region at the time and its dependence on labourers from Melanesia to work its sugar plantations. Another early interest was anthropology (or ethnology, as it was then termed), particularly relating to Australian Aboriginal people. Geopinion, a small publication containing essays on contemporary geographical trends affecting Australia, was issued during 1996 and 1997. The Society has published a monthly newsletter since 1966.

    Scientific Expeditions

    RGSAQ (later named RGSQ) at Canarvon George 1955

    The Society pioneered the exploration of the Carnarvon Ranges in Central Queensland during the 1940s and 1950s and has sponsored scientific expeditions to different parts of Queensland and northern Australia during the 1990s and 2000s. Tours and treks, including overseas tours, have been an important part of the Society’s activities since 1930. During the period 1995-2017, the Society conducted scientific investigations by scientists into the geography, especially the geomorphology, flora and fauna in locations in Queensland and Australia. Expedition reports were published in the Society’s Geography Monograph Series, No. 1 (1992) to No. 12 (2006), which also contained essays by Thomson Medal recipients.

    Geographical Education and Advocacy

    Since 1926, the Society has erected nearly fifty plaques commemorating a range of events and people, ranging from explorers to the Lambert Centre of Australia. First Day philatelic covers were also issued during the 1950s. The Society has promoted geographical education in Queensland, supporting the establishment of The University of Queensland in 1910, awarding prizes at the State’s universities (since 1970) and has been a major sponsor of the Australian Geography Competition since 1995.

     Ken Sutton 1985
    Two additional prizes which the Society offers are the Ken Sutton Memorial Prize for outstanding contribution to the discipline and the Keith Smith Prize for the highest achieving university students in Geography. Over its history, the Society was involved in the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Committee (1922 to 1927), has lobbied for the establishment of various national parks in Queensland (e.g. Lamington) and its representatives were members of the Queensland Place Names Committee until 1981 and has organised the Australian Geography Competition since 1995.

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    The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Ltd.
    Level 1/28 Fortescue St, Spring Hill QLD 4000  |  +61 7 3368 2066
    ABN 87 014 673 068  |  ACN 636 005 068

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