New acquisition: 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection

Joh and Flo Bjelke-Petersen on their wedding day, 31 May 1952, Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, Negative number 79023, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

State Library of Queensland recently acquired items from the Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen estate, resulting in a rare opportunity to collect material with direct relevance to two of the most central figures in Queensland’s history.

The material is of high cultural and historical significance. It provides unique insight into the lives of Sir Joh, Queensland’s longest running Premier and Lady Flo, a member of the Australian Senate. The items provide new information to the John Oxley Library about the lives and legacy of these two highly influential Queenslanders.

Included with the items is the leather briefcase used by Sir Joh that still contains an original luggage label. John Bjelke-Petersen said that he remembers that “Dad always had the briefcase with him, he brought it home and always had work in it and used it quite often.”

Leather briefcase used by Sir Joh that still contains an original luggage label. 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Close up of the original luggage label from Sir Joh's leather briefcase. 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Another item from the estate is a 1988 Bicentenary Diary kept by Lady Florence.  John recalls that “Mum was a bookkeeper before she married Dad and was known as the organiser of the family.  She often had everything set out for the week.”  The 1988 diary reflects her skills and attention to family and professional details.

1988 Bicentenary Diary kept by Lady Florence. 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

1988 Bicentenary Diary kept by Lady Florence. 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

A special item is a battered cake tin of Flo’s that was much used.  John said, “Mum was a very good cook.  She always served a full Sunday lunch with all the works, including a roast and dessert before Dad went back to Brisbane for the week.”  John said that even when Flo was in a nursing home later in life, she was able to whip up a batch of pumpkin scones when asked for a special event, without using a recipe, all from memory, to perfection.

Lady Flo's battered cake tin and handwritten recipe. 32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

The full list of items is here. The new acquisitions complement State Library holdings of significant amounts of material depicting Sir Joh’s and Lady Flo’s involvement in the public realm: published material, photographs, clippings, cartoons, as well as the “Sir Joh Leadership tapes” and realia such at the “Rubbery figure”.

32627 Sir Joh and Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

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