Skip to main content
state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Queensland Business History Award

By Chrissi Theodosiou - Acting Senior Research Officer, State Library of Queensland | 6 August 2013

Brisbane Markets Limited are the first recipients of the inaugural Queensland Business History Award at the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Dinner on Thursday 25 July.

Internal view of the Roma Street Produce Markets, Brisbane, ca. 1925. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 93057

Brisbane Markets Limited was honoured at the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Induction dinner for preserving their business history records and sharing their history with the wider community. State Librarian and CEO Janette Wright presented the inaugural Queensland Business History Award to Vanessa Kennedy, Communications Executive with Brisbane Markets.

I’m sure some JOL blog readers will recall the sights and smells of the Brisbane Markets when they were located at Roma Street. However I don’t think anyone reading this blog would remember the very first location.

Brisbane’s first central market opened in a riverfront shed in Charlotte and Eagle streets in 1868 but closed 13 years later due to poor patronage. However, in 1885 the Brisbane Municipal Council opened a purpose-built city market in Roma Street.

Selling cabbages at the Brisbane Roma Street Markets, ca. 1937. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 120109

In 1906, a group of disgruntled Roma Street traders created a rival market in Turbot Street, known as the Brisbane Fruit and Produce Exchange Ltd. The two markets operated in competition and together they created a city market precinct.

Growing congestion in the CBD forced the State Government to move the central market to Rocklea in 1964, where Brisbane Markets are located today.

Following pressure from industry groups, the State Government sold the markets for $74 million to Landacq Limited, a public company consisting of 150 mainly industry-based shareholders. The company then changed its name to Brisbane Markets Limited.

To acknowledge and share their rich and diverse history with the general public, the Brisbane Markets History Task force was set up in 2010. Before that, historical documents and memorabilia were stored in boxes by staff members who were unaware of their meaning or provenance. While there were a number of people appointed to the task force, chairman Arch Martin and Brisbane Market Limited’s Communications Executive, Vanessa Kennedy, have undertaken all the work. Vanessa in particular has donated a great deal of her spare time to ensure task force activities have been a success.

The rediscovery of the boxes of documents and memorabilia formed the basis of the Brisbane Market’s historical collection. Treasures were found, scanned and put back into the boxes until they could be put on a register. The more precious items were catalogued and are displayed at the recently opened history collection room.

The collection itself is made up of a variety of material and formats. Collected from donations and from the organisation’s files the photographic collection holds over 500 images and some of them are on display in the history collection room. Other significant material in the collection includes the original Roma Street Markets bell, commemorative wine bottles, commemorative badges, tools, equipment used in the packing sheds, aprons, diaries and a range of boxes and packaging.

Film footage was also discovered from various sources and this vision can be viewed on ipads in the history collection room.

To complement the collection, an Oral history project was undertaken by the task force over a 12 month period. They choose people to interview people from various walks of life - wholesalers from the old Roma and Turbot Street market days (pre-1964), truck drivers, greengrocers and farmers. The oral histories include recorded interviews, précises written by task force members and photographs of the interviewee. This material can be viewed on the ipads in the history collection room.

Some of the most significant collection items are the minute books that cover the 71 years of Brisbane Markets’ history. They contain a wealth of information on issues faced by wholesalers (including dates and the names of these people) and opinions of the time.

There is also roll of honour from WWI that was found in a backroom and is in need of restoration. It’s accompanied by a photo of the roll of honour being presented to the people in the Turbot Street Market, with the dates 1914 to 19__.

Another favourite is a hand written regulation. It includes the names of the rebel wholesalers who broke away from the Roma Street Markets to form the Turbot Street Markets in 1906.

State Library of Queensland  is pleased to support and recognise the amazing job that Brisbane Markets have undertaken to preserve and share their history. You can support them too by visiting their history collection room located off the reception of the refurbished Fresh Centre building at Rocklea. It’s open to the public 8am to 3pm (Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays).

Chrissi Theodosiou - A/Senior Research Officer, State Library of Queensland

Research by Dianne McKean



Your email address will not be published.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.