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Cairns, North Queensland Australia - Brief History

For generations, prior to European settlement, the Tropical North was home to numerous indigenous tribes who inhabited the coastal plains and the hinterland. Among the original settlers to land amongst the dense mangrove of Trinity Bay in 1876 were Customs officers whom the government had sent aboard the “Leichhardt” to establish a new port to service the Hodgkinson gold field west of Mareeba. Miners hoping to find gold and traders to erect shops and grog shanties joined them.

Cairns was the main port for mineral and timber reserves of the Atherton Tablelands. Initially goods were carried over the Kuranda Range along precarious packhorse routes, until the construction of the railway over the range. You can trace their steps by taking the historic rail trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.

Cairns initially suffered from its long distance from the capital city of Brisbane until 1879 when the first local authority was established. Cairns was declared a municipal borough in 1884, and Mr R A Kingsford was elected the first mayor in 1885. He was the Grandfather of famous aviator, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

Today Cairns is a thriving city with a population of over 135,000 with an International Airport and Cruising Port catering for the growing needs of tourism, outback services and the population drift to the Far North where a more laid back lifestyle appears to appeal as a more acceptable way of life. Major industries focus on tourism, sugar, tropical fruit farming, fishing, ship building and shipping services. Cairns also hosts a Naval Base.

No visit to Cairns is complete without a visit to the Royal Flying Doctors Base at Aeroglen where the service has established a Visitor Centre. A Presbyterian Minister, John Flynn, who saw the need for a “mantle of safety” for the people of the outback, had a vision of the RFDS in 1912. By 1920, Hudson Fysh, founder of QANTAS, identified a suitable aircraft to carry a patient, doctor/pilot. By 1927 a young engineer, Alf Traeger, provided the missing communications link with his invention of the pedal radio. The first flight was made from Cloncurry in North West Queensland in May 1928 – the rest is history. RFDS is a service free to all who need it and continue to operate through the generous donations from people and corporations from all over Australia to supplement Government Grants.

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Cairns, Queensland
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