In its first Street Walkers’ Guide to West End, the West End Making History Group exhorted its readers to:

“Slow down. Leave the car at home. Take to the streets”.

Perhaps now more than ever is the time to follow their advice and take a history walk.

The necessary restrictions on movement in response to the Covid-19 crisis has meant that we should as far as possible, confine our movements within the boundaries of our own suburbs, and should leave home only:

  • To buy essentials like groceries or medications
  • Work or school – if you can’t do either from home
  • Exercise – go by yourself, your household or one other person
  • Healthcare or to provide help, care or support to immediate family members.

An exercise in History

Many of us may be feeling a bit stir-crazy with the restrictions on our movement, but the experts tell us that exercise is more important than ever right now: it keeps us fit and more resilient, and is important for our mental health.

So, what better way to get that daily exercise walk and have some fun in the process, than to take yourself on a self-guided walk with one of the West End Making History Group’s walkers’ guides to West End?

There is no shortage of material. West End Making History Group, which was established in 2010, has published four walkers’ guides with the aim of helping people understand why our history is so important to the residents of West End.

Why not take a section of one of the walks each day?

The Walks

  1. A street walkers guide to West End

This is a street themed walk that begins at the intersection of Boundary St and Vulture St and heads west towards the Milton Reach of the Brisbane River. It takes in the cultural history of West End – Aboriginal, early English and Irish, Greek, Italian, and the more recent Vietnamese residents alongside the emerging entrepreneurial and alternative population represented by tattoo parlours, organic bakeries and boutique bars.

  1. Beyond the Boundary, A walk through West End’s Aboriginal, Greek and Activist history.

This walk explores the changing face of West End from the time of first contact between Europeans and Aborigines, through the waves of migration, to the more recent impact of Expo88 and the new planning guidelines which have changed the community in ways we are still grappling with.

  1. Walking with the Water Rats

Follows the story of the changing face of the Kurilpa Peninsula focusing on the riverfront from Kurilpa Point, South Brisbane to Davies Park, West End and beyond. It is the story of the working people of West End and the industries that employed them.

  1. Strolling the Flood Plains of Hill End

Traces the story of the river, the land and the people; the impact of floods and development on the precinct and the ability of the community to adapt and change – a history, as the group says, that can’t be separated from the river.

Each book guides the walker through the local history of the areas and is richly illustrated with photographs and drawings.

Imagine as you walk, the abundance of Aboriginal life along the river, and the breathtaking landscape within which they lived as described in 1823:

‘One of the most enchanting spots was an immense jungle in the western portion of South Brisbane…a tangled mass of trees, vines, flowering creepers…. towering scrub palms…beautiful and rare orchids and the wild passion flower….,’ see more in Walk Four.

Or, find out how Vulture Street got its name, or why the terrace houses in Sussex Street were the site of one of the significant battles of the Expo 88 protest movement, or explore the origins and history of the Indigenous Tent Embassy in Musgrave Park.

As former Mayor and member of the West End Making History group, Tim Quinn, told me in an earlier interview, it is by knowing our local history, that we get to know ourselves.

“It is very difficult for us to recognise who we are and where we might go in the future unless we understand our history,” he said.

The West End Making History Group

Many West End residents probably already own the full set of books. But if you don’t, Walk One is available at Avid Reader, and you can download all four walks from the History Group’s webpage here:

The History Group is also responsible for the six history plaques you can see along Boundary Street. So, if you haven’t had time to read each in detail, perhaps now is the time.

Thanks to group members Steve Capelin, Fiona Stager, Helen Abrahams, Tim Quinn, Phil Vanderzeil and Pam Bourke for their help.