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Thirty years since our dreamworld fell

A unit complex now sits where the Cloudland dance hall once stood.

A unit complex now sits where the Cloudland dance hall once stood.

Peter Garrett remembers Brisbane's Cloudland clearly and its loss is something he still feels to this day.

Wednesday marks 30 years since Brisbane woke up to the remains of the truly iconic ballroom that had captured the imagination of three waves of young music fans and dancers.

Nothing prepared us for that first impression of getting in to this amazing building and just saying, 'wow' 

Garrett's Midnight Oil song Dreamworld was Australian rock's angriest lament to a building that won hearts from successive generations of ballroom dancers, bodgies, widgies and rock fans.

"I can remember very clearly the first time we played at Cloudland," Garrett, now the federal government minister for school education, recalls.

"We had seen it on top of the hill, we had heard about it, but nothing prepared us for that first impression of getting in to this amazing building and just saying, 'wow'.

"It was very different to where we had been playing before and it had so much atmosphere and it was such a fantastic building to play in.

"And also, it was a great place to come and listen to bands."

For my generation, it was where we saw the best of the best of bands from overseas.

We saw The Clash play London Calling, and Echo and Bunnymen loom as one of the most influential bands of their time.

We saw Madness skank, the Cure sulk, Ian Drury and the Blockheads hit us with their rhythm stick and we spun 360 degrees watching the Stray Cats strut.

We saw the big three Australian bands – Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and The Angels – as headliners, plus a swag of "first drop" bands, often as support, then Australia's best emerging bands.

Before them, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Johnny O'Keefe and the Bee Gees played the famous venue.

Cloudland was originally to be Brisbane's own Luna Park in 1939, but was commandeered by US General Douglas MacArthur for his forces based in Brisbane.

But it was the spring-floor that delighted the generations, making jitterbuggers and ballroom dancers as light as a feather and rock fans bounce a metre high as they rocked to a Steve Prestwich or Rob Hirst snare crash.

It was our dreamworld.

"It had beautiful promenades and arches and a raised verandah outside," Garrett said.

"[It was] on top of the hill, so the view you had was across the whole of Brisbane, across the whole of the city.

"As well as that, it had an upstairs mezzanine area that you could go upstairs and look down on to the dance floor and at the bands.

"It was just absolutely chock-a-block with atmosphere, heritage and history."

And then, at 4am on November 7, 1982, the Deen Brothers crushed the dreams of three generations at the request of the Bjelke-Petersen government.

By lunchtime, that dreamworld lay in concrete rubble, to eventually be replaced by apartments.

The reality was that, despite Cloudland being listed with the National Trust, it was simply not protected, much like the Bellevue Hotel that was demolished in 1979.

In 1992, a decade after Cloudland's bulldozers moved in, Queensland got its first Queensland Heritage Register when new Labor premier Wayne Goss set up a heritage committee with bipartisan support.

The Queensland Heritage Register offers protection, to varying degrees, to the buildings, places and curious things that create Queensland's atmosphere.

There are more than 1670 buildings and places on Queensland's Heritage Register, each included after a vote by heritage specialists from the Queensland Heritage Council.

There have been failures – controversy followed the destruction of Brisbane's Festival Hall and the partial demolition of the Regent Theatre – but a process is in place.

Eyes are now on what the state government allows to happen to the old State Library Building on William Street, which one casino operator has eyed off as a potential high-rise hotel, a proposal that so far has been met with disapproval from the Newman government.

On Friday, three of the most important heritage sites in Queensland's history will come before the Queensland Heritage Council.

They will vote whether to include the three boundary markers of the state of Queensland, at the junctions with the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales.

These surveyor marks, known as Poeppel's Corner, Haddon's Corner and Cameron's Corner, date back to the 1880s.

Also to be considered is the 105-year-old Kingaroy Butter Factory.

Earlier this year, incoming Environment and Heritage Minister Andrew Powell said he wanted to make changes to the Queensland Heritage Council.

"We know there are a number of passionate people in the community who value the role of the Queensland Heritage Council and the work it does," Mr Powell said.

"For this reason, I called for expressions of interest earlier this year from people who may be interested in being members of the Heritage Council who may not have been involved before."

Mr Powell said these changes would be in place by next month.

"The process to refresh the membership of the Queensland Heritage Council is under way and should be concluded by mid-December," he said.

“While there are no current plans to review the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, I am always happy to take advice from the Queensland Heritage Council on the ways in which the current Act is administered or enforced."

Mr Powell is aware the community is looking to see exactly who is nominated to the Queensland Heritage Council and knows there is a perception developers would be favoured.

"But I assure you that the Newman government and the Queensland Heritage Council will work closely and inclusively with the community, to ensure our State's heritage receives the prominence and standing it deserves."

The Queensland Heritage Council will also vote to add the following landmarks to the heritage register:

  • Bowen State School;
  • the JC Hubinger Memorial Hall in Cardwell;
  • the Daintree Inn in Mossman;
  • the Ed Miles Mining Exchange building in Charters Towers;
  • the Bank of New South Wales in Charters Towers;
  • Myall Park Botanic Garden in Glenmorgan;
  • the Shepherd Memorial Church in Proston;
  • Murgon Civic Centre;
  • Murgon's South Burnett Co-operative Dairy Factory; and
  • the Kingaroy Shire Council chambers in Kingaroy.

How ironic that, in 2012, a building in Kingaroy – the home of the man who oversaw the destruction of Cloudland 30 years ago – may be protected by legislation spurred by the midnight demolition raid of 1982.

21 comments

  • Pure nostalgia. Cloudland, like Garrett, belongs to another era.

    Commenter
    isis
    Date and time
    November 07, 2012, 5:50AM
    • nothing wrong with happy memories

      Commenter
      Bob Menzies
      Location
      Cannon Hill
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 7:46AM
    • The Story Bridge is from another era, why don't we demolish it as well?

      Better still why don't we replace it with a tunnel, hang on we already did and what a success that was!

      Commenter
      Leonard
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 8:09AM
    • Brisbane: cultural wasteland with no history and no identity. I'm looking forward to my annual trip to Melbourne this Christmas.

      Commenter
      Sammy J
      Location
      Balmoral
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 9:07AM
    • Stop falling for the Vic governments touristy hype. Loads of iconic venues in Melbourne have closed down & turned into apartments too.

      Commenter
      Reality
      Location
      ex Melbournite
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 9:57AM
    • I used to go to Cloudland to see bands in the dark old days, it was a great venue. It would be great to see some of the new Aussie bands there too, but Joh saw that there would be no more "debauchery" there, which was one of the reasons cited for the demolition. Those ratbag left wingers Triple Z used to promote the concerts there and they always questioned the policies of the Government so don't knock what you don't understand, it was better than the bland apartments built on the site afterwards. The nosebleed section at Cloundland was brilliant.

      Commenter
      Ivan
      Location
      Toowoomba
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 10:49AM
  • I remember meeting my wife at Cloudland in November 1944 at a dance ,, I was on leave from my Battalion from Horne Island , we were married in December 1944 and I was the posted overseas to Bougainville in 1945 and returned home in Ausgust 1946 from New Britain , - I remember that so well we were married some 60 odd years when I lost her in 2004. I was in the Premiers Department in 1982 the proposal from the developers found its way to the Premier , he had made his mind up and no matter what he was advised Cloudland was going . I remember Teddy Lyons being at the Premiers office saying its a rundown eyesore rotten with termites , I had thought to myself a lot of people wint like this including me , but to be truthful we had bigger things to worry about at that time - but it was a crying shame to see Cloudland knocked down - it has happy memories for me

    Commenter
    Bob Menzies
    Location
    Cannon Hill
    Date and time
    November 07, 2012, 7:17AM
    • Nice memories to have Bob. Some people place no value on nostalgia, but there are more important things than money and developer profits. Thanks for sharing.

      Commenter
      AusMossy
      Location
      Highgate Hill
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 10:39AM
  • For this reason, I called for expressions of interest earlier this year from people who may be interested in being members of the Heritage Council who may not have been involved before."

    Mr Powell said these changes would be in place by next month.

    "The process to refresh the membership of the Queensland Heritage Council is under way and should be concluded by mid-December," he said.

    “While there are no current plans to review the Queensland Heritage Act 1992, I am always happy to take advice from the Queensland Heritage Council on the ways in which the current Act is administered or enforced."

    Will the primary qualification or new membeship of the Queesland Heritage Council be membership of the LNP?

    Commenter
    Glynn
    Location
    Ferny Grove
    Date and time
    November 07, 2012, 7:50AM
    • "But I assure you that the Newman government and the Queensland Heritage Council will work closely and inclusively with the community..."

      Yeah, sure! I keep hearing this, but this government has proven to be an epic fail in community consultation.

      Commenter
      Dark Daysi
      Date and time
      November 07, 2012, 8:11AM

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