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The first record of European history in the Redcliffe area is to be found in the journal of Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook in his voyage around the world in HMS ‘Endeavour’.  Cook’s record of the area was used by Lieutenant (later Captain) Matthew Flinders in 1799 when he became the first European explorer to enter Moreton Bay in the Sloop H. M. ‘Norfolk’.  On this voyage, Flinders spent two weeks exploring the bay and surrounds naming Point Skirmish (now South Point), Pumice Stone River (now Pumicestone Passage) and Red Cliffe Point (now Woody Point). On 15 July 1799, Flinders’ second day in Moreton Bay, he reports:

While ranging within a mile of the shore, ten natives were counted, half of whom were probably women, from their keeping behind the others.  The men made many antics gestures to our people.  One had a green branch in his hand, which he waved to and fro at the extent of his arm, from the ground on one side of him to that on the other; and some of them would run into the water occasionally, and beat the surf with their sticks.  They appear to be friendly, using nearly the same word in calling our people that would have been made use of by a Port Jackson native, and seemed desirous that they should proceed up the bay (Collins, 1802, in Steele, 1972, p. 12).

Flinders also saw evidence of an Aboriginal settlement on the beach up the Pumice Stone River from Skirmish Point.  Here he found about five huts standing together, each between twelve and fifteen feet long and rounded at the far end.

On July 17, Flinders anchored off a point he named Red Cliffe Point due to the red cliffs in it (now named Woody Point) which was to the south east of present day Redcliffe, and went ashore at a place now known as Clontarf Point about two miles west of Woody Point.  Flinders ‘ party shot and wounded two Aborigines at Skirmish Point.  Flinders departed Moreton Bay on 5 August 1799.  Over two decades were to pass before a European presence revealed itself again in the Moreton Bay Region.

In April 1823, three cedar getters (Pamphlet, Parsons and Finnegan) became shipwrecked on Moreton Island after leaving Sydney for Illawarra and were blown off course.  By June, they had travelled up and down the Brisbane River and came to Redcliffe.

In 1823, Oxley, as Surveyor-General of New South Wales, sailed from Sydney in the ‘Mermaid’ to Moreton Bay in search of a suitable location for the establishment of a penal settlement.  On 29 and 30 October, Oxley found Pamphlet and Finnegan at Point Skirmish.  In Pamphlet’s account of the eight months that had elapsed since they first left Sydney he recalls that he “had spent nearly five months with these hospitable natives of Moreton Bay.  Their behaviour to me and my companions had been so invariably kind and generous, that … I did not leave them without sincere regret” (Field 1825 in Steele 1972: 5 1).

On Oxley’s recommendation a site on the shores of the present day Redcliffe, which was surrounded on three sides by water and simple to navigate from the sea, was chosen for settlement.  On his return trip to Moreton Bay the following year, Oxley found the third of the shipwrecked cedar-getters, Parsons, at Point Skirmish in September 1824.  It was also on this Journey that Oxley selected the site at Redcliffe for the establishment of a penal colony.  The settlement was thus founded but by May 1825 it had moved to the Brisbane River on the present day city centre.  The reasons given for relocating the settlement included illness, the unhealthy conditions of Redcliffe, poor soil, lack of building timber, infestation with snakes and insects, and the hostility of the Aborigines (Jones 1988:22)