Did you know that once upon a time, the map of Australia looked like this1?
The Northern Territory, and most of what we now know as Queensland, comprised a single huge State known as ‘Northern Australia’. The town of Gladstone – known back then as Port Curtis – was its capital city, and Colonel George Barney its Lieutenant-Governor.
Fascinatingly, our very first Director, Francis Stewart, was described by the now-defunct Argus newspaper (a Melbourne institution at the time which was much like today’s Age) as “probably the last survivor of the North Australian settlement at Gladstone under Colonel Barney2” – a testament to how far back our company history goes.
Sometime after the dissolution of Northern Australia, Mr Stewart moved to New Zealand where he worked as a banker and pastoralist. In 1870 he returned to Australia – by which time the States of Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland had made their debut on the map – where he subsequently held a number of esteemed positions. These included Chief Inspector of the National Bank, General Manager of Goldsbrough Mort & Co (an agricultural business), Board member of Younghusband & Co Limited (a wool-broking business), Director of the South British Insurance Company, and Chairman of the Melbourne Woolbrokers’ Association.
Most significantly for us, he was our first Director, serving from our foundation in 1888 until 1895. He passed away in Melbourne in 1904 – just three years after Australia’s Federation, which finally brought all of the disparate colonies into a single nation-state.
2 Argus newspaper, 11 Jul 1904, p5