This public event looks back, with a quizzical eye, on Queensland’s culture and politics during the 1980s.


All are welcome to attend. Please register by Friday 4 October 2019.


Queensland’s age of Bjelke-Petersen, of the gerrymander and the Fitzgerald Inquiry, ended thirty years ago. For historians the 1980s are now officially ‘history’, an opportunity to reflect on this unusual and occasionally bizarre decade through its local peculiarities.

With the 1982 Commonwealth Games and Expo ’88 as triumphant landmarks, Queensland life during the 1980s was more typically polarising and unpredictable. Civil liberties, land rights, political corruption, environmental activism and economic globalisation sparked heated debate. Foreign investment, the ‘white shoe brigade’ and police corruption dominated headlines. ‘Joh for PM’ derailed a federal election. Queensland ruled Origin, but still couldn’t seize the Shield. The old guard hung on, the baby boomers were trying to take over, and today’s Generation Xers were impressionable teenagers.

Through an exhibition, film screening and panel discussion with three key writers and commentators, A Sunshine State? Remembering Queensland’s 1980s reflects on the volatile culture and politics of Australia’s ‘Deep North’ during this pivotal era. Was Queensland different, and if so, what kind of difference? Who are the heroes and villains, those we can’t forget and those we should remember? What exactly did we show the world at Expo ’88 and through the Fitzgerald Inquiry?

Please join us for a late-afternoon event into the evening, with refreshments and discussion, as we re-visit the essence of Queensland’s 1980s. The symposium will include an original film (We’ll Show the World, by Jackie Ryan), an exhibition of items from the Fryer Library collection and the State Library’s collection of The Cane Toad Times memorabilia, and our panel: Matt Condon, Professor Frank Bongiorno, Dr Jackie Ryan. MC: Dr Geoff Ginn, School of Historical & Philosophical Inquiry.

Panel members

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan is the author of We’ll Show the World: Expo 88 (UQP), which won two 2018 Queensland Literary Awards: the Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance and the University of Southern Queensland History Book Award. It was also shortlisted for The Courier-Mail People's Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award. Jackie produces the Aurealis Award-winning Burger Force comic book series (also twice shortlisted for a Ledger Award for Excellence in Australian Comics) and is the founding editor of comedy writing collective the Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary. She holds a PhD in history and political science from UQ. Jackie is a 2019 Queensland Writing Fellow.


Frank Bongiorno

Frank Bongiorno is the author or co-author of four books and many scholarly articles and book chapters on Australian history. The Sex Lives of Australians: A History (2012), won the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Book of the Year and was shortlisted in the Australian History category of the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the New South Wales Premier’s History Award. The Eighties: The Decade That Transformed Australia (2015) also won ACT Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize, the New South Wales Premier’s History Award and the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) Book Prize, and longlisted for the Colin Roderick Award.

Matthew Condon

Matthew Condon is a prize-winning Australian novelist and journalist. He is currently on staff with the Courier-Mail’s Qweekend magazine. He began his journalism career with the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1982 and subsequently worked for leading newspapers and journals including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph and Melbourne's Sunday Age. He is also the author of ten books of fiction, most recently The Trout Opera (Random House, 2018) and the non-fiction book Brisbane (New South Books, 2010).

Panel Facilitator 

Geoff Ginn

Dr Geoff Ginn teaches history at UQ, with research interests in nineteenth century social policy, urban history, museums and cultural heritage. His book Culture, Philanthropy and the Poor in Late-Victorian London was published by Routledge in the UK and US in 2017, with a paperback edition released this year. Geoff is a Board member at the Queensland Museum (2008-2013, 2017-present), a member of the Australian Dictionary of Biography Editorial Board, and has been a judge in the Queensland Literary Awards. He is presently leading a new ARC Linkage project in partnership with the State Library of Queensland to develop an online Queensland Atlas of Religion.

Program and timings 

4pm: Arrivals and registration 
4.15–5.15pm: Film screening
5.15–6pm: Refreshments
6.15–7.30pm: Panel discussion and Q&A 


Schonell Theatre (#22), The University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus 

View map and parking information 


This event is hosted by The University of Queensland's School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.


Schonell Theatre, St Lucia, UQ