Post-war local government role a “neglected” part of history

New research from James Cook University shows it was local governments that transformed northern Queensland, following the end of World War II.

PhD student Patrick White’s research argues that the region’s post-war reconstruction was thanks to local efforts, rather than state and federal actions.

“It was local governments who drove the reconstruction of north Queensland,” he said.

“They persisted despite the nation’s declining interest in northern development because they believed they had a responsibility to fill a void created by distant state and federal governments.”

Mr White said histories of post-war reconstruction usually focus on the role of the Commonwealth Government and neglect the efforts of tropical regions.

“The contributions made by local governments modernised north Queensland and influenced the politics of northern development,” he said. “It was thanks to campaigning by north Queensland councils that northern development became a national priority.”

The North Queensland Local Government Association (NQLGA) was established in 1944 and was initially made up of ten municipalities located along the coastal strip between Townsville and Cooktown. Membership of the Association grew to around 21 councils and included authorities from as far south as Mackay and west to Charters Towers.

Mr White said that northern voices had often been overlooked in national history.

“The association modernised infrastructure and improved social conditions,” he said.

“It also launched an influential publicity campaign aimed at tripling the population of northern Australia within ten years. The ‘People of the North’ campaign attracted high profile support and sustained national media attention for several years.

“It is likely no other association of local governments has produced a national publicity campaign quite like it. It made a formidable contribution to Australian politics in an era when national priorities often eclipsed regional concerns.”

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