From the 1800s to 2022: Revisiting Major Floods in Hamilton and Other Brisbane Suburbs

The Brisbane River catchment carries over 40 per cent of the run-off from the Moreton Bay region and flood mitigation efforts remain a primary concern. Over the centuries, climatic and environmental changes have had catastrophic consequences to the river flow, impacting Brisbane’s suburbs, including Hamilton. 

The 2022 Flood

In February 2022, the Brisbane River breached its banks and reclaimed its floodplain, peaking at 3.9 metres, inundating roads, buildings and structures in what will go down in Brisbane’s watery history as another significant instance of flooding.

More than 15,000 homes have been flooded whilst 54,000 households had no power. Though this was lower than the 4.46 metres experienced during the 2011 flooding, more suburbs experienced the worst flooding. 

Photo Credit: Trucking Crane Trucks/Facebook

Schools and roads were closed while a stay-home order was issued whilst damage assessment took place. Disaster assistance and recovery programs were also set in place to help the flood victims. 

Photo Credit: Chris Croft/Facebook

Here’s a round-up of the worst Brisbane River floods that have affected Hamilton and the suburbs around what we know today as Brisbane.

March 1864 

The 1864 flood was accompanied by a gale of wind so violent, it destroyed even the best-protected houses. Umbrellas were useless outdoors because of the wind. Sections near the Brisbane river had more than six inches of rain until the water began to rise, leaving many residents stranded. Some locals were able to abandon their house before it went underwater. 

March 1870

Low-lying areas on the stretch of Eagle Farm to Breakfast Creek were covered in several inches of water due to great rains. All creeks in the district had been flooded and roads disappeared as the river swelled. 

February 1893

Photo Credit: Queensland Government

Disastrous floods rising to 23 feet and nine inches submerged houses and establishments near the Brisbane River. Victoria bridge in the north was completely destroyed.

Hamilton Brisbane Flood 1893
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

This was the most severe flood ever experienced thus far with three floodings occurring within days of each other, putting Brisbane at a standstill. 

Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

March 1908

Excessive rains for four days suspended traffic and damaged crops. Half of Pinkeba was underwater for days as well, spilling over to nearby sites like Hamilton. But while the water prevailed, it did not reach as high as the previous floods. 

February 1931

Brisbane had its first disastrous flood after 23 years. More than a thousand homes in the Breakfast Creek area were submerged. City wharves were underwater as well as the water reached South Brisbane. Serious damages were noted in Milton, Oxley, Rocklea, Fairfield, and Sherwood districts. 

March 1955

The floodwaters were highest since February 1931, resulting in flooding in Brisbane’s lower catchment. River debris flowed through the towns in great quantities. 

January 1974

Photo Credit: Queensland Government

In the 1974 flood, the Brisbane River was at its highest level since the flooding in 1893. More than 8,000 homes were destroyed.

Hamilton Brisbane Flood 1974
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

Businesses suffered many losses, which were estimated to be at $68 million by the Insurance Council of Australia. 

Hamilton Brisbane Flood 1974
Photo Credit: Lost Brisbane/Facebook

January 2011

Extreme flash floods brought on major flooding in Brisbane, affecting more than 200,000 people, killing 33, and leaving estimated damage of $1 billion. This was the largest flood height produced since 1974, with the Brisbane River experiencing seven major flood peaks. 

Hamilton Brisbane Flood 2011
Photo Credit: Norris Chau/Facebook
Hamilton Brisbane Flood 2011
Photo Credit: Sue Mansfield/Facebook

After 2011, property values of suburbs across Brisbane fell between 6.1 to 18 per cent. Despite the recent floods, property experts are confident that house prices will recover quickly and riverside locations like Hamilton will continue to attract demand. 

Place of the Water Rat

Historically, the Turrbal people have experienced numerous instances of flooding in this river that they refer to as called ‘Maiwar.’ They also referred to the south end of the peninsula as ‘Kurilpa’ or ‘place of the water rat.’

Despite the destruction brought about by the periodic flooding, the wetlands and creeks leading to and around the Brisbane River also gave rise to fertile land around them, providing food and sustenance to the local Jagara and Turrbal tribes for centuries.

Today, despite the watery history, these areas are among the most highly sought after, with its river views and prime locations for houses in desirable suburbs like Hamilton, Ascot, Clayfield, Bulimba, Kangaroo Point, Teneriffe, and others.