Queen Street Mall: A look back at the last 40 years

3 minutes read

Royalty, rockstars and rollercoasters – Queen Street Mall has seen them all in its colourful 40-year history.


A brass band heralded the official opening of Queen Street Mall on 9 August 1982, but the real fanfare occurred two months later when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the pedestrian mall on 7 October while attending the Commonwealth Games.

Since then, the iconic inner-city destination has hosted a star-studded line-up of famous faces and household names.

The Rotunda, a central entertainment hub from 1982 to 1999, saw appearances and performances from the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Presidents of the United States of America, James Morrison, David Helfgott, The Ten Tenors, The Fureys and Miranda Kerr.

The former Top Stage, near George Street, and the current Queen Street Mall Stage were also platforms for live music, celebrity appearances and show-stopping entertainment.

Architect Robin Gibson, the creative vision behind QPAC and Queensland Art Gallery, designed the first stage of the mall from Albert to Edward Streets with a second stage extending the mall to George Street in 1988, timed to coincide with Brisbane’s Expo 88.

The mall continually evolved with major refurbishments in 1999 and 2007 and the integration in 2009 of Burnett Lane, which runs parallel to the mall between George and Albert Streets, to become a vibrant dining precinct.

Brisbane institution Jimmy’s on The Mall was the first venue to open in Queen Street Mall.

“It was a revolution when we started, pretty much the only outdoor venue in Queensland,” owner Godfrey Mantle enthuses.

It’s always a buzz, it’s where the people are, it’s a very pleasant community and we’ve got great hopes for the future of the Queen Street Mall.
Godfrey Mantle | Owner, Jimmy's on the Mall

Today, Queen Street Mall is a destination where rich heritage and modern retail collide, home to more than 500 retailers including six major shopping centres.

Wintergarden was one of the first shopping centres to open in the mall with retailers soon filling mall shopfronts and tenancies in character-filled shopping arcades.

The multi-storied Myer Centre opened in 1988 with Top’s amusement centre on its highest floor, delighting visitors with the Dragon Coaster roller coaster, swing ship and Ferris wheel.

Queen Street Mall staked its claim as a premier fashion destination from the moment it opened, according to Brisbane fashion stylist, educator and commentator Di Cant.

The influential local fashion figure styled and compered countless retail showcases in the mall, including its first parade in 1982.

“Every parade week brought such a lovely stylish vibe but the highlights for me were when we conducted the preliminary judging for the RAQ Fashion Design Awards in the mall which literally stopped everyone in their tracks – there could be up to 100 models with their designers appearing in the different categories,” Ms Cant recalls.

While fashion is her passion, Ms Cant nominates a surprising sporting highlight among her fondest mall memories.

“It was being invited to drive Brownlow Medallist Simon Black in my Audi sports car down the mall when the Brisbane Lions won the AFL Premiership in 2002.”

Robert White Jewellers adorned Brisbane residents for almost a century before it moved to Brisbane Arcade in 1974, the family-run business now managed by siblings Hannah and James White.

“Even as a little girl, coming into the City with Dad, seeing the Myer windows, seeing all the decorations up and down the mall was just magical,” Ms White says.

“My hopes for the Queen Street Mall community is to see the city thrive for another 40 years.”

The Queen Street Mall celebrated its 40th birthday on Friday 26 August with a free, all-ages Street Party featuring headliners Vanessa Amorosi and Kate Ceberano.

For a trip down memory lane, see ABC’s Queen Street Mall flashback here.