24 Feb The Petrie Paper Mill
By now you may be well aware of the new University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) campus that has finally opened its doors to students for 2020 in Moreton Bay, though, its history of Petrie and the Paper Mill that will forever ghost the historic grounds.
The Paper Mill of Petrie officially opened on December 6th of 1957 by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, which brought a great deal of business and population to the quiet town. Almost 10 years prior, in 1946, Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd’s managing director, Sir Herbert Gepp, had arranged for Gus Gehrmann to buy a piece of land for a new paper mill under the external appearance, ‘Operation Moo Cow’.
During that time, two potential sites were identified for the construction of the mill – Eagle Farm and Petrie. Before Petrie was declared the home for the Australia Paper Mill, the site was occupied by two dairy farms.
“… My family owned the land that the A.P.M. is now situation on. Wyllie Park and Wyllie Street in Petrie are named after my family, who were one of the first to settle there.” – Norman Wyllie, 1987
Construction began on the 250ha site in 1951 but was brought to a grinding halt a year later due to the recession that was suffocating the country. In 1955, the erection of the mill recommence along with the construction of multiple other buildings at the site and within the township of Petrie including more than 60 houses, an RSL hall and a hostel for single men.
“Let us conquer a new world next year. Let us step forward next month. Let us do something which yesterday was thought to be impossible”. Prime Minister Robert Menzies declared on the official opening day of the Paper Mill. He was accompanied by his wife, Dame Pattie Menzies, along with other guests such as Premier Frank Nicklin and the Australia Paper Mill Chairman of Directors, E. Telford Simpson.
The paper mill is said to have staffed more than 500 people at its ‘peak’ in the early 1960s, and merely 222 in its final year of operation. Not only did it staff more than many people over the years, but it brought about an influx of families for the town itself, along with new students for the tiny North Pine State School.
It is believed that North Pine State School fell into a struggle with the number of student enrollments that came with the new families – a majority who began work at the paper mill. Shortly thereafter, the ‘mill people’ formed a committee due to rising concerns of the educational activities that were taking place within the school.
For more than 50 years, the Petrie Paper Mill was widely known within the Moreton Bay region for its pure ‘Petrie spirit’ and it’s sense of community as it brought many people together from all around. From the very first day of construction, to the last day of operation, the Petrie Paper Mill employed about 5000 people.
The mill operated day in and day out, with up to three eight-hour shifts that never ceased. To gain employment via the mill, though, it is said that you were needed to be related to an employee, as positions were snapped up rather quickly by family members or friends.
In 1986, APM was renamed Amcor and celebrated 30 years of operation a year later. After 56 years of continuous, around the clock production, the mill was closed.
The site is now home to the new University of the Sunshine Coast Moreton Bay campus, with students commencing studies already in February 2020. The campus is set to continue its development over the coming years, growing the world class study precinct to its fullest potential.
“The campus will be the anchor of The Mill at Moreton Bay, a vibrant civic, cultural and business precinct planned by Moreton Bay Regional Council.” – USC.com
Moretonbay.qld.gov.au. (n.d.). The Mill at Moreton Bay. [online] Available at: https://www.moretonbay.qld.gov.au/Services/Projects/The-Mill [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
Knight, K. (2020). How the paper mill helped shape Petrie. [online] Couriermail.com.au. Available at: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/moretonlife/how-the-paper-mill-helped-shape-petrie/news-story/68dd03a29c153f714ac341a6e2e7e938 [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].
Usc.edu.au. (n.d.). USC Moreton Bay. [online] Available at: https://www.usc.edu.au/learn/why-choose-usc/study-locations/usc-moreton-bay [Accessed 24 Feb. 2020].