Publication Details

McKinnon, S. (2019). Remembering and forgetting 1974: the 2011 Brisbane floods and memories of an earlier disaster. Geographical Research, 57 (2), 204-214.


The city of Brisbane, capital of the Australian state of Queensland, sits on a floodplain and has been struck by two devastating flood disasters in the last 50 years. This article contributes to the growing literature on disaster memory by tracing memories of a flood in 1974 as they were constructed and re-enacted in a more recent disaster in 2011. The article examines how disaster memories shape local identities and considers how such memories influence policy and local knowledge, doing so by reference to an analysis of three forms of memory media-personal narratives, news media reporting, and built memorials. At times, memories of 1974 enabled Brisbane residents to prepare for an oncoming flood and to understand the scope of the 2011 event. Yet other memories produced a form of forgetting by positioning the earlier flood as a successfully navigated event now safely contained in the past. Findings from the analysis thus point to the importance of understanding memories of past disasters as a critical element of disaster planning and management.

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