A memorial honouring the sacrifice paid by Captain Ian Kerr and Corporal Neville Hourigan during Brisbane’s 1974 floods has been unveiled by the city’s Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner.
Cr Schrinner said the new memorial in Bellbowrie commemorates the 50th anniversary of the servicemen’s passing.
“Brisbane has suffered many devastating floods throughout history, and the men and women of the Australian Defence Force have always been quick to support our most vulnerable residentsin their time of need,” Cr Schrinner said.
“Unfortunately, Brisbane’s history shows this unwavering support can sometimes come at great personal cost. In the case of Captain Kerr and Corporal Hourigan, they gave their lives for those in need.
“As Captain Kerr and Corporal Hourigan went out that fateful day, they had one goal in mind; to rescue stranded residents in the Bellbowrie area as the flood waters rose.
“The legacy of these two servicemen will be remembered not only through this memorial, but through the community as groups like the Moggill Historical Society continue to tell these important stories.”
During the 1974 event, flooding extended through to the western suburbs and areas such as Moggill and Bellbowrie were cut off from the rest of the city.
In total, there were 16 fatalities, 300 people were injured, 8,000 homes were destroyed, and damages amounting to an estimated $980 million.
Captain Kerr and Corporal Hourigan led their team in the LARC V amphibious vehicle to rescue stranded residents, helping eight people including the elderly and children into the vehicle.
On the way back to dry land, the vehicle encountered submerged powerlines, causing an explosion that led to Captain Kerr and Corporal Hourigan losing their lives.
Miraculously, the remainder of the passengers on board the vehicle survived.
Professor Neville Marsh from the Moggill Historical Society expressed his support for the memorial, saying the heroic act is an important part of the community’s history.
“As is the case with natural disasters in Australia, the Army was there to help, but sadly, two of their own tragically paid the ultimate price while helping stranded residents,” Mr. Marsh said.
“It’s appropriate that the 50th anniversary memorial is located next to the new ANZAC memorial at Bellbowrie which honours those who lost their lives in the service of others, and I’m pleased we’re able to share this moment with the surviving members of both families.
“I commend the Brisbane City Council for embracing the Moggill Historical Society’s plan to recognise the 50th anniversary of the death of Ian Kerr and Neville Hourigan.”
Local Councillor for Pullenvale Greg Adermann said the memorial speaks to the character of the Brisbane residents.
“One of the great strengths of our local community is their willingness to come together and lend a hand to others when in trouble,” Cr Adermann said.
“We share our sincere thanks to the Moggill Historical Society for taking on the task of building this memorial.
“It’s important the local community never forgets acts of bravery such as this and I’m pleased the Schrinner Council saw fit to fund this recognition.”
Cr Schrinner said while Brisbane continues to be better prepared for disasters, the 50th anniversary is a timely reminder of the risks.
“Brisbane was built on a floodplain and we live in a sub-tropical climate which means we can be exposed to extreme weather events,” he said.
“Our Council continues to work with other authorities so Brisbane is better prepared so we can help keep residents safe.
“After the 2011 and 2022 floods, we’ve built back infrastructure like our Ferry Terminals better so they were more flood resilient.
“We’ve improved planning requirements to help protect new homes and businesses, particularly those in low-lying areas.
“Our Brisbane Severe Weather Alerts System makes sure that residents are informed of weather changes in their area.
“This memorial will be a permanent reminder of the devastation that these natural disasters cause and encourage residents to be prepared in the face of flood.”
The memorial commemorating Captain Ian Kerr and Corporal Neville Hourigan can be found at Booker Place Park, Bellbowrie.