How Toowong Got Its Name

Photo credit: CC-BY/State Library of Queensland/Flickr

Whilst other Brisbane suburbs have been named after a distinct landmark, Toowong derived its name from its local birdlife.

The name Toowong is believed to have originated from the call of a migratory bird, the Eastern Koel, which nests in the area between September and April. The bird was known for its call which was thought to mark the arrival of rain.


Credit: Tim Siggs/YouTube

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The Koel has a unique survival tactic. It lays its eggs in the nests of other species and lets them raise their young before returning to Papua New Guinea and other South-East Asian countries for winter.

Eastern Koel Eudynamys orientalis Cuculidae Photo credit: birdlife.org.au

The State Library of Queensland has confirmed the link between the naming of Toowong to the call of the migratory bird. However, the Toowong and District Historical Society Inc. has a different story behind the naming of the suburb.

White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis Photo credit: Aviceda/Wikimedia Commons

According to the District Historical Society, the suburb was named after the native bird known as the white-throated nightjar. The Aborigines referred to this bird as the “tu-wong” —  an onomatopoeic word which copies the sound of the bird’s call. Since the native bird nested in several eucalyptus trees along the river bank on the bend of the Brisbane River below the Indooroopilly Bridge, the Aborigines named the locality Tu-wong.

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Bird researcher Ian Venables said that other early records say that Toowong was named after the Koel. The confusion would explain why a newcomer to Toowong, John O’Neil Brenan (who arrived in 1872), came to understand the origin of the word as the Koel’s call. To this day, the confusion as to where the name of Toowong really came from, remains.

Toowong Creek Photo credit: Kgbo/Wikimedia Commons

Survey maps from as early as 1849 show that Toowong Creek was the first to use the name. The word was later adopted as a locality name when local landowner Richard Langlar Drew advertised land along Toowong Creek for sale as “The Village of Toowong”.

The name became more widely used when Toowong was given to the area’s newly-opened local railway station. The district’s inhabitants later identified with the name of “Toowong”, and its inhabitants adopted the name for the locality after the railway station’s name.

Today, Toowong is a popular suburb, home to more than 10,800 people.