Birkdale Olympic Whitewater Venue Faces Controversy Over WWII Radio Antenna Removal

Plans for the construction of a $100-million Birkdale Olympic whitewater venue have ignited a heated debate due to the revelation that a heritage-listed World War II radio antenna, along with associated structures, could be dismantled to make way for the project. 

The State Government has initiated a 60-day cost analysis for all proposed Olympic projects in Brisbane’s bayside area, with the fate of the Birkdale Olympic whitewater venue hanging in the balance. 

Heritage Protection Clashes with Olympic Aspirations

The historic World War II radio receiving station building, along with its antenna and radio poles, enjoys heritage protection. Whilst the tower in question was built after the war and is not listed, the building itself has been safeguarded for years. 

The controversy arises from the need to remove the heritage-listed 1943 radio antenna with four posts to facilitate road construction and other project works to prepare for the Olympics. The Birkdale location is also complicated by the Willards Farm, raising environmental concerns, including the presence of koalas in the area.

Supporters of other locations contend that choosing the Penrith site for the Olympic whitewater venue could save $100 million, highlighting that Olympic venues can be located outside the host state.

Historical Significance of Birkdale Site

Situated on Old Cleveland Rd East, the Birkdale site holds historical significance as the place where Australia received the first message of the Japanese surrender, marking the end of WWII in the Pacific. It includes an original brick building that once served as a Postmaster-Generals office.

In 2020, it was added to Queensland’s Heritage Register after the Redland City Council acquired the land for community purposes from the Federal Government in 2019. The agreement with the Federal Government stipulated the development of a heritage management plan and protection of the radio station, which comprises an antenna and four posts in a rhombic array.

US Army Radio Receiving Station
Photo Credit: Queensland Heritage Register

Redland City Council asserts that the diamond-shaped antenna array, whilst heritage-listed, is located east of the receiving station and away from the proposed whitewater centre. It will be removed to simplify the construction of the precinct’s access roads. 

The Council compiled a costings briefing of the Birkdale Olympic whitewater venue as three of the site’s four antenna posts are at risk of being damaged. The plan underscored that these posts will be stored temporarily whilst the construction is ongoing. These posts will later be re-erected in the same location under the guidance of an expert from the Australian Heritage Specialists contracted by the council. 

Meanwhile, locals are encouraged to have their say on this plan, as well as other plans for the Olympic venues by emailing

Published 21-Jan-2024

Olympics or Recovery: Birkdale Whitewater Venue Being Debated After Multiple Weather Disasters

Has the recent wave of storms and floods washed away Birkdale’s hopes of being a whitewater venue for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics? A damage assessment is being conducted to find out.

Read: Tragic Turn in Manly: A Storm, a Capsized Boat, and a Community in Mourning

State Development has ordered an assessment of whether the $100-million facility is the best use of public funds, after receiving a petition from nearly 400 Redland residents concerned about costs.

Chief petitioner Lavinia Wood welcomed the review, saying it would remind the government to spend frugally after the $2-billion storm damage bill from the Christmas Day severe thunderstorms and flooding.

Artist’s impression of the proposed Birkdale whitewater rafting facility and public swimming lagoon (Photo credit: Redland City Council)

Ms Wood argues there are cheaper alternatives, like temporary facilities or using existing venues interstate, such as the existing facilities in Penrith. She said even government supporters are angry about Olympics spending when families are homeless due to the storms.

Penrith Whitewater Stadium (Photo credit: Brett Williams-Brown)

In September 2023, the state government and Redland City Council insisted Birkdale was the right choice and would deliver a lasting benefit. The facility was planned as a legacy project, eventually becoming an adventure park for the community. 

It was also slated to be a training site for first responders, including swift-water rescue. But after the storms in late December, a legacy of adventure tourism and training facilities seems uncertain.

State Development Min Grace Grace confirmed the complex is one of six new proposed venues for the 2032 Olympic Games. However, she said the review will evaluate whether Birkdale is necessary and makes best use of current facilities.

The future of the whitewater venue will likely depend on the recovery efforts from the devastating storms. With so many residents still rebuilding their lives, government funding may need to be redirected.

Read: Manly State School Grapples with Devastation Following Boxing Day Storm

The review’s recommendations, expected by March 2024, will determine if dreams of an Olympic legacy at Birkdale will wash away.

Published 15-January-2024 

Birkdale Lass Making a Difference for Young Australians with Chronic Illness

Hayleigh Carter, a 21-year-old resident of Birkdale had always aspired to become a professional dancer until her life took an unexpected turn, when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.

Hayleigh is now dedicated to assisting fellow young Queenslanders grappling with debilitating illnesses, offering them vital therapy and emotional support through Mater’s Young Adult Support Unit (YASU)

Hayleigh’s diagnosis of EDS and Mast Cell Activation Disorder significantly impacts her daily life, affecting not only her connective tissues, skin, joints, and blood vessels but also her organs and bones, severely limiting her functionality. With an estimated one in 5000 people worldwide diagnosed with this condition each year, Hayleigh’s journey is not unique.

“What I am living with is basically bendy joints, stretchy skin and lots of pain,” Ms Carter said.

“I am in so much pain I can’t dance anymore. Some days I am confined to a wheelchair.

“There are days where I can’t even get out of bed.

“I miss my days as an actress and dancer. As a qualified allied health assistant my heart lies in working with children living with disabilities.”

She describes the fortnightly support therapy at YASU as “life-altering”.

Hayleigh Carter Mater Hospital
Photo Credit: Annette Dew/Supplied

“I can’t work, I can’t play sport, and going out to meet friends is a lot of effort,” she said.

“But what I can do is encourage other young people not to sit in silence and to get help.”

Ms Carter’s health battles started when she was just 15. Her struggle has significantly impacted her mental health.

“I have depression and anxiety and have wanted to give up on life so many times, but my mum, who is my carer, and the support workers and team at YASU have been there for me,” she said.

“The care I have received at Mater has been immeasurable. The YASU has been the only place where I have been able to connect with therapists and receive the help I need.”

The Birkdale youth also suffers from multiple other conditions including functional neurological disorder (FND), fibromyalgia and intestinal dismobility, which makes day-to-day activities a challenge.

She also has dysautonomia, which is a dysfunction of the nerves that regulate non-voluntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and sweating, as well as postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), which causes her heart rate to increase very quickly after getting up from sitting or lying down. 

Mater Young Adult Support Unit psychologist and team leader Annalise Foster said the YASU provides integrated and holistic strengths-based assessment and evidence-based treatment to help patients like Ms Carter “develop, thrive, prosper and flourish”. 

“There are few services specifically for adolescents and young adults in Australia,” Ms Foster said.

“Chronic and complex medical conditions can impact a person’s physical, psychological, social and occupational wellbeing.

“Young people with chronic and complex conditions often face more difficulties negotiating the tasks of adolescence and young adulthood than their healthy peers.”

YASU has doctors, a psychiatrist, psychologists, a social worker, a nurse and an occupational therapist who are dedicated to helping patients live an active and fulfilling life.

Medical reviews, one-on-one mental health support and group programs are also available.

To access the service you must be aged up to 26 years and receiving ongoing service provision from the Mater Hospital South Brisbane for a chronic medical condition. 

Published 8-Jan-2024