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© 2019 Margaret Cook Historian

Testimonials & Reviews

2019 - “The River with a City Problem”

Congratulations on your book “The River with a City Problem”. I have just finished reading it and found it fascinating, enthralling and very informative. It shows great research, married with a love of history and then entertainingly written. This takes great skill and few can achieve it. Well done!

Not many people understand the dynamics of a river basin. I have taught the topic in geography for many years, but people’s greed and the expediency of development overrides their knowledge of river basins. And so it continues.....

Judith Hill, Ipswich

Margaret’s book is fascinating, you come away with a much broader perspective and understanding of the major floods of 1893, 1974 and 2011.

It is also a virulent indictment of dreadful planning at both the State and local Council level. Rather than take the learnings from each flood event to reduce the hazard by revising planning, all levels of government seem to be ignoring the inevitability of the next flood and building up the hazard by inappropriately approving further development on the floodplain.

Jim McKee, Ipswich


This book is a great read. Using thorough research and primary sources, Margaret Cook gives a fascinating account of the floods that have wreaked havoc on the cities of Brisbane and Ipswich over the past nearly 200 years and the responses taken, and not taken, by the community and government in trying to reduce the devastating impacts to people and their property. The author documents the repeated history of delusion and deception associated with claims that river modifications, and later, Somerset Dam and then Wivenhoe Dam, would prevent future floods occurring in Brisbane and Ipswich. The book makes you think about the continued development of the rivers' floodplains and what will happen in the inevitable next big floods; and what could be done to lessen their ever-increasing impact.

Peter, Brisbane

 

Have just finished reading "A River With a City Problem". I regard it as being the best Brisbane/Qld political insight I have read. Since settlement to today politics in conjunction with commercial interests shape and determine our view of our flood plains. Nature is fine when it is placid and therefore amicable and controllable, but when it is not then we go onto a war footing with it which we invariable lose!! Amazing. I really hope that your insight has some positive affect on future flood plain planning strategies for Brisbane, Ipswich and other similarly affected local authorities. In 2011 I stood in New Farm park and witnessed in the early hours of the flood morning the devastation flowing down the river. I truly love "my" river but I certainly can not blame it for being a river. That blame firmly rests with our politicians, and I must say no blame rests with those engineers given the onerous responsibility of stopping the flood. Thank you for such an instructive read.

Simon, Brisbane

'A River with a City Problem' is probably one of the most compelling books I have read in a long long time. I am completely engrossed - to the point of getting nothing else done today. This is a story I thought I knew well, having lived in SEQ all my life and witnessed the disasters of 1974 and 2011. Margaret has brought to light history, detail, statistics and personal recounts that have probably never seen the light of day and woven them into a thoroughly readable and relatable work. Anyone who lives or has lived in or around Brisbane and Ipswich would find this compelling reading. Anyone considering property acquisitions in this area should acquaint themselves well with the history of these river systems and this book would be a great resource.

Sue Stewart, Ipswich

A great read and thought provoking

This book is a great read. Using thorough research and primary sources, Margaret Cook gives a fascinating account of the floods that have wreaked havoc on the cities of Brisbane and Ipswich over the past nearly 200 years and the responses taken, and not taken, by the community and government in trying to reduce the devastating impacts to people and their property. The author documents the repeated history of delusion and deception associated with claims that river modifications, and the building of Somerset Dam and then Wivenhoe Dam, would prevent future floods occurring in Brisbane and Ipswich. The book makes you think about the continued development of the rivers' floodplains and what will happen in the inevitable next big floods; and what could be done to lessen their ever-increasing impact.

Helen Gregory, Brisbane

This is not just a story about Brisbane but a detailed account of the fact that government, humans and nature have very little in common, the consequence of which is the continual re-occurrence of natural disasters. This tragedy exists all over the world from the Amazon to California and India. Your book should be read by as many people as possible in order to understand that people are the problem, not nature.

Riitta, Helsinki

 

This is a great read for people who live in South East Queensland or for people who are just interested in how stuff works and how decisions are made.

Margaret Cook charts the history of settlement on Brisbane's floodplain - from early European settlers ignoring Aboriginal people's warnings not to build down low to dodgy influence from developers over councils in the modern era.

It's a tremendously well researched consideration of the big important issue - how do Australians live with their environment?

Rachel, Ipswich

 

I am a now retired Hydrologist with more than 50 year's experience as an academic and consultant in the field and found A River with a City Problem to be the most compelling reading on the subject of Brisbane floods - I am in total agreement with the author's thesis and there a several generations of hydrologists who must have tired of me saying "you deny the river access to its flood plain at your peril". May I commend her on such a thoroughly readable and scientifically accurate piece of work. Were I teaching today, your book would be compulsory reading for my students.

Dr Ron Black, Brisbane

 

I would recommend everyone reading "A River with A City Problem", it is written about the Brisbane River catchment specifically, but the lessons, learnings and insights can be applied anywhere around Australia and indeed the world. Great to see some of these issues in print. We need to keep the conversations up to progress contemporary floodplain management.

Adam Berry, Ipswich

 

This is a very well researched book that describes Brisbane’s history of denying flood risk and being shocked at the consequences. It is only with books like this that we can remind society that while humans are predisposed to discount low probability high consequence events, floods like January 2011, do happen and only though planning can we reduce the terrible consequences.

Mark, Brisbane

Who can forget the image of a disheveled Premier Anna Bligh, in the midst of the devastating 2011 Brisbane floods, making her ‘We are Queenslanders’ speech? In the aptly titled new book A River with a City Problem, historian Margaret Cook shows how this widely praised speech is actually part of a near 200-year-long problem. Through a detailed analysis of Brisbane’s worst floods of 1893, 1974 and 2011, Cook reveals how Australia’s third most populous city—settled originally within one of the folds of the serpentine Brisbane River and currently with 43 of its 185 suburbs claiming riverside land—has consistently failed to implement sensible floodplain management policies, condemning an ever-increasing population to periodic catastrophic floods. Cook crafts an illuminating narrative that is hard to put down, and in the process builds a convincing case against the real culprit: leaders who for economic gain have exploited the population’s short-term memory, due to the episodic nature of floods, while promoting the arrogant belief that man can control nature and that dams are the answer to flood control. This clear-sighted examination of Brisbane’s intractable flood history offers hope that change is still possible. Readers of other recent books about Australia’s history, society and environment, such as Dark Emu and Call of the Reed Warbler, will enjoy this book.

Julia Taylor, booksandpublishing.com.au

Q&A Australian Policy and History

2017 - “Unpacking a Legend”- Circa Prize, Highly Commended

The judges found it an interesting premise for a paper, to go behind the scenes of an historical legend. The writing was gripping and descriptive. Great detective work nonetheless! We particularly appreciated the writers’ reflections on the women left out of this heroic, masculinist legend. A salient feature was the tribute to an archivist. Archivists and librarians are, as we all know, some of the best friends of historians, and this piece reinforced that connection perfectly. If the archivist had not opened the box, there would be no story. Without the historian, the archivist is shouting into an empty room. Well-written and an effective investigation of a real history mystery.

 

2011 - A Hard and Noble Life

Margaret is very easy to work with, organised and reliable with meeting deadlines. Her dedication towards the project ensures her research truly reflects the topic in a meaningful and respectful way. We were most impressed by her understanding and cooperation with the needs of the designer with supplying text and imagery in an organized and timely way.
Alice Gaston - Director of Communications, Ipswich Hospital, 2011.

2011 - Mount Spec Road and Little Crystal Creek Conservation Management Plan
(with Ivan McDonald Architects)

Winner of Queensland Heritage Council Gold Award, 2011. An outstanding example of closely observed on-site survey and recording work, rigorous analysis, and practical conservation approach, applied to a type of place which has not often been given such attention – an early mountain tourist road with stone-built culverts and bridges.

Trust News, Spring 2011

2011 Margaret Cook has collaborated on many of our heritage conservation projects including conservation management plans, heritage studies and heritage assessments. She has always been thoroughly-professional, easy to work with and punctual. She is a tenacious researcher who loves the thrill of the information “chase”. Her thorough understanding of heritage assessment criteria has added immeasurable depth to many of our heritage assessments. She has an easy writing style and contextualizes history well.
Ivan McDonald from Ivan McDonald Architects, 2011

2008 - Unquestionably One of the Nicest Churches

On behalf of the parish of St Paul's, Ipswich, I am writing to say a huge thank you for all the hard work you put into researching and writing the new history book for our 150th Anniversary. Feedback about the book has been extremely positive and the sheer volume of sales is a great testimony to how much people appreciate your work.
The Venerable Matthew Jones, Rector and Archdeacon of Cunningham, 2008.