Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame welcomes five additions

It was an honour 174 years in the making.

Brisbane’s first businessman, John Williams, was on Thursday night inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame.

Mr Williams, who died in 1872, was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame along with two other Queenslanders and three institutions at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday night.

He was inducted along with corset pioneer Sarah Jenyns, philanthropist Sir Vincent Fairfax, as well as the Bank of Queensland, the RACQ and meat processor Teys Australia.

Mr Williams opened Brisbane’s first privately-run business – a general store at what is now known as South Bank near where the Wheel of Brisbane now stands – shortly after his arrival in the colony in 1840.

Brisbane historian Helen Gregory said Mr Williams, who was born in the United Kingdom in 1799 and followed his convict fiancée to Australia in 1832, fully embraced the colonial “larrikin” spirit.

“Williams could probably be described as being willing to creatively manage the regulatory environment,” she said.

“When the bullockies brought their teams to Brisbane there was nowhere for them to stay, so he expanded his store to provide accommodation.

“His permit to run a store banned him from selling liquors … but, from some of the reports of rollicking behaviour, it’s quite clear a bit of drinking was going on.”

Mrs Jenyns pioneered corsets in the early 1900s, earning praise from around the world, and set up the House of Jenyns underwear company, which was acquired by Triumph in 1972.

“Sarah Jenyns’ tenacity and determination to help people saw her build a Queensland fashion empire with an enduring legacy,” Queensland University of Technology deputy vice-chancellor Peter Little said.

“She was clearly a very astute businesswoman who overcame several obstacles to gain tremendous success, not least the male-dominated business environment of the time.”

Sir Vincent, a member of the Fairfax family that founded the company that published this website, was recognised for his philanthropy.

The Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation has given away more than $100 million since it was founded in 1962.

Sir Vincent’s son, Tim Fairfax, said philanthropy in the family was “served up with the porridge at breakfast”.

“He believed that when someone is given so much, they have an obligation, or a duty, to give back to the community,” he said.

Teys Australia grew from a family butcher shop to the largest meat processor and exporter in Australia, while the RACQ and Bank of Queensland have operated in the state for more than a combined 250 years.

The Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame was established six years ago by the QUT Business School, the State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Library Foundation.

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