Like the other islands in the bay, Russell Island has supplied people with food, shelter and other resources for thousands of years.
Russell Island was known as Canaipa until it was renamed in the 1840s after Lord John Russell, the British Secretary of State for the colonies at that time. By the 1850s, the island had its first non-indigenous residents, who were mainly limeburners, oystermen and timbergetters. Most were transient and moved on when their work was finished.
The first long-term settlers were attracted by the island’s sugar potential as well as its timber. In the mid 1860s John (Tinker) Campbell leased land for sugar cultivation and timber-getting. The family moved most of their activities to Macleay Island shortly after and established various enterprises over the next decade.
The arrival of settlers, such as John Willes, in the late 1860s marked the beginning of the island’s farming period, which lasted for the next 100 years. Over this time many lucrative farms produced fruit and vegetables for the mainland markets.
In the 1970s the farms were subdivided and today the island is home to more than 3,000 residents. With an approximate area of 15.9km2, it is the largest of the southern Moreton Bay islands.