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The earliest selector in Tanah Merah, which was originally known as Slacks Creek, was George Palk. He came to the area in 1862 to work for the Queensland Co-operative Cotton Company. Palk was a member of the first Tingalpa Divisional Board of 1880, which had its headquarters at Mt Cotton. He was chairman in 1882, 1883 and 1884.
The name Tanah Merah was given to the area of Palk’s original holding by Jim and Mave McBride, who came from Malaya in 1952 and named their property after their Malayan property. Tanah Merah means ‘red earth’ in Bahasa and is a common place name in the Malay-speaking region. The first use of the name locally was in December 1952, when the Queensland Times reported that the McBrides had sent some calves to market. The McBrides did not hold the 176-acre property long, as it was auctioned as a going concern in April 1955.
The property was purchased and developed by Alan Coles Real Estate. On the staff was Caspar Marius Vink, who had moved from Indonesia and suggested some street names from the Bahasa language (with minor spelling modifications):
Tingi Avenue (‘tinggi’ means high)
Goenoeng Drive (‘gunung’ means mountain)
Pintu Drive (‘pintu’ means door)
Abang Avenue (‘abang’ means brother)
The population of Tanah Merah grew rapidly from 879 in 2001 to 4,559 in 2006, and has remained stable since. The growth was due to the estate development to the west of Drews Road.