The earliest selector in this region, which was originally known as Slacks Creek, was George Palk. He had come to the area in 1862 to work for the Queensland Co-operative Cotton Company. Mr 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 covered by the original Palk holding by Jim and Mave McBride who came from Malaya in 1952 and carried on the name of their Malayan property. Tanah Merah means red earth in Bahasa and is a common place name in the Bahasa seaking region. The first use of the name locally was in December 1952 when it was reported in the Queensland Times 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 ultimately purchased and developed by Alan Coles Real Estate. On the staff was Caspar Marius Vink who had moved from Indonesia and suggested the below street names from the Bahasa language (with minor spelling modifications).
- Tingi Avenue (Tinggi – high)
- Goenoeng Drive (Gunung - mountain)
- Pintu Drive (Pintu – entrance)
- Abang Avenue (Abang – brother)
The population of Tanah Merah quadrupled between 2001 and 2006 when the population rose from 897 to 4559 and has remained constant since. This dramatic rise was due in part to the development of the estate to the west of Drews Road.