ConstructionTo equip the Queensland Maritime Defence Force, the colonial government purchased two gunboats and a torpedo boat. Paluma was the second of the two, and was a sister ship of HMQS Gayundah, which together formed the Gayundah class. This class was built to a type B1 flat-iron gunboat design from builders Sir W.G. Armstrong, Mitchell & Co at Newcastle-on-Tyne. They were slightly larger versions of HMVS Albert which was also built in 1884 for the colony of Victoria.
The ship had a complement of 55 men. She displaced 360 tons, and she was 120 feet (37 m) long, had a 26-foot (7.9 m) beam and a draught of 9.5 feet (2.9 m). Paluma was propelled by horizontal direct action compound steam engines, which drove two screws that were capable of producing 400 ihp (298 kW), with bunkerage for 75 tons of coal, which gave her a range of 700 to 800 mi (1,100 to 1,300 km) at a cruising speed of 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph). She also had sails to back up her engines. Her construction cost 35,000 pounds sterling.
She was originally designed to have a single BL 8-inch (203.2 mm) gun, although this was never fitted. Instead, she was fitted with one BL 6-inch (152.4 mm) gun, two 1.5-inch Nordenfelt guns and two machine guns. The 6-inch gun was removed in 1885 and remounted 10 years later, when two 5-inch guns were also added. In 1901, a 4.7-inch gun replaced the 6-inch.
Upon completion, she was lent to the Royal Navy. They commissioned her as HMS Paluma in October 1884. (The ship's name was the Aboriginal word for "thunder".) .She arrived in Brisbane on 7 May 1885.
Operational historyOver the next eight years, Paluma conducted survey work on the Great Barrier Reef for the Admiralty.
The 1893 Brisbane flood ripped Paluma from her moorings and left her well above the high water mark in the nearby botanical gardens. As locals considered how to return her to the Brisbane River, another major flood two weeks later refloated the gunboat, and she was pulled clear without any significant damage.
The depression of the 1890's saw Paluma and her sister placed in reserve, being re-activated only for annual training at Easter; and in 1895, she was returned to the Queensland Government.
With the federation of the Australian colonies, Paluma joined the Commonwealth Naval Forces in 1901, and in 1911 she was integrated into the newly formed Royal Australian Navy along with her sister ship.
During World War I, Paluma was employed mainly around Sydney Harbour, before being sold in 1916 to the Victorian Ports and Harbours Department who renamed her Rip, and used her as a tender in Port Phillip.
In 1948, she was retired, having been replaced the previous year by the converted Bathurst-class corvette HMAS Whyalla. Paluma was laid up at Footscray, Victoria, and was scrapped in 1950–51.