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Local Indigenous Peoples

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Local Indigenous Peoples


The Goenpul [Kuwanpal] tribe occupies the central and southern portion of Stradbroke Island, and its language or dialect is called Jandai [Jandaywal]. The Noonukul tribe owns the northern portion of that island, and its language is called Moondjan [Munyjany]. The Wogee [Ngugi] tribe occupies Moreton Island. Goenpul {Kuwanpal} is not the name of the language; it is the name of the tribe. The different peoples of Moreton Bay regarded themselves as distinct tribes. The dialects of Dunwich and Amity had different names for each locality ie Dunwich was known as Gompee to the tribes.


The male members of the tribes specialised in hunting and fishing. Dugongs were particularly sought after. The meat would be roasted and shared with the medicinal oil rubbed into the skin. Fish were caught in various ways including spearing, the use of nets made from fire vine or the inner bark of cotton tree, or driven into stone traps on the beach.

The women of the tribe collected vegetables and small game. The type of food collected included shellfish, roasted fern root, fern root pounded into a type of flour for bread and a drink made from the fleshy part of the pandanus tree. Other popular sources of food included the larvae of the Xyleutes moth, 'Midyim' berries and lily bulbs.

The tribes of Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island relied on the sea for their food supplies. They fished together with the porpoises in shoals of mullet, hunted dugong and turtle. They travelled across to the mainland in canoes to hunt for flying fox. Included in the diet of the tribes were waterbirds, lizards, snakes, marsupials, tortoises, crabs and shellfish as well as native honey. The suckers (or breadfruit from the Pandanus palm or Winnam tree) were used to eat the native honey.


The Aboriginal name for Moreton Bay is Quandamooka. There were a number of tribal groups that lived in Quandamooka, including the Jagara who lived near the Cleveland area and the Koopenul who lived south of Cleveland. Stradbroke Island was home to the Nunukal and Goenpul/Koenpal tribes. Moreton Island was occupied by the Nguhi tribe.

The Aboriginal people of Quandamooka lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving between semi-permanent campsites. The shelters varied. Simple lean-to's were used for overnight stays with more permanent huts built at regular campsites.

Wynnum is named after the Pandanus palm or breadfruit tree. Wynnum is one of few Aboriginal names that remains in the district. Wynnum North was known as Black's Camp. A place where many from the islands would camp when hunting flying fox etc while waiting for the weather to change so they could return home. Black's Camp was also an area where corroborees took place. Gibson Island, Cleveland, Tingalpa were sites for Bora rings where ceremonies took place. Many tribes from the Bay area and inland would meet at these Bora rings for corroborees and other ceremonies. North Stradbroke Island is known as Minjerribah and inhabited by the Quandamooka people. The tribes of the Noonuccal, Goenpul and Ngugi constitute the Quandamooka people.


Tools and weapons such as boomerangs and shields were decorated with artwork. The patterning would be lines either burnt or painted on using hair, grass, or a brush made from the softened end of sticks. Tools and weapons were made from locally found materials or traded with other tribes such as dilly bags that were woven from freshwater reeds.


The indigenous culture of Quandamooka was bound by tradition, developed by a framework of beliefs and social relationships. Records of such traditions were kept in the form of art, legends and corroborees of song and dance.


The Aboriginal people of Quandamooka first encountered white man in 1799 when Mathew Flinders entered Moreton Bay. Settlement of the area began in 1824. As settlement grew, the Aboriginal people of the area were confined to the coastal fringes, with many moving to the less occupied Islands.

The traditional lifestyle of the Aboriginal people lasted longest on Stradbroke Island and in the Cleveland area. Fighting occurred in these areas as the Aboriginal people resisted settlement. While the growing settlement made the traditional lifestyle impossible, the main destroyers of the Quandamooka aborigines were new diseases brought about through contact with the white population.

In 1897 the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the sale of Opium Act moved all indigenous people who were not servants or imprisoned, to reservations.

Sources of information:

Armstrong, H.W. (1971) The History and Development of the Wynnum District, Brisbane.
Beitz, M.N. (1982) Mangroves to Moorings: The Past 100 Years of Manly, Queensland, Manly centenary Committee to Commemorate 100 Years of Closer Settlement, Brisbane.
Rotary Club of Wynnum and Manly, Quandamooka Wynnum Jetty Art Project: A Celebration of Moreton Bay and its People, Brisbane.