AUSTRALIA

Gold Coast

The 2018 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXI Commonwealth Games and commonly known as Gold Coast 2018, is an international multi-sport event for members of the Commonwealth that will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia between 4 and 15 April 2018. The winning bid was announced in Basseterre, Saint Kitts on 11 November 2011. It will be the fifth time Australia has hosted the Commonwealth Games.

Jabreen's People

It is almost impossible for a white Australian to appreciate fully the significance of Burleigh Heads and its surrounds to the Kombumerri people, who over thousands of years developed a deep spiritual empathy with this, their home. Despite this, nowadays it has become quite the hot spot, with shortage of hotels on the Gold Coast, and its significance often goes unnoticed.

 

Hibiscus (to share) from Jane Resture's Hibiscus Garden, Gold Coast, Australia

Perhaps a small glimmer of understanding comes to us when as youngsters standing on Big Burleigh, we have watched the slow flight of a sea hawk over the glittering horizon, seen gulls plunging into thrashing shoals of fish, or simply worshipped the calm patience of the board-rider waiting for that next perfect wave. To the Kombumerri, the sea, the headland, the basalt columns falling headlong down the cliffs, were all part of a waster creation which gave them their land, their food and their beliefs.

William Hanlon, whose childhood memories of the district went back to the 1870s, recorded in 1935 that, to the local Aborigines, Big Burleigh was 'Jellurgul'; Little Burleigh was 'Jebbribillum' or the 'Waddy of Jebreen'. According to the legend Jebreen -

'hot, tired and perspiring after a day's strenuous hunting, and the gorging of kuppai (honey) near what we call 'Little Tallebudgera' came out of the bush on to the ocean beach, which in those days was one level and unbroken stretch of sand-dunes right from Kijeragah (the kaloon tree), at the mouth of Nerang Creek, to the Tweed. The tumbling waters of the ocean looked very cook and inviting. ... Casting down his weapons he swam out to the horizon and back. Coming ashore he picked up his fighting waddy, which was of titanic size proportionate to the towering bulk of the god who wielded it, and thus sprang into existence the rocky outcrop which we now call Little Burleigh. Feeling the pangs of hunger after his long swim he hunted around till he found another 'sugarbag' (bees' nest) which he cut out of the tree and feeded greedily upon. His hands and body being smeared with the sticky nectar he returned to the beach to wash himself in the sea and thus laving his body). After he had cleansed himself he rose up to his full height and stretched his arms skyward. The level ground thereupon rose up to the elevation of his finger-tips, and thus was formed the precipitous headland which we have named Big Burleigh, or Burleigh Head.'

 

In another article, Hanlon referred to 'Jellurgul' as meaning 'sugar or gee's nest'. Another who knew the area and its inhabitants well from the 1870s was Archibald Meston, who fifty years later recalled that the local Aboriginals called Big Burleigh 'Jayling' (black) and "Gumbelmoy' (rock), after the volcanic black basalt rock of the headland. Some twenty or more million years ago lava had flowed along the bed of an earlier Tallebudgera Creek towards the sea, and then slowly cooled, to create large hexagonal columns of black basalt, so striking a feature of Big Burleigh National Park today.

Both Hanlon and Meston wrote long after their first acquaintance with the Kombumerri, indeed in the 1870s the local tribes people had known and suffered at the hands of Europeans for almost half a century. Much of the local Aboriginal culture would have by then been lost, or misunderstood. It does, however, appear certain that what we know today as Big Burleigh was indeed 'Jellurgul' or a similar word, as Meston in an earlier ar6ticle (in 1889) refers to 'Burleigh Head' as 'Challangoor'. Obviously different European ears interpreted the Aboriginal language in different ways.

         

Two invaluable word lists fortunately survive for the district, whose original inhabitants spoke a northern dialect of the Bundjalung language. One was submitted to E. H. Curr's monumental work on Australian Aborigines, The Australian race, published in 1886-87. The complier was Frederick Fowler, owner of the Burleigh Heads Hotel at that time, and a timber-getter in the district since 1863. An extract from this list is:

fresh water teherum saltwater yeengeree
mud tullung river bollun
corroboree arri creek kuraby
honey kudja kangaroo groman
fishing net irribun opossum gueyan
iguana yowgerer emu ooroon
wood grub tobbum black duck marra
lysters moongul pelican tchngarry
mussel piaggara laughing jackass kagoon
fish tulum hand tungun
egg cobyhoon cokatoo kaara

In 1904 a similar list was  compiled by the Police Officer stationed at Tallebudgera, and published. This included:

wallaby chomgom black snake oonbie
iguana jowgurra native cat punchumgum
frog wanful mullet currim
tronbark tree ipeggura eel churone
death adder mundlecum green pigeon numargin
scrub turkey wargon willie wagtail chingaragin

Burleigh Heads and its vicinity was amongst the most popular food-gathering localities for the Kombumerri, and, very importantly, had ample fresh water close to the beach in the form of lagoons. these were a feature of the area until they were reclaimed in 1933. Shellfish abounded in the oysterbeds along Tallebudgera Creek and an abundance of fish; bream, whiting, gar, flathead and mullet, led the first timber-getters to adopt a southern Aboriginal term for 'good fishing - 'tallabuggerra' - as the name of the stream and district, ironically, by 1882 this was regarded by many locals as a district Aboriginal place name, although Hanlon states that the term became current amongst local Aborigines as a whiteman's word. According to Meston, they had originally called the creek 'Talgalgan'.

The beach was alive with yugaries; bird life abounded in the swamis which stretched behind what is today North Burleigh and Miami and wildlife was abundant in the forest which stretched inland from Big Burleigh; in particular, the Pademelon, the red necked wallaby, the long-nosed bandicoot and the carpet snake.

Shell middens within Burleigh Heads National Park survive as testament to the reputation of Tallebudgera Creek as a feasting ground, and a sole surviving bora ring, fortunately protected and reserved since 1913 remains - the Jebbribillum Flora Ring at North where once young men were initiated into the adult secrets of their tribe.

Another bora ring was recalled by Hanlon in 1935, in the scrubby landmark slope of Jellurgul. This has long since disappeared and most probably fell victim to the first flush of land clearance late last century.

The Arrival Of The 'Duckerings'

A century after the first recorded passing of a European vessel, the Kombumerris' lifestyle had irreversibly changed. Their numbers had been decimated and much of their customs, language and spiritual life lost long before sympathetic Europeans of the likes of Fowler, Meston and Hanlon recorded a little of what was left.

Sir Joseph Banks, aboard Captain James Cook's Endeavour, was the first European to record a possible sighting of Aboriginal activities, when passing Burleigh Head and the Gold Coast, on Wednesday, 16th May 1770.

'at noon we were abreast of some very low land which looked like an extensive plain in which we supposed there to be a Lagoon in the neighbourhood of which were many fires.'

Captain John Bingle, master of the Colonial cutter Sally, was the next to record 'a low swamp' along the coast, when passing on Monday 4 March 1822.'

The first contact with Europeans came as a consequence of the establishment of a secondary penal settlement at Moreton Bay in 1824, although word of castaway white men may have filtered to the Kombumerri by that date.

Government exploration parties reached as far south as the Coomera River by 1827, but already a number of convict escapees had left Brisbane Town for the south. Four convicts, for instance, arrived at ort Macquarie in late 1825, following the coast and crossing rivers. No doubt, men such as these were the first Europeans to see Burleigh Heads and vicinity, and the first with whom the Kombumerri had contact.

In August 1828, Captain Henry Rous, aboard the Clarence, found five escaped convicts from Moreton Bay living at the Tweed, 'some of whom were in a state of nudity'. Embarrassed by this report, the Commandant of the Moreton Bay settlement, Captain Patrick Logan, established a military post at 'Point Danger' to intercept runaway convicts. government cedar gangs operated from this post - made up of convicts.

Relations with the local Tweed Aborigines quickly deteriorated and growing hostility of the local tribes people led to the post being abandoned about 1830.

Escapees however, continued to follow the beach southwards. A Sydney newspaper report in 1835 described the adventures of a number of these, in particular their glowing reports of the cedar-rich rivers to the south.

The first recorded government party to proceed along the beach of today's Gold Coast was that led by Constable John Mackintosh, who left Brisbane by boat with a party of eight men on 2 November 1835, landed on the Southport Spit on 4 November, and proceeded along the beach to Point Danger. He reported in glowing terms of the cedar riches of the Tweed, which was exactly the news desired by Sydney entrepreneurs, eager to exploit new timber rivers to the north of the Manning.  

Over the next five years, cedar gangs slowly moved north of Port Macquarie, and wee on the Clarence (the 'Big River') by 1839. In that year, the New South Wales Government determined upon a preliminary survey of the Moreton Bay district, prior to its opening as a district for free settlement. Three surveyors - Robert Dixon, James Warner and Granville C. Stapylton - arrived in Brisbane in March 1839. Surveyor Dixon and his party were to undertake the first survey work along the coast from the mouth of the Nerang to the Richmond river in the months of May to July 1840. Significantly, they encountered the first ocean-going vessel to enter the Tweed, the Letitia, on an exploratory voyage for cedar.

Robert Dixon's survey note books, which survive today at the Queensland State Archives, include a page of faint pencilled notes where he has determined upon the names of various rivers, creeks and headlands as his party moved south.

He named several after leading figures of the day (e.g. the Albert River after Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert) and she took a particular interest in prominent cartographers and Admiralty figures of the 1830s.

Most importantly for the history are his notes naming the River Perry, after the Deputy Surveyor-General of New South Wales, Samuel Augustus Perry (1792-1854). This was, for some twenty-five years the officially accepted name for Tallebudgera Creek. His notes suggest he had initially named it 'Sussex River', but had changed his mind, in favour of his immediate superior, who appears to have often championed Dixon in his many arguments with the Surveyor-General, Sir Thomas Mitchell.

In June 1840, he also named the large headland at the mouth of his 'River Perry', Burley Head, presumably because of its bulky appearance. Sir Thomas Mitchell's desire that Aboriginal names be maintained held no truck with Dixon who persisted in a desire to anglicize the country he surveyed. Jebreen's mighty 'Jellurgul' was given a name more fitting for a character out of Dickens' Pickwick Papers, in one of the sadder instances of place-naming in colonial Australia.

The names 'River Perry' and 'Burley Head' appear on the map which Dixon published privately in 1842, based upon his government survey work. He had been dismissed from service in the previous year. The note 'accessible for boats' suggest that Dixon's party may well have entered the creek mouth by boat.

Within a decade the Kombumerri people, who no doubt were ignorant of Surveyor Dixon's remaining of their familiar birthright, were to become well acquainted with Europeans. Many of these deserved little in the way of any civilized description of the time, some were ticket-of-leave convicts, others convicts on the run, attached to cedar parties who preferred to be always one river away from the arm of the law.

Cedar gangs were on the Richmond by 1842 and definitely on the Tweed by 1844.The Aboriginal population suffered as soon as these predominantly male timer-getters arrived; in late 1845 two cedar getters were killed by Aborigines on the north arm of the Tweed, presumably for the abduction of females. The vengeance wreaked by the Europeans upon the Tweed Aborigines was documented by Edmund Harper who arrived on the Tweed in 1845, aged 16 or 17. It amounted to little more than unlicensed slaughter of Aboriginal males.

Increasingly, the beach became an accepted route between the Tweed and Brisbane, with numerous recorded journeys. This was, however, a time of rough pioneering, with little or no appreciative description of landscape. In March 1852, Alfred W. Compigne of Nindooinbah Station took up two squatting leaseholds to the west of Burleigh Heads, which he named 'Dungogie' and 'Murry Jerry' using Aboriginal names.

'Dungogie' was described as a property of 21 square miles, capable of grazing 500 head of cattle -

'bounded on the north by a line running parallel with the River Perry, and two miles south of that river, nine miles long; on the west by steep ridges joining McPherson's Range, two miles long, on the south by McPherson's Range tem miles, and on the east by a line joining the northern boundary three miles from the coast.'

Murry Jerry was military bounded on th3e south by a line-running two miles north of the River Perry', and consisted of 20 to 25 square miles. Compigne was, in effect, the first landholder in the district, although he only held these runs until July 1852 when they were transferred to William Duckett White, of Beaudesert Station. In March 1853, in a letter to his cousin, George Robinson, white remarked on the dangerous nature of the district -

'Don't forget the revolvers, I have to travel through a curious country to the Tweed, and I want them for protection.'

Protection was, indeed, increasingly important, as relations with the local Aborigines increasingly deteriorated throughout the 1850s. An interesting, and very relevant, report in this respect was the adventure of a former editor of the Moreton Bay courier, A. S. Lyon, in 1852. Leaving the Tweed in a boat with four Aborigines aboard, and 30 lb of flour, he sailed some six miles north and entered a small creek 'through a heavy surf' -

'The natives stated that there was no water at that place and the whole party then proceeded to a black's camp about a mile and a half away. Here a large number of one of the guides who accompanied him, Mr. Lyon believes that the older blacks were proposing that he should be killed, and that the others objected to it. At all events, by means of their demands and threatening manner, they succeeded in extorting from him nearly all his flour and tobacco.'

The Reverend Henry Stobart, in August 1853, visited the South Coast and commented on the fear of the local Aborigines at the sight of the Government boat, suspecting 'perhaps, that we were constables in search of some of their tribe who had committed depredations'. there were the years when the infamous Lieutenant Frederick Wheeler and his eight native police troopers regularly patrolled the district, the complaints of squatters who had lost stock to Aboriginal spears. Such patrols continued as late as the early 1860s. 

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(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com  Rev. 4th April 2017)