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Minjerribah Dreaming

The Queensland government has proposed a transition from sand mining to eco-tourism on Minjerribah (Straddie).

On Sunday, 15 September I went to the Straddie markets at Point Lookout Bowls Club to buy honey for my sister. At a honey stall run by the Bowman family who have been selling Straddie Honey on the island for as long as I can remember I heard a stall owner claim that native title would extinguish his family’s right to produce honey. He claimed he would have nowhere to put his hives because a large proportion of the island is under native title.

I approached the government pop-up stall titled Minjerribah’s futures and asked the government representative if this were true. She said that would depend on who owns the land and was arrangements were made.

She did not tell me that aboriginal native title holders had sold their rights to a rival honey producer. That and others stories about the honey being sold to Coles and Woolies are circulating the island. I do not give credence to them but merely mention them here. Only QYAC can verify their truth or otherwise.

The rep. said there is freehold land on the island where hives could be placed. She did not say only 5% of the island is freehold nor did she say that SEQ water may allow hives on land controlled by them. SEQ Water pumps water off the island to the mainland, a subject of some controversy.

I asked her if she knew about the controversy over fishing rights. She said that she did not nor did she know that the indigenous Perry family had been fishing on the island for 6 generations. They park their boats in front of beehives near Flinders Beach not far from Amity. When I asked her why she knew so little she told me that she had been in the job for less than nine months and did not claim to be local.  

She said that she knew little of the controversies that confronted the transition to tourism away from mining. However she was aware of a sovereignty mob had opposed government plans for the island. She did speak negatively of one of the leaders of the Sovereignty movement, Dale Ruska. I challenged her saying that he should be respected.

Sunrise at the end of Deadman’s Beach Minjerribah Sept 2018

She handed me a pamphlet and took down my name and email address. Nowhere on the pamphlet was there any discussion of land rights, Aboriginal housing, or how much water is being pumped off the island by SEQ water. Without addressing the big questions in a practical way, the Government ‘pop-up’ seemed pointless propaganda.

There was no discussion of the honey industry or of fishing licenses in any other documents I was handed. However there was a pamphlet about setting up of a whale house Yalingbila Bibula above Mooloomba (Point Lookout) to attract tourists. Minister Kate Jones wanted to change the type of tourist on the island from ‘togs and towel’ to ‘cultural’ visitor.

“QUAMPI (the cultural centre) was one of the priority projects of the $25 million economic transition strategy to establish Minjerribah as a globally recognised cultural and eco-tourism destination. “

I asked a Redlands Shire worker about what was going on during this transition. He couldn’t tell me, save to say “it is all very political” at the moment.

As we left, the island was ablaze. I wonder about the bees … will they be made docile or angry with all this fire and smoke?

As a friend said “at least ‘the authorities’ couldn’t wheel out the hoary old trope that the fires were set off intentionally (which lets them off the hook for failing to prepare properly).”

A Redland Bay shire worker told me things were very political on the island at the moment.  How do we inform ourselves when people are afraid to talk. Is this merely code for division, and silence from our leaders.

Some places should be left alone, Minjerribah is one such place.

Ian Curr
19 September 2019

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