In the early 1970s I worked, for a short time, on Fraser Island (K’gari) as a yardman. My duties included watering and tending the grass on the airstrip at Orchid Beach. This enabled the rich to fly in on Friday night from Sydney or Brisbane and stay at the ‘Polynesian Village’ called Orchid Beach resort. I was witness to more than one drunken landing in a light aeroplane.
I even saw a plane ditch in the sea off Indian Head. On another occasion, a pilot landed beside me and hit a shaft of water thrown out by my sprinklers. Startled, the pilot made a swift left turn which left his plane nose down on the sandy runway. Luckily neither he nor I were injured.
In those days the lease on Fraser Island (for Orchid Beach) was held by the brother of leader of the National Party & Deputy PM, Doug Anthony.
Little was made of this fact during the campaigns to save Fraser island from logging and sand mining. Perhps it was because people were proposing tourism as an alternative to these destructive industries.
Nearly all the area where I worked in those days has now gone up in flames. I did not wish to leave the island but my friend, the cook, was sacked and so I chose to go with him. Conditions and pay were very poor. I am saddened to hear that this may be the last time I will see the beauty of those days, the eagles soaring off Indian Point, the Bronze Whalers streaking through the waves, the wild sea squirts, kangaroos at dusk, fisherman bringing Trevally up from the Cape and wanting me to sew up open wounds caused by a stray hook. I was the only one at the resort with a first aid certificate. I miss the wild rides through the rainforest, the perched lakes with whitened stark black branches and sea birds galore. My first sexual experiences.
Sadly, all I am hearing now are reports that they wish to save the place for tourism.
Truth is, some places should just be left alone.
K’gari seems to be raging against the dying of the light.
2 Dec 2020
“These strangers, where are they going?
Where are they trying to steer;
They must be in that place, Thoorvour (Breaksea Spit), it is true.
See the smoke coming in from the sea.
These men must be burying themselves like the sand crabs.
They disappeared like the smoke.”
– Durlingbara song on seeing the HMS Endeavour passing K’gari on 20 may 1770