Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners
Indigenous cultural sites on Magnetic Island have been recorded by Wulgurukaba people themselves or in partnership with staff and other professionals from the NQ Dry Tropics, Northern Archaeology Consultancy, JCU and QPWS amongst others. A lot of this information is kept on cultural heritage databases maintained by the State, QPWS and NQ Dry Tropics.
There are at least two important art sites in Arcadia and a significant midden site located next to a spring/waterhole on a major freshwater creek in the area. This site contains oyster, pipi and mud mussel shell remains and stone tools. Because of the freshwater it would have been ideal for camping and could also have been a stopover point on a walking track connecting Arcadia to the western side of the Island.
Down the track we could consider creating a bush tucker trail similar to the Wulgurukaba trails at Pallarenda and Saunders Beach with Latin, common and Wulgurukaba names. Russel Butler also did some work out at the Palmetum. Geoffrey Bay would be a good site for interpretation or you could do it where there are existing bush food/medicine plants.
It’s a living site. People congregated there. Between Petersen Creek and Bremner Point was a perfect place to camp.
In the rocks near Alma Bay, there’s a working area, a knapping site where people chipped away at stones to get spear points and shaped tools for domestic use.
In terms of the cultural landscape and how it connects to other bays, Arcadia is the entrance to the main quarry site up the top (of the hills behind Arcadia). Arcadia is a gateway for a vast amount of tools that people needed.
It’s ok to tell the Gabul story now. (Gabul refers to the Wulgurukaba Dreaming story of how the islands off the Townsville coast were formed. According to the Dreaming, Gabul was a giant carpet python who carved the landscape while travelling from Herbert River, through the Palm Island Group, up Ross River and coming to rest at Magnetic Island. Gabul’s head can still be seen in the Arcadia headland). The head of Gabul represented at Alma Bay highlights the importance of the area. The Gabul story connects Yunbenun to Wulgurukaba country on the mainland particularly through the Ross River and to other Aboriginal groups to our north particularly the Manbarra, the custodians of the Palm Island group of Islands.
There are waterholes dug into rocks up the back (Bremner Point); to go to that length, our people must have been here a long time.
Florence Bay is also a very inhabitable area because of the depth of middens there.
You can tell from midden sites and art sites how long people have lived here.
Nick Hymes’s Native Title report, Michelle Bird, Liz Hatte and Nancy Williams work documents the written and oral history. Other earlier reports can be located at the Institute of Indigenous Studies library in Canberra.
We’re still here and we’re surviving on this country.
On the lowlands, a lot of stuff has been cleared and built over the top of.
Wayne Wilson’s grandmother said there were caves all up the back here under the bus route (near Gabul Way); then add two art sites at Arcadia.
With the reef in Geoffrey Bay, there is more variety of resources.
The green zones at Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay, in order to replenish the system, government and other people have put that protection in, which we agree with.
We all work in partnership with all the groups looking after country: Parks, MINCA, NQ Dry Tropics, Geoffrey Bay Coastcare. We’ll work with anybody and everybody who wants to keep the place good.
We worked with Geoffrey Bay Coastcare on the rubber vine project, yellow oleander, turtle nesting. We’re trying to work together to the same goal.
• Wulgurukaba Turtle Nesting Artwork: See Geoffrey Bay foreshore
• Wulgurukaba Yellow Oleander Work: See Plants and Animals
Photo: Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners Brian Johnson and Lyle Johnson at Alma Bay, March 2019.
Photo: A sign on the ethno-botanical trail at Garabarra (Kissing Point) provides more information on the Gabul creation story.