We are still having events take place as part of the Quandamooka Festival here and on Saturday I went, with a boat load of others, down to Russell Island. This was the opening of an exhibition of work by island artists in the local hall there and as it was partly funded by the State Government the return ferry trip only cost $10.00. As can be imagined it attracted a lot of people from both Stradbroke and Coochiemudlo Islands where the ferry called in.
Coochie is only a small island so the ferry had to negotiate the moored boats.
Then it was off at breakneck speed (compared to what we are used to) onto Russell Island. The islands further down the bay seem very close but it took a good 40mins to get there, even at full speed and there was a cold wind blowing as well.
Russell Island at one time had quite a large population but after the gap between North and South Stradbroke Island opened up the oyster industry failed and people drifted away. Also the change in sea currents saw a lot of the southern part of the island washed away. Still it is a lot bigger than Coochie and closer to the Gold Coast. It doesn't have the sandy beaches we have and the island is decked in mangroves.
I have a feeling that the mosquitoes and sandflys could be a problem in summer.
Many of the houses are built right on the beach.
Some are nestled in the bush and this island has very rich farming soil. The main crop seems to be avacados.
When we landed we were greeted by some rather 'vintage' cars.
The hire car version.
And some local lads, looking like local lads everywhere.
It was a small but interesting exhibition. With a number of genres included. Most things were made from locally sourced materials.
I was interested to see that there were some lovely musical instruments including this one made from kangaroo hide.
Then there were the inevitable talks by politician and local dignatories but there was also a talk by a local elder. The people who have lived out on these islands were not removed and put into 'reservations'. Although having been impacted by white settlement they have managed to hold onto their culture and identity and their great grandparents negotiated with the then government that schools would be maintained on Stradrooke and the other large Islands, Russell and MacCleay, after the missions closed. This has seen their decendants being able to move into mainstream society whilst still retaining their identity. That link with country is very strong. The song lines were sung and danced to open the exhibition by the Quandamooka Dancers.
All members of the clans, from the youngest to the elders, sing and dance these songs.
Songs of welcome and goodbye and of the animals with whom we share the earth.
It was forbidden to speak your own language in colonial times so it is through these songs that they have been able to keep their language and they kindly share all this wonder with us. Everyone left feeling closer to the land where we live.