‘The Aborigines on Bribie would have been startled by the visit of Matthew Flinders in 1799. Gradually, after the settlement of the Moreton Bay district from 1824, Europeans began visiting the island, initially as escaped convicts, then as free settlers.
‘Fishing and oystering were the great attractions. In the 1890s fish canneries and oyster leases were set up. Recreational fishing had also become popular, and in 1911, the Koopa began bringing holidaymakers and day-trippers to the island. Camping was popular along the Passage foreshore and a plethora of boarding houses also sprang up.
‘When the bridge to Bribie was finally completed in 1963, Bribie came within easy reach of Brisbane’s motoring public, and an ever-increasing dormitory for the workers of Brisbane.
‘Today, Bribie is a popular destination for day-trippers, but also supports a growing population of both workers and retirees who find its easy going lifestyle a welcome alternative to the stress of modern city living.’
‘My memories of Bribie Island were when the Brisbane Tug Company who owned the Koopa and the Beaver had a lease of the island. There was a caretaker there, and little huts on the Passage side. I remember staying there with my grandmother. The huts were simple, one room, with beds, a wood stove and a sink. There was no running water. You had to use the pump at the caretaker’s house and carry the water in a kerosene tin back to your hut. I think the rent was two shillings and sixpence (25 cents) a week. That’s all there was at Bribie.’
‘At weekends we used to walk around from our house at Bongaree to Red Beach. It was quite a long hike. It was winter then, and by the time we got there – it was probably just gone daybreak – dad would had already been in the water twice up to his waist to pull in the nets because the fish would run early. He’d have all his wet flannels hanging up to dry.
‘My mother also went fishing on her own and she’d bring home buckets of whiting, but then dad would come in with his fish, and when they were fishing around Red Beach, they piled them all up on our front yard. They had these old army Blitzes – snub-nosed trucks left over from the war. They brought all their fish in, dumped it on our front yard, and then cased it in wooden cases. They were primarily mullet, which they sent off whole – no gutting. The fish were grouped according to size, and then sent to the Brisbane Fish Markets by boat. They left some for us and we ate a lot of fish and their roe (eggs) – white and yellow roe. When the trawlers were in dad also swapped some of his fish for prawns and crabs so we got a bit of everything. It was a good diet for growing kids.
‘Dad was be away for weeks at a time and the bread he took with him would go mouldy, but when he came home, it was a big event, and if I was at school at the time, I was allowed home for lunch with him and mum. He’d pick us up at school and we’d have our roast dinner, then he’d take us back to school. We fishing family kids were the only ones that did it. The others had to sit and eat their sandwiches at school. I always thought it was lovely to be included in our family’s homecoming meals, because it could be that he would be off again straight away, and if I were at school, I would miss out on seeing him.’
All References: Peter Ludlow ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’