This week, as part of a group from the Redlands National Trust, I paid a visit to Goompi (Dunwich) on Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). The ferry schedule was the only timetable I needed there, for at Minjerribah, everything goes by island time. Well perhaps I shouldn’t even call it time – it’s more a feeling of relaxation. For time stops at the jetty. 

Right across the road from the jetty is Goompi’s famous Cemetery which contains the graves of the ill-fated passengers and crew of the Emigrant who died of typhus in 1850; the graves of 8,000 of the former inmates of the Benevolent Asylum (Old Peoples Home); as well as Aborigines (First Nation People). People of all types in the cemetery made equal in death.

Dr Ballow and Dr Mitchell still overlooking the graves of their Emigrant cares

Nearby were the graves of John and Mary Cassim whom I wrote about in my recent post of 10.04.2021 (Where’s Toondah? – Part 2). And right next door, my personal connection to the cemetery, the grave of Dr Frank Carroll, who came to our rescue in 1978 when our daughter had a severe asthma attack in the middle of the night – twice.

The grave of Mary and John Cassim
The grave of Dr Frank Carroll

Our main quest however was a visit to the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum.

In 1992, I interviewed Ellie Durbidge for my proposed book ‘Moreton Bay People’. The following extract concerns her involvement with the setting up of the museum at Dunwich:

‘When the North Stradbroke Historical Museum Association was formed and incorporated, Ellie presented the museum with an aboriginal axe as its first catalogued exhibit.  Since then, they have started a day book which one day will be computerized. 

‘When the old Queensland museum was moving to its new premises at South Brisbane, the Association wrote to them asking for old shelving and metal cabinets for storage. After being palmed off by various departments, it went to the old building itself, selected its furniture, had it fumigated and took it away. By similar direct negotiations, the Association obtained cataloguing drawers from the Redland Shire Council, and exhibits such as a Convict‑built bed from the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, and an old telephone from the Post Office.  Then the museum asked the Earl of Stradbroke for permission to use his crest.  Not only did he consent, but he came for the opening and offered the use of videos about his family as a means of raising funds. 

‘With promises from the Redland Shire Council to restore a building given by Consolidated Rutile, and with the donation of a large private collection of aboriginal artifacts, the future success of the museum seems assured.’

The North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum

At the museum, there are a range of permanent displays about the Quandamooka people, convict history, shipwrecks and maritime history, the story of sandmining on the island, as well as lots of photos of the old fishing shacks, boats and buses that helped kick off the tourism industry on Minjerribah. There is also a room dedicated to sharing the story of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, and they have a range of photographs and documents to assist family historians.

After morning tea, Howard Gill gave a lecture about the island’s history. Here are the main points:

  • Aboriginal population prior to occupation estimated at 600-800 on Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) and 800 on Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). BY the end of the 19th century total for both islands reduced to under 200
  • The convicts Pamphlett, Parsons, and Finnegan were cared for the Aborigines in 1823
  • A pilot station was established at Pulan Pulan (Amity) in 1825 and a garrison and trans shipping station at Goompi (Dunwich) in 1827
  • Armed conflict most prominent 1831-1932 led to the withdrawal of the garrison
  • Mulgumpin ‘cleared’ of Aborigines in 1847 with around 40 killings
  • Moongalba Mission established at Myora 1893 (came under Protection Act in 1897) closed 1943
  • Its residents moved to One Mile which in 2018 still lacks reticulated services

We then walked to the one remaining ward from the Benevolent Asylum (Ward 13) which was built in the 1890s. It is currently in the process of nomination to the Queensland Heritage Register. It will join Dunwich Hall, St Marks Church, and cemetery as State Heritage.

On our return walk to the ferry we glimpsed the convict built rock causeway and the privy pit – the only two remaining remnants of early convict occupation.

Rocks from the convict built causeway are still to be seen

Conveniently situated beside the jetty is the Little Ships Club where we had lunch and a beer while waiting for the ferry’s timetable to kick in and take us back to the mayhem of mainland life.

Incidentally, Minjerribah translates as place of mosquitoes, but I didn’t see any that day.