In 1837, the James Watt became the first steamer to enter Quandamooka. The PETRIE family was on board.


Andrew PETRIE had been working for the Rev Dr John Dunmore LANG, who had brought him to Sydney as a builder. Lang

Fernandez GONZALES worked briefly in the Pilot Station at Amity before PETRIE employed him in the lime burning component of his building interests, around 1849. FernandezGONZALES quickly moved into his own business of DUGONG fishing.  GonzalesFERNANDEZ GONZALES made his home among the Nunukal people.

What was the dugong?

The introduction of European civilization, in the persons of white men, into any part of the Australian territory, is to extinguish everything like incipient civilization among the Aborigines.[1]    (John Dunmore Lang 1847)

This map does not lead where Dr Lang expected.  Neither the Traditional Owners themselves, nor their relationship with the Quandamooka Country has been extinguished.  There are signs of social and economic openness to finding a way out of the destructive trajectory of the industrial revolution, powered by James Watt’s harnessing of steam energy.  This map presents the distinctive trajectory of the industrial revolution coming to Quandamooka.  Lang employed Petrie.  Petrie employed Gonzales.  Gonzales made his home among the Nunukal people at Amity.

When I listen to stories associated with the relationships between place names, I try to recognise moments of conflict and change.  The intersection of Dugong and Gonzales St in the backstreets of Amity may be a monument to a subtle, yet significant departure from the ‘Progress of Civilization’ narrative that dominates Australia’s street maps.  The question I am left with in trying to understand this map is “What was the dugong, to Fernandez Gonzales?”

I can see Gonzales in relation to Globalisation.  He was a Manila seaman in the South Pacific.  I can see him in relation to a European legal system.  He was tried by courts in Sydney.  I can see him in relation to a global economic system.  He was employed in Andrew Petrie’s building business, and then worked as a commercial dugong fisherman.  I can see him in relation to the Nunukal people who included him in their world as family.  I am guessing that in that family, Gonzales’ economic relationship with the dugong was tested, and it is there that my question may have already been answered.

The intersection of Dugong and Gonzales St is unique in that there is no street sign identifying Dugong St, and Dugong St is an unsealed corridor.  It would be a memorial to something even more unique if it is a reference to change impacting colonialism from outside of colonial structures.

References to John Dunmore Lang and his associates in any street map of Australia are likely to draw attention to personal and systemic conflict, as well as to the possibility of social change.  Lang’s conflicts, however, occur within the structures and parameters of colonialism.

Bringing Andrew Petrie to Australia for a job in Sydney is one of Lang’s less turbulent and controversial actions.  It is generally mentioned in passing.  It indicates Lang’s determination, for in selecting Petrie as a builder, Lang was determined to employ a worker who would complete their assigned contract.  Andrew Petrie did complete his contract in Sydney.  He then left for Quandamooka, before becoming involved with Fernandez Gonzales.

In the mean time, Lang was agitating for the separation of the North East of Australia from the colony of New South Wales.  He wanted to call the new colony ‘Cooksland’.  In the context of Great Britain’s industrial revolution, with its cotton mills hungry for coal, water and other raw materials, and the destabilization of the raw cotton supply from North America colonies, Lang claimed that this ‘Cooksland’ could become the Future Cotton Field of Great Britain.

When I operated a tourist bus service in Brisbane, people would often say to me that Brisbane had very little history for people to see.  I don’t agree.  Despite the urban development, the land, with its hills, valleys and its waterways, has remained amazingly descriptive.  Street signs and place names can help to describe and explain, in some detail, what has happened on that terrain over the past couple of centuries.

In Brisbane, Petrie Terrace runs along a ridge.  Lang Park sits in the valley on the western side of that ridge.  Separating Petrie Terrace from Lang Park is a major road (Hale St) which has been re-named twice.  Hale St replaced the descriptively named Cemetary Rd, which earlier had replaced the equally descriptively named Boundary Rd.  Boundary Rd marked the North-Western line of an early survey of Brisbane.  Initially the town’s cemetery was on the sloping plateau on the inside of that line, but as the town expanded, it was relocated to the outside of that survey line.  It may be helpful to think of this survey line as the edge of the Old Brisbane Town, not unlike the wall of the old fortified cities of Europe and Asia.

Atop Petrie Terrace is the Victoria Barracks, a military outpost at the edge of town at what was the very edge of Queen Victoria’s British Empire.  The ‘exit’ from that old Brisbane town, heading west across the Boundary road still invigorates those edge of town, and edge of empire institutions – military, law enforcement, police barracks, transport nodes, pubs and other establishments oriented to the interests of a disproportionately male population.

Crossing that western boundary is like taking a step through time and space.  On the eastern side, there are the streets named after the British royal family and their representatives, the institutions of the Empire.  And there is also Victoria, herself, the barracks named after the Empress, at the top of the hill.  Across the old boundary road, Brisbane is re-invented.  The next street to cross is named after a former convict, Thomas Dowse.  And there is another Emperor, cast in bronze, at the bottom of the hill – King Wally, the Emperor of Lang Park.

Regardless of the success or failure of John Dunmore Lang’s ambitions, his name, is on countless intersections in the neighbourhood (identifying the Lang Park Traffic Area).   It may be that Lang is named on more street signs than any other character in Brisbane, including Queen Victoria and Thomas Brisbane.

Many of Lang’s schemes did not turn out as he hoped or expected.  In that sense, it is no great surprise that this map, entitled James Watt, does not lead where the Reverend Doctor expected.  Perhaps, the greater surprise is that on the subject of the future of the Aboriginal people, Lang’s expectations were not significantly different from the expectations of other colonial power-brokers with whom he regularly and fiercely disputed.  Despite his concern for the Aboriginal people, he would not imagine that their civilization would not be extinguished.   This map challenges our understanding of change itself.

[1] Lang, John Dunmore, 1847, Cooksland in North –eastern Australia.  The future cotton-field of Great Britain: Its characteristics and capabilities for European Colonization with a disquisition on the Origins, Manners and Customs of the Aborigines. London, p. 402



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