What is the Otter now?

Dr Frederick Turnbull recommended the closure of the Dunwich Institution in 1946.  The Government Steamer OTTER’s 62 years of supply work from Brisbane to Dunwich came to an end.  P1030298

Captain JUNNER was one of her long serving masters.  P1030303

He was replaced in 1932 by Captain JACK, who had been working on the Otter as deckhand and mate.  P1030368

Billy NORTH was another sort of supplier to the Dunwich Institution.  He had a contract to supply beef from Pt Lookout.


There is a good chance that Billy NORTH traveled on the OTTER in the presence of both Captains JACK and JUNNER.


What is the Otter, now?

The Otter was back in the news in Reconciliation Week, 2016, roughly one hundred and fifty years after it was de-commissioned.  It appeared in relation to the transition from sand mining to land use guided by the Quandamooka people.  Renewed interest in the Otter is related to imagining a 21st century vessel speeding between Junner St, Dunwich, and Captain Junner’s old landing place at Queens Wharf on North Quay, in Brisbane.

One of Australia’s early sand mines is located on the Kurnell Peninsular, Botany Bay.  This is near the site of James Cook’s first landing place on the land of the Gweagal people of the Tharawal nation, on 29 April, 1770. A history of sand mining in Australia could be invoked by journey from Cook St in Amity to Junner St in Dunwich.

Other street names of Amity point to another commentary on sand mining.  Fernandez St and Gonzales St are memorials to Fernandez Gonzales, who is the Great-Great Grandfather of Oodgeroo Noonuccal – poet and outspoken opponent of sand mining on Minjerriba.  Her poem, ‘Minjerriba’, begins as follows

Minjerriba was a giant in the sun

His green back coated with Cyprus and gum.

These lines show words functioning as both geographical markers and evocative communication tools.

Minjerriba – Stradbroke

Governor Darling’s visit to Quandamooka, aboard the Rainbow in June 1827 resulted in the name ‘Stradbroke’ being applied to Minjerribah.

Green Dunwich

Captain Logan somehow missed Darling’s visit.  However, he subsequently wrote to Darling about his plans for ‘Green Point’.  Darling had ‘Green Point’ re-named as ‘Dunwich’.[1]

Cyprus – Amity

Governor Brisbane’s visit, aboard Amity in 1824, resulted in the naming of ‘Point Amity’.  It was previously called ‘Cyprus Point’, by the English-speakers.[2]


Charles Fraser commented on Gum Trees when he visited Quandamooka as Colonial Botanist in 1827.  He also recognised trees named after Joseph Banks (Banksia), Matthew Flinders (Flindersia Australis), John Oxley (Oxleya xanthoxyla), and a species of pine (araucaria) soon to be associated with his companion, Allan Cunningham. Araucaria Cunninghamii is more commonly known as ‘hoop pine’.[3]

Eyes brimming with water so cool, he stretched for miles in the sun

And Pacific on the east, Quandamooka on the west

Bathed this giant in the sun

Sand mining began shortly after the Otter’s last visit to Dunwich.  Sand from the east coast was shoveled by hand and trucked overland to Dunwich on the west, with the first shipment leaving the Island in 1950.[4]  Oodgeroo’s poem laments the injustice and indignity.

But Minjerriba’s back is now broken

Men came and tore out his guts

Stole his rich grains of sand

Stripped his cloak of Cyprus and gum

Drained water from his ageless eyes

And weakened this giant in the sun

The following account of Andrew Petrie’s first visits to Amity and Dunwich (in 1837), suggests that it is unlikely that the grief and outrage among the Quandamooka People would have been much different had their lament been recorded 140 years earlier.

At Dunwich, by now a declining outpost, he supervised the loading of timber for Sydney by convict workmen.  Much of the cedar had been cut from the banks of the Brisbane, Albert and Logan rivers by convict gangs under arduous conditions, and unceremoniously dumped on the island.  By 1842, when the penal colony was disbanded, most of the best cedar in the district had either been pit sawn and sent to Sydney or lay rotting on local river banks.[5]

Leanne Enoch is a Quandamooka woman.  She is Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy as well as Minister for Small Business.  Her Reconciliation Week announcement, associated with the passage of the Bill that would end sand mining by 2019, communicated something of her sense of loss associated with sand mining.

“Much of the mining lease… covers traditional places of great cultural significance, places that traditional owners, my family, representing thousands of generations, do not have access to, cannot teach children about, cannot pass on to the next generation.  That is why it is important to understand that it is time for a new economy for North Stradbroke Island (known as Minjerribah in the local language).”

The Minister’s use of both words, Stradbroke and Minjerribah, is a sign that things are changing.  I am interested in how street maps document change, resistance to change and some of the important conflicts along the way.  For further reflections on how the street maps document change, resistance and conflict see the map entitled James Watt.

[1] (Steele has identified a note in October 1824, from ‘Brisbane Town in Convict Days)

[2] ‘On account of this friendly intercourse with these natives, the place was christened Point Amity’  (article in the Australian)

[3] Steele, J.G., 1983, The Explorers of the Moreton Bay District 1770-1830, University of Queensland Press

[4] North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum, 1994, Historic North Stradbroke Island, NSIHM Inc. Dunwich p. 146

[5] From Dorman, D and Cryle, C, 1992, The Petrie Family: Building Colonial Brisbane, UQP, p.22



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s