Brian asks what mob I’m from, and I answer white fella mob. He smiles and says migaloo fella, and so begins our day. Talking and listening amid cool bay breezes on Quandamooka, North Stradbroke Island in beautiful Moreton Bay.
Brian’s from the Dandruba mob, and his yurees are the carpet snake, dolphin, loggerhead turtle, mooga mooga bird, and recently the dugong, adopted because it’s in need of protection as numbers dwindle. He shares with me thousands of years of his living culture.
He respectfully announces us to his grandmother’s spirit at Brown Lake, which is a place for women’s business. We sit and Brian talks some more.
The women used to ask the spirits in the water for permission to swim. If there was no disturbance, then it was safe. There was big danger here in the water. Today we know that megafauna snakes were real. He tells me about the Jinjuri, little hairy men in the bush that appear only to children. His youngest son sees them. Humanoid pygmies from tens of thousands of years ago are now known to science. Perhaps they lived here.
Quandamooka the mother spirit says that the taking of dugong is men’s business. It’s only now that the link between dugong toxicity and its impact on the fertility of women has been discovered by science. The stories he tells me all have a basis of fact.
Amid the broombys grass trees, Brian finds chimmy chimmy bush tucker berries, and explains that dumgle nuts from the banksia are good for roasting food because there’s no flame. We sit down again, this time by the water and clear shades of blue at Amity Point. He prepares a feed of quampie shell fish which he collected the day before. His yuree the loggerhead turtle suddenly surfaces from the depths beside us, slowly raises its head, and gives an approving nod.
Brian Moreton Coghill is a descendant of Mooka, who due to his highly respected status was given the name Moreton after the 18th century Lord Moreton and neighbouring Moreton Island. His family has carried the name ever since. His grandfather imparted that his people have been adapting since the ice age, so adaptation should continue through more changing times.
Fifty-thousand years of observing the landscape has taught Brian a lot. He’s a university graduate in environmental management, and has studied archaeology and anthropology. He fuses migaloo and Dandruba knowledge, giving him a unique ability to sustainably manage country. He speaks of land rebirth.
Brian’s respectful of all of his heritage. His father was Scottish, he served in the Second World War, and his uncle was among the Australian teenagers who stopped the Japanese advance for the first time at Milne Bay. His people saw Japanese soldiers land on Stradbroke Island, which as far as I know has never been acknowledged by authorities. His father rowed over to a surfaced Japanese mini-submarine that was inside Moreton Bay, wasn’t believed, and two weeks later Sydney Harbour was attacked. Brian’s cousin is Jon Coghill of band Powderfinger.
Brian educates through running Gooriemooka tours of North Stradbroke Island. If you go visit, he can teach you 50,000 years of love and respect for country too.