North Stradbroke Island (also now known as Minjerribah) has a long and colorful history. Indigenous tribes have lived on the island for at least the last 40,000 years. They have a rich and lasting culture that still survives today.
Captain James Cook passed by North Stradbroke Island in 1770 and named the island’s north eastern point “Point Lookout”. The first recorded contact between Aboriginals and Europeans on the island was in 1803, when Matthew Flinders came ashore to find water at Hopewell (Cylinder Beach) during his voyage south to Port Jackson (Sydney) in the cutter “Hope” after he was shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef.
The island was named “Isle of Stradbroke” after Captain H.J. Rous, who was the son of the First Earl of Stradbroke. Rous captained the first ship of war to enter Moreton Bay in 1827. He was conveying the Governor Darling to the Moreton Bay convict settlement as well as carrying out some survey work of the Bay.
While the aboriginal tribes had settlements scattered all over the island, the first Europeans to settle the island did so at Amity Point. Ships originally passed through the South Passage (between Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands) to access the safety of Moreton Bay. The shifting sandbars threatened to claim several ships so a depot and pilot station were established at Amity Point in 1825. A couple of years later in 1827, Captain Logan created a depot for unloading stores at Dunwich, which was then known as Green Point.
The first Catholic Mission for Australian Aborigines was set up in Dunwich in 1843 but a Benevolent Institution, which cared for the elderly and infirmed, soon replaced it in 1864. A second mission was established when the Aboriginal mission from Bribie Island was moved in 1893 to Myora (Moongalba) – just north of Dunwich. The mission at Moongalba closed down in 1945 when the attendances at the mission school declined.
In 1947 the Benevolent Institution was closed down and all of the inmates were moved to Sandgate in Brisbane. Until that time, the Benevolent Institution was the main employer on the island.
A new era began when sand mining started in 1950. From humble beginnings shoveling mineral into trucks from the rich seams located on the ocean beaches advances in mining technology allowed the operations to move into the interior of the island. The mine owned by Belgium company Sibelco has now ceased operations and is restoring the land to its original condition.
Tourism is another industry on North Stradbroke Island. Visitors have been coming to the island since the 1930’s, when a boat trip to the island could take several hours from the Brisbane wharves to Amity Point. Faster transport vessels from Cleveland to Dunwich, and development of roads on the island has allowed a continual increase in the number of visitors to the island. Fishing has also been an important industry, from subsistence collection of fish and shellfish by aboriginals, to periods of whaling and dugong fisheries to modern trawling, line and net fishing.
The Queensland State government is in the process of transitioning from a mining based economy to developing an eco-tourism model for the island through the declaration of a national park as legislated in the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011. Even more recently Aboriginal native title rights have been formally recognized through the Native Title Act 1993. Indigenous involvement in the planning and management of the National Park is a key component of the staged delivery of the North Stradbroke Island National Park.