Indigenous history of the area
We acknowledge and pay respect to the land and the traditional families of the Yugambeh region of South East Queensland and their Elders, past present and emerging.
Although we all know and love the Gold Coast for its stunning coastline, the great nightlife and incredible national park areas, there’s a good chance the majority of us are somewhat unaware of the rich Indigenous history and traditional ownership of the area. As we sail along the Broadwater, it is impossible not to feel a connection to the ocean so it is only right that we honour the original custodians of our region who were known as the ‘Saltwater People.’
The Yugambeh people from the Yugambeh Language Region are the traditional custodians of the area and there is archaeological evidence indicating that they have lived in the Gold Coast region for over 20,000 years. Yugambeh refers to people descended from speakers of a range of dialects spoken in the Albert and Logan River basins of South Queensland, stretching over the area from the Gold Coast to Beaudesert, while also including the coastal area just over the border into New South Wales to the Tweed Valley. By the time European colonisation began, the Yugambeh had a complex network of groups, and kinship. It was also noted by early visitors that they used a variety of technology in their daily lives, including canoes.
The Yugambeh region includes families that identify as Kombumerri, Mununjali, Wangerriburra, Bullongin, Gugingin, Migunberri, Murangburra, Cudgenburra and Tulgigin. A term for an Aboriginal of the Yugambeh tribe is Mibunn, which is derived from the word for the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, a beautiful bird we often see soaring above the Broadwater during our sailing charters.
The different Yugambeh clans had their own allocated area of country and domain over that area - it was typically where they hunted and lived. Each family group had a number of permanent camps established and moved from camp to camp in response to seasonal and environmental changes. Clans would frequently visit each other during times of ceremony, dispute resolution, resource exchange and debt settlement, but followed strict protocols that governed these visitations and the use of each other’s land. The clan group boundaries tend to follow noticeable geological formations such as river basin systems and mountain ranges. The Kombumerri people were known as the ‘Saltwater People’ and their tribal boundaries are said to have extended from the Coomera River in the north to Tallebudgera Creek in the South. The men had identifying marks on their right wrists from netting in the Broadwater and the women that were married, or were initiated to fish with the men, had their left little finger severed.
The area around present day Bundall, proximate to the Nerang River and Surfers Paradise, along with various other locations in the region, was an established meeting place for tribes visiting from as far away as Grafton and Maryborough. Great corroborees were held there and traces of Aboriginal camps and intact bora rings are still visible in the Gold Coast and Tweed River region today, including the bora ring at the Jebribillum Bora Park at Burleigh Heads. The Yugambeh clans also gathered annually on the coast for the mullet feast. The Gugingin of the Logan area were noted as expert net makers, using fine cone-shaped nets to trap fish, and larger nets over 15 metres wide to trap kangaroos. When moving between camps, groups would leave their excess equipment and other belongings behind in a small shelter made like a tripod covered with bark; it was a point of honour that belongings left in this way were never stolen.
The Quandamooka of Stradbroke Island had dolphins aid them in the hunting and fishing processes and it has been stated that this practice was shared by the Yugambeh Kombumerri clan. On sighting a shoal of mullet, they would hit the water with their spears to alert their dolphins, to whom they gave individual names, and the dolphins would then chase the shoal towards the shore, trapping them in the shallows and allowing the men to net and spear the fish. Whilst sailing alongside the various sandbanks in the Broadwater, we often see dolphins performing this technique and are reminded of this rich history and the importance of our relationship with the natural world. Dreaming stories speak of Nerang cultural hero, Gowanda, a white-haired man who provided for his tribe by training dingos to hunt alongside them. Local lore says after he passed away, he returned as a white dolphin and children spotted him splashing in the waves at Main Beach. Our original catamaran is named Spirit of Gwonda and pays homage to this legend.
The Yugambeh people are assigned personal and family totems at birth. Some totems include: Wajin (platypus), Bin'gin (freshwater turtle), Buneen (echidna), Gumburra (macadamia nut), Chungarra (pelican), and Borobi (koala.) Totems are considered as family and the Yugambeh people are committed to looking after them. This respect for totems goes back over many generations to ensure the sustainability of our environment. Yugambeh people are connected to jagun (country) and everything on it. The plants and animals, the mountains and valleys, the rivers and ocean. The language remains in the land, carried by people and is used today in place and suburb names as seen in the examples below: Jalubay-ngagam (Tallebudgera Creek: dingo urine) Nyirang (Nerang: shovelnose shark) Majeribah (Mudgeeraba: place of sticky mud) Kooralbyn (copper snake) Gumbubah (Coombabah: Place of the gumbu cobra worm) Bimbimbah (Pimpama: Place of soldier bird) Jambreen (Tamborine Mountain: place of the finger lime and yam in a cliff)
The traditional Yugambeh diet consisted of flora and fauna native to the region and almost anything that could be eaten was. The native Gulmorhan (fern-root) was a staple and major source of starch, and other plant roots were also eaten like Bulrush, Native Rosella, and Cotton Tree. The native fruits of the Blue Quandong, Crab Apple, Blueberry, Native Cherry, Tuckeroo, and Lilli Pilli were consumed, in addition to the berries of the Barbwire Vine, Passionfruit and Raspberry. Banksia flowers were swirled in water to make a honey flavoured drink and the leaves of the David's Heart were used as serving plates for food. The most basic way of cooking involved ground heated by a fire which was extinguished and cleared. Food would be placed on the heated earth until cooked; this was a common way of cooking shellfish like oysters or mud whelks. A fire was kept burning while larger portions of food like meat were cooked. Alternatively, the food was sealed inside an earth oven in a pit while it cooked. This was a suitable way to cook birds, especially emus. Other species consumed were freshwater mullet, the long-necked turtle, the short-necked turtle, and eel. The eggs of the Brush Turkey were highly sought and most waterbird species were also eaten.
Dozens of species of plants were used for medicinal purposes, and local people continue to use them to this day. The inner bark of Acacia was used for skin disorders, Milky Mangrove sap was used to treat heat ulcers, Spotted Gum resin was used for toothaches, and insect bites were treated with the sap of Bungwall or Bracken. Animal by-products, like the fat from the Lace Monitor, and the leaves of multiple plants were also used in a variety of medicinal
ways. An infusion of Water Chestnut leaves was used as a healing agent, an infusion of Native Raspberry leaves was a stomach ache treatment, and chewing the leaves of the Grey Mangrove relieved the pain of marine stingers. Their closeness to the land has enabled indigenous communities to live sustainably for thousands of years and these generations of observation and practice have provided us with an invaluable library of knowledge. Cultural knowledge of weather systems has helped us to understand Australia’s diverse ecosystems and the cyclical nature of our country’s unique landscape, which is essential for our future survival.
Whilst on charter with Sailing in Paradise, we invite you to take a moment to remember and pay your respects to the traditional families of the Yugambeh region, whose history and stories we need not only to continue telling, but also preserve for many generations to come.
Please note: Aboriginal languages have historically been unwritten, which has resulted in many different spelling systems being used. These systems may have changed or may change as communities work to revitalise and document their languages - no system is ‘incorrect’, they each capture the nuances of language in their own way.