Mil Binnung Observe Listen

KASAMA Vol. 24 No. 3 / July-August-September 2010 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Mil Binnung Observe Listen

An exhibition exploring the cultural identity of the Ngugi people of Mulgumpin, Moreton Island, through the life of Dr. Robert V. Anderson OAM, known widely as Uncle Bob.
3rd July to 30th September 2010 — Redland Museum, 60 Smith Street, Cleveland. In November, the exhibition travels to The North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum, 17 Welsby Street, Dunwich, Queensland.

GHEEBELUM Portrait by Joanne Kaspari A BRIEF NOTE OF BACKGROUND in case you are not familiar with the place of Quadamooka (Moreton Bay) just off the coast of south-east Queensland. To the east of the city of Brisbane, Moreton Bay protects the mouth of the Brisbane River. Geologists have estimated the bay’s formation at roughly 6,500 years ago when the sea level inundated what was then the river’s floodplains. The bay extends some 125 kms and contains around 360 islands in total, separated from the Pacific Ocean by a chain of three large sand islands — Moreton Island in the north, North Stradbroke Island and South Stradbroke Island in the south. (North and South Stradbroke were once one.)

Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), the focus of the Mil Binnung exhibition, is the ancestral home of the Ngugi people of Quadamooka. Directed by the seasons, Ngugi people had travelled and traded freely with the other islands and mainland Aborigines, but the arrival of Europeans brought cultural and spiritual transgressions, conflict over land and resources, racial violence, and sickness. Their numbers were ravaged by smallpox and massacre.

By the early 1850s most of the survivors had left Mulgumpin and moved to Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). Despite removals and attempts to drive them away, the Ngugi and their neighbours, the Nunukal and Goenpul peoples, held fast to their connection to the ancestral lands of Quandamooka.

Bob Anderson's Family In 1951 the Queensland Government leased 12 hectares on Mulgumpin for 30 years to a whaling company. In 1955 sand mining commenced on the north-eastern side of the island and by 1957 a processing plant was set up near Tangalooma Point. The operation was not profitable and closed down, but some small scale excavation continued. In 1962 Whale Industries Ltd realised their inability to meet quota was due to the scarcity of whales as a result of over ‘harvesting’, and in ‘63 the Tangalooma Whaling Station was sold for tourism development. That year the first land sales took place at Kooringal; many lots were bought by mainlanders with speed boats. Mulgumpin’s first National Park was declared in 1966. The state government released more land for sale by auction in 1967.

The Ramsar Wetland Convention 1971, listed parts of Moreton Bay as wetlands of international importance. In 1974 the Queensland Government transferred control of the island to Brisbane City Council. The Moreton Island Protection Committee was formed in 1978 to oppose sand mining and preserve the island as a natural place. Today, 98% of Mulgumpin is National Park and its surrounding waters are part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

The Quandamooka Lands Council was formed in 1990 and the Minjerribah-Moorgumpin Elders Council in ‘93. In 1995 the Quandamooka Lands Council’s application for a determination of native title was accepted by the National Native Title Tribunal. The legal process is ongoing.

Peace Brigade Philippines 1989 At the opening of the MIL BINNUNG exhibition COLLEEN MA’RUN WALL a Dauwa-Kabi woman from the Mt. Bauple-Gympie-Kilkivan area, presented the cultural ceremony. She spoke of her people’s story of the formation of land and water and the significance of acknowledgment. She thanked the ancestors for keeping this land healthy for all these thousands of years and for tolerating so many of us to live on their place. Colleen, a ‘sand goanna’ woman, thanked “our dearest Uncle, Grandfather Gheebelum”, this ‘sandhill man’, for his faith in her to undertake a cultural ceremony on his behalf.

As well as Aboriginal elders from Quandamooka and from the mainland, there were also Federal, State and Local Government elected representatives, council officers, officers of the Redland, North Stradbroke, and Queensland Museums, trade union colleagues, community activists, family and friends. We all came to celebrate the achievements of this remarkable man “known widely as Uncle Bob”.

Bob Anderson began his working life in 1942 at the age of 13, going on to complete an apprenticeship in carpentry and in 1951 he joined the BWIU (Building Workers' Industrial Union, now the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union - CFMEU). From 1963-1977 Bobby was a BWIU State Organiser and was a delegate to the Queensland Trades and Labour Council (now the Queensland Council of Unions). Among his trade union mates he’s known as Bobby.

In 2000, Bobby received an honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology, in this capacity he is known as Dr. Robert Anderson. For distinguished service in promoting reconciliation in Queensland, he received both a Centenary Medal and an Order of Australia Medal in 2001. The list of the various boards and committees on which Uncle Bob has served is impressive to say the least. At the Mil Binnung exhibition Cameron Dick, the state member for Greenslopes, Attorney General of Queensland and Minister for Industrial Relations said, “Uncle Bob’s community involvement which ranges over seven decades from the 1940s until the current day, is proof that he is a man filled with restless agitation to improve the lives of not just indigenous Queenslanders but to improve the lives of all in our State and nation.”

We are immensely proud to have Bob Anderson as a Life Member of SPAN. He has been a reference point for our organisations’ work and his guidance and advice is invaluable. On behalf of both SPAN and CPCA-Brisbane may we add our appreciation and acknowledgment for all the help and the wealth of friendship you have given us.

Maraming salamat sa iyong pakikiisa sa sambayang Pilipino. Mabuhay ka Uncle Bob!
(Thank you for your solidarity to the Filipino nation. Long live Uncle Bob!).

Dee Dicen Hunt & Emere Distor


Interviews in “Shifting Sands: Memories of Moreton Island”, compiled by Margaret Cook, Moreton Island Protection Committee Inc., Brisbane, 2006; “History, Life and Times of Robert Anderson, Gheebelum, Ngugi, Mulgumpin”, by Eve Christine Peacock, Uniikup Productions Ltd, Brisbane, 2001; Quandamooka Lands Council web site at; All the people and organisations that made the “Mil Binnung” exhibition possible.

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