History of North Stradbroke Island

History of North Stradbroke Island

South Gorge beach at Point Lookout, circa 1950s; image courtesy of Redland Libraries Local History Collection 

The Quandamooka story

Minjerribah (now North Stradbroke Island) is the traditional home of the Noonuccal and Gorenpul people. The Noonuccal people lived around what is now Amity Point and the Gorenpul around what is now Dunwich. 

The Quandamooka People's native title consent determinations cover most of North Stradbroke Island, Peel Island, Goat Island, Bird Island, Stingaree Island, Crab Island and the surrounding waters of Moreton Bay.

Early contacts

Point Lookout was named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770 but it wasn’t until 1803 that the Redlands’ first recorded contact between Europeans and Aborigines occurred when Matthew Flinders was on his way to Sydney to organise a rescue of shipwrecked passengers from the Porpoise. Flinders and his small crew stopped near Point Lookout where the Noonuccal people helped the sailors to find fresh water. 

The next prolonged contact occurred when three timber-getters, Pamphlett, Finnegan and Parsons, were blown off course in their small boat near Sydney and landed on Moreton Island in 1823. They crossed to Minjerribah and spent about six weeks with the Noonuccal tribe. 

That same year, more officials were sent to look at Moreton Bay, this time as a potential convict settlement. By sheer coincidence, the Surveyor General, John Oxley, ran into Pamphlett and Finnegan. On their information, he explored the Brisbane River and elsewhere. He later recommended to the authorities that Moreton Bay would be an ideal convict settlement. 

Behind the names

The island was named Stradbroke in 1827 by Captain Henry John Rous, after his father, the Earl of Stradbroke. Back then, today’s North and South Stradbroke Islands were one land mass.

In 1894, a ship called the Cambus Wallace was wrecked on the ocean side of a very narrow part of Stradbroke Island. In 1896, a southerly gale led to the breakthrough of the strip.

From this time on, North and South Stradbroke have been two separate islands. It is believed that the breakthrough was partly caused by earlier efforts to rescue the Cambus Wallace’s cargo. Explosives it had been carrying were blown up, creating huge holes in the sand dunes. 

The Amity Point area was called Bulan or Pulan, meaning narrow place. It was renamed Amity in the 1820s after John Oxley’s ship of the same name. 

The Dunwich area was called Goompee or Coompee, from a word meaning pearl oyster. It was also renamed in 1827 by Captain Rous, this time after his older brother, Viscount Dunwich. Rous commanded the Rainbow, hence the Rainbow Channel which runs along the island. 

The convicts

Brisbane began life as the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, which was originally set up in 1824 at Redcliffe before moving some months later to what is now Brisbane. 

Ships travelled to and from the penal settlement through the South Passage between Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands. A pilot station was established at Amity Point in 1825 and a depot for unloading stores was set up at Dunwich in 1827. This was the beginning of permanent contact between Europeans and Aborigines in the Redlands. 

The convicts were brought to Stradbroke Island partly to collect timber and partly to see whether farming would be successful. 

After the convicts

Once the Moreton Bay convict settlement closed in 1842, the entire Moreton Bay area was opened to free settlers. In 1850, a quarantine station was set up at Dunwich for the settlers who flocked to the new colony. They had to stay at the quarantine station if they were sick so that they didn’t infect people in Brisbane and elsewhere. 

In 1866, the quarantine station was closed and the buildings converted into the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, Queensland’s first dedicated home for the old and infirm. Some buildings in Dunwich today date from this period but most buildings were removed when the asylum moved to Sandgate in 1946. 

During this time, fishing was an important industry for Aborigines and European residents. Amity Point and Dunwich have been home to fishing communities until the present day. 

Sand mining began on North Stradbroke Island in the early 1950s, playing a significant role in the community. It is currently being phased out.

Stradbroke Island’s first car ferry service began in 1947. Before then, only passenger ferries travelled to the Island. They landed at Amity Point and at Dunwich. The car ferry allowed many more people to visit the island, which had long been recognised as a potential holiday spot. 

In 1935, the first land sales took place at Point Lookout and, in the 1950s, planning began for the Point Lookout township with residential land sold in stages over the following years. 

When was it?

The island’s historical records show that many of the early facilities were set up on the Island for the convict settlement, the quarantine station or the benevolent asylum.

Dunwich

A stone causeway was built in the mid-1820s at Dunwich for the boats that brought people and cargo to the island. This causeway defines the northern wall of the car and passenger ferry terminal at Dunwich. 

The first school opened in Dunwich in 1889 for children of staff at the asylum. This school moved to Bribie Island and back to Stradbroke in 1893, when the Myora Aboriginal Mission opened at Moongalba. The school continued operating at Moongalba until 1941, when it closed. The mission closed in 1943. A new school, the Dunwich State School, was opened in 1904, again for the children of asylum staff. An Anglican church, St Mark’s, was built in Dunwich in 1909 for the asylum. 

When the asylum closed in 1946, many of the buildings were taken off the island. New houses and other buildings were erected after the sand mining companies arrived in the 1950s. 

Amity Point

A fishing community was established at Amity Point in the 1880s. The first school opened in 1919 but it did not last long. Another school opened in 1951 but it closed in 1961 because there were no longer enough children living there.

Point Lookout

For many years Point Lookout was part of a large cattle run operated by Billy North. Permanent residents began living at Point Lookout from about the 1930s. Bert Clayton built Point Lookout’s first holiday accommodation in the 1930s. In 1932, the Point Lookout Lighthouse was built. From the 1950s, land was increasingly sold at Point Lookout for housing, creating the popular township that is there today. 

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