Did you know?
The remnants of fish traps that were used by the local Aboriginal people can still be found at Toorbul Point. Not far from the large midden complex at Sandstone Point, you can see a continuous wall made of local rock which enclosed an area approximately 70m by 35m.
Studies by the University of Queensland found first-hand evidence of its use by Aboriginal people, as recently as the 1930s.
This part of the coast supported relatively high population densities of Aboriginal people up to the time of European settlement. As part of traditional life, there were occasional gatherings of large numbers of people around the Toorbul Point area and, in particular, at the huge midden complex at Sandstone Point. This site is the largest excavated shell midden in south-east Queensland, and has given great insight into past Aboriginal life. The Toorbul Point bora ground is also just 5km inland from the fish trap and other bora rings have been recorded on Bribie Island itself. People gathered in this area to visit relatives or hold ceremonies and made camp at Sandstone Point or on the banks of Ningi Creek.
Some of the group would travel to the Toorbul Point fish traps when they needed supplies of fish. They would spend a short time there, creating dinnertime camps, and then return to the main camp to share the fish they had trapped.
A local person provided first hand evidence to Queensland University about how Aborigines of the area used the Toorbul Point fish trap. He wrote:
For about ten years from the mid 1930s, Roland Birt was oysterman at Toorbul Point , a very big man who answered to the nick name of “clinker”; he and his brother, of similar size, were at one time stokers on the Koopa. Clinker’s wife (Ann) was an aboriginal from Moreton Island; she often referred to the area between Bulwer and Comboyuro (on Moreton Island) as “Gumpun”, we assumed this to be home ground.
Until recently the whole of Toorbul Point was owned by the Clark family, and extensive oyster leases were worked off the foreshore, where there was also a large native fish trap which the late Mr Colin Clark saw to it that this was well looked after and maintained. He also adopted the same attitude towards the bora rings complex on Toorbul in the bush about half way in from Cook’s Point.
Ann Birt was small, very active, born probably about 1880, quiet, almost retiring. During the Mullet and Tailor seasons, if a shoal was close in, Mrs Birt would row out, trailing a bunch of Bribie pine, torulosa she-oak and vanilla lily, this she maintained was necessary to attract the porpoises (dolphins), very doubtful, but occasionally they would follow the dinghy and frighten a portion of the shoal in to the trap . This exercise had to be performed on a falling tide; when it fully receded there would still be a couple of feet in the trap , with the top of the rock enclosure just awash, The fish were then easily caught with either scoop or cast nets.
The natives purpose of siting this trap in an oyster area was obviously to hold up bream & flathead between tides, both feed on young culture; with a seasonal school or two of mullet & tailor – with porpoise assistance – as a bonus.
Clinker Birt died of cancer in the late 1940s, and Mrs Birt lived at Kennigo St in the (Fortitude)Valley until her death a few years later .
“Old Salt” 26.5.1985