Tag Archives: Moreton Bay

Walking my country

“I learned more about this place than I imagined was possible.”

FOR more than three decades I lived in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, until the call of the subtropics saw me relocate to Moreton Bay in South East Queensland in 2012.

From the very beginning, this place has been beautiful and story-filled, but it was also undiscovered country for me.

My sense of place is one of the strongest sides of me, but I knew it would take time to come across the stories and culture of this new place. I also undertook a petition in this community about marriage equality, which meant coming out publicly in a place where I was unsure what the general reaction would be.

So it was the perfect antidote, and an inspiring challenge, when VoiceMap approached me in 2015 to produce an audio tour for Coochiemudlo Island, right at the geographic centre of this archipelago.

IMG_1761I approached a friend, neighbour and author David Paxton, a member of the Coochiemudlo Island Heritage Society.

David has engaged in an ongoing conversation with the traditional owners of this part of Moreton Bay – the Quandamooka people – about the cultural heritage of Coochiemudlo Island. He’s also researched its European history.

Walking around our island home, in under an hour I learned more about this place than I imagined was possible, and through a process of editing and researching, we came up with a tour: Escape to Coochiemudlo Island, which is now available to download on your mobile phone via the VoiceMap app.

Everyone’s heard about Pokémon Go and many are into Geocaching. VoiceMap is similar in that it makes use of GPS (Global Positioning System) to navigate.

There are no signs on the tour, just David’s voice guiding you around Coochiemudlo Island, narrating its stories while you stroll the island foreshore and through its interior.

IMG_1756Some of the highlights include one of Coochiemudlo’s iconic accommodation destinations, Quirky Cottages, a holiday farm-stay like no other.

Sites of ancient Aboriginal culture and tales of explorers, settlers and farmers are woven into this unique way to interpret and understand the island.

The tour also passes through the island’s Ramsar Wetlands, a place replete with bird life; and it touches on stories of Matthew Flinders’ visit to the island in 1799.

Getting to know my community’s social fabric, its past and its natural beauty, has been a pleasure and a privilege. Our VoiceMap is just the third such tour in Australia, and Queensland’s first.

Coochiemudlo Island is not far from civilisation – we’re just 35 kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD – yet here beyond the edge of the city’s seaboard, life moves at a very different pace.

Our VoiceMap doesn’t give away all our secrets, or cover everything about Coochiemudlo, but I encourage you to come and experience a bit of what the island has to offer.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

A Tempest brings a sea-change

SEA CHANGE Miranda and the Tempest, by John William Waterhouse.
SEA CHANGE ‘Miranda and the Tempest’, by John William Waterhouse.

A Writer encounters a new state.

IN 2012, my husband Richard and I decided to move from our home in the Blue Mountains of NSW, to a subtropical island off the coast of Brisbane in Queensland, a day’s drive to the north.

This rather major decision came about organically. We had an argument – one of those all-day, episodic ones where you get thinking time between confrontations. It wasn’t about what he said or what I said, in the end. It was about what we were doing in the Mountains, how we were managing our finances, who was happy in their job (or not), and where we were going.

We kissed and made-up, and decided to move. Just like that.

We told our family and closest friends, which made it real. Almost frighteningly real. They all kindly put up objections and perceived barriers, which only showed the love they have for us, and brought pangs of doubt.

But we still went through with it.

William Shakespeare invented the term ‘Sea-change’, not the Real Estate Institute of Australia. In what is believed to have been his last epic play, The Tempest, ironically set on an island, he wrote a song of comfort for the sprite Ariel to sing to Ferdinand, whose father has drowned …

“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,

Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.”

The song speaks of something good, something new and unusual emerging from something that has been lost.

Our Blue Mountains house, where we’d renovated a stunning old garden, took less than 24 hours to sell once the ‘for sale’ sign went up, which was a sign indeed.

Synonymous with somewhere

Not long before we moved I noticed someone found their way to my blog via googling ‘Michael Burge Blue Mountains’.

Turns out my online profile has me digitally-linked to the place in which I lived, on and off (mainly on), since 1979.

For some reason that made me reluctant to move – I had become part of the fabric of the place, in a sense. Will I ever be as synonymous with another place in this lifetime?

Many Mountains people say: “You never leave the Mountains, you always end up returning”, and in my case, that happened five times in 33 years. It’s almost scary how often I slunk back up the hill, tail between my legs, and found solace in that unique part of the world, stuck on a gigantic rock surrounded by endless bushland.

I learnt, loved, lived, and lost here. I would still like my ashes scattered in the Jamison Valley when I am dead. Perhaps that may never change.

MAGIC MORETON A bay full of stories.
MAGIC MORETON A bay full of stories.

What country, friends, is this?

Richard grew up in south-east Queensland, including time in Kenmore, Brisbane, so he knows this country.

From he and his family I’ve picked up a bit of a Brisbane north-south divide (in Sydney it’s east-west), with the Brisbane River being the borderline.

We’re technically living the south side, but, being on an island, I claim to have moved offshore altogether.

Before moving, I felt Queensland had to prove its mettle a bit more before I professed to be a resident. We needed to get to know one another first. Based on early signs (like Campbell Newman’s move to rescind part of the civil unions legislation, and his decision to cut the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards) I felt Queensland and I were going to have a few issues.

In the lead-up to the 2013 federal election, we were faced with having to vote for someone in our new electorate, the division of Bowman, which is also known as Redland City. I decided to interview all the local candidates for a political website – No Fibs – so I could understand more about this region though its politics. What I found was eye-opening.

I didn’t understand why those on north of the Brisbane River look down on those in the south, until we went to an exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane about our new home, Moreton Bay.

There within the records and artefacts were the stories of the men and women, Aboriginal and European, who carved out an existence on the archipelago off the seaboard of Greater Brisbane – the convicts, lepers, outcasts and misfits of a penal colony, and the Quandamooka people who came before all of us.

I got goosebumps learning about the courageous ones who reached out to people in need across these islands, and this misfit felt a sense of place, after being here only just over a year.

There’s a whole lot more to Australia than the little patch of land clustered around Port Jackson, which some people have convinced themselves is worth an average of a million dollars for a tiny patch. Islands are places of mythology, and there’s plenty of local myths about Coochiemudlo and its neighbours. Many of us like to keep it that way, because it means our reality ranks amongst Australia’s best kept secrets.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.