The history of the Gold Coast began in prehistoric times with archaeological evidence revealing occupation of the district by Australian Aborigines for at least 23,000 years. The first early European colonizers began arriving in the late 1700s, settlement soon followed throughout the 19th century, and by 1959 the town was proclaimed a city. Today, the Gold Coast is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.
Kombumerri Aboriginal history in the Gold Coast region
evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have inhabited the Gold
Coast region for about 23,000 years before European settlement and
the present. By the early 18th century there were several distinct
clan estate groups (previously referred to as tribes) living between
the Tweed and Logan Rivers and bounded approximately in the west by
the town of Beaudesert; they are believed to be: the Gugingin,
Bullongin, Kombumerri, Minjingbal, Birinburra, Wangerriburra,
Mununjali and Migunberri Collectively they were known as Kombumerri
people and spoke the Yugambeh language, for which there was and is
evidence of several distinct dialects in the region.
The historical Kombumerri people were hunters, gatherers and fishers, and are reported to have trained dingos and even dolphins to aid them in the hunting and fishing processes. Various species were targeted in various seasons, including shellfish including eugaries, (cockles or pipis), oysters and mudcrabs. In winter, large schools of finfish species "running" along the coast in close inshore waters were targeted, those beingsea mullet, which were followed by a fish known as tailor. Turtles and dugong were eaten, but the latter only rarely due to their more northerly distribution. Various species of parrots and lizards were eaten along with bush honey. Echidnas, (an Australian native similar to a porcupine, but a monotreme not a rodent), are still hunted with dogs today and various marsupials including koalas and possums were also consumed. Numerous plants and plant products were included in the diet including macadamias and Bunya nuts and were used for medicinal purposes.
Unlike their neighbours to the north of the Logan and west and south west of Beaudesert, the Kombumerri people not only spoke dialects of a different language group, but along with other members of the Y-Bj dialect chain to the south, subscribe to an originary myth known as "The Three Brothers", which is based on the arrival to this part of the eastern Australian coastline by 3 men/mythical culture heroes and their wives and children in a canoe:
Berang-ngehn gurilahbu, ngering Mumuhm, Yabirahyn or Berrungen korillåbo, ngerring Mommóm, Yaburóng Berrung came long long ago, with Mommóm (and) Yaburóng
Long ago, Berrung together with Mommóm (and) Yabúrong came to this land. They came with their wives and children in a great canoe, from an island across the sea. As they came near the shore, a woman on the land made a song that raised a storm which broke the canoe in pieces, but all the occupants, after battling with the waves, managed to swim ashore. This is how ‘the men,’ the paigål (baygal) black race, came to this land. The pieces of the canoe are to be seen to this day. If any one will throw a stone and strike a piece of the canoe, a storm will arise, and the voices of Berrúng and his boys will be heard calling to one another, amidst the roaring elements. The pieces of the canoe are certain rocks in the sea. At Ballina, Berrúng looked around and said, nyung? (nyang)and all the paigål about there say nyung to the present day. On the Tweed he said, ngando? (ngahndu)and the Tweed paigål say ngando to the present day. This is how the blacks came to have different dialects. Berrúng and his brothers came back to the Brunswick River, where he made a fire, and showed the paigål how to make fire. He taught them their laws about the kippåra, and about marriage and food. After a time, a quarrel arose, and the brothers fought and separated, Mommóm going south, Yaburóng west, and Berrúng keeping along the coast. This is how the paigål were separated into tribes.
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 asGrafton 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 theJebribillum Bora Park at Burleigh Heads.
As Europeans settled the Gold Coast region and began farming and timber-gathering in the 19th century it was thought by some that the Kombumerri were driven from their traditional hunting, gathering and fishing grounds into the hinterland and Aboriginal Missions and reserves which followed on the heels of the passage of the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (61 Vic, No.17), generally cited as the 1897 Act:
"... (it) was the first comprehensive Aboriginal protection act in Queensland and, indeed, in Australia; it ushered in the long era of protection and segregation during which Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders lost their legal status as British citizens and became, in effect, wards of the state".
"Regional administrative control of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of the State was achieved by dividing the State into Protectorates. Each Protectorate was administered by a local Protector of Aboriginals who was a police officer in all cases except for Thursday Island. The appointment of local Protectors began in 1898. Local Protectors had many responsibilities including the administration of Aboriginal employment, wages, and savings bank accounts. Local Protectors also played a significant role in the removal of Aboriginal people to reserves".
However, analyses of historical and anthropological records show that many of the Kombumerri remained in their traditional country and found employment with farmers, oyster producers and fishermen, timber cutters and mills constructed for the production of resources like sugar and arrowroot, whilst continuing to varying degrees with the Kombumerri cultural practices, laws and customs that were in evidence at the time of the arrival of the colonists. Many of them, both men and women (and sometimes children), found employment as servants or staff in the houses of the wealthy squatters and businessmen.
Due to the harshness of the 1897 Act, and the various equally draconian amendments to it in the last century, and with respect to various government administrations, Kombumerri Aboriginal people have to date maintained a relatively low political profile in the Gold Coast region so that they would not be removed from their families, or from their traditional country with which they had (and retain) strong spiritual links. As a result, and since that time, the Kombumerri people have maintained close and generally closed networks of communication amongst themselves regarding their cultural practices and use of language which were not accommodated by the authorities.