inhabitants of Bribie Island at the time they were encountered
by Matthew Flinders in H.M. colonial sloop Norfolk in 1799 were
broadly part of the 'Kabi' or more correctly Gubbi Gubbi people
of South-East Queensland. Colliver and Woolston record the
Bribie tribes as being called Djindubari by Tindale and
Jindoobarria by Meston.
Meston recorded the pre-contact population of Aboriginal people as
600–1,000, but by 1891 none remained on the Island and only four
lived on the mainland.
The comparatively rich coastal country allowed permanent residence. Natural resources of land and sea were abundant and harvested according to the seasons. Winter mullet schooled from May to July. Dolphins were trained to herd the fish into waiting nets and spears. Winter was the best season for bream, followed by tailor in September and October. In summer mud crabs and oysters were plentiful and dugong were hunted. Summer whiting and flathead were speared or netted. Bungwall Fern was gathered for its starchy roots all year round. Kangaroo, eels and carpet snakes were rich in protein and fat. The dominant shellfish used as food was the oyster known today as the Sydney Rock Oyster known locally as tibir, at that time growing naturally on the seabeds. The oyster middens, many metres thick, were plundered by early settlers for lime. A significant midden site, now lost, was located not far from Bongaree jetty. It contained discarded shells, marsupial bones and stone tools. The biggest of the oyster middens was at White Patch, where dugong were also plentiful. The Ugari (pipi) on the coastal beaches was also eaten.
James Cook, 1770
Lieutenant James Cook sighted the Glass House Mountains west of the Island on Thursday 17 May 1770 while sailing up the east coast of Australia in HM Bark Endeavour. He called these hills the Glass Houses as the reflections and the shape of the hills reminded him of the glass manufacturing houses back in England. James Cook named the area Glass House Bay and was the first European to name this stretch of water.
Matthew Flinders, 1799
On 16 July 1799 Captain Matthew Flinders left Glass House Bay about two miles east of the shore in the Norfolk. He sailed south-west between Moreton Island and the mainland parallel to the southern shore of Bribie Island until spotting an opening in the low western shore. He anchored at 8:15am and transferred with a small crew and Bongaree to a smaller craft. He landed on Bribie Island unaware that it wasn't the mainland and met a small group of Aborigines who had gathered on the beach.
Although Bongaree didn't speak the same dialect as the local aborigines the meeting was peaceful until one attempted to remove Flinders' hat. Flinders refused and the Europeans and Bongaree returned to their boat. As they left the man who had tried to remove Flinders' hat threw a spear that missed the small boat and crew. Flinders fired his musket at the men on shore and wounded the man who had thrown the spear. The Aborigines fled the beach. Flinders named the southern shore and site of the confrontation Point Skirmish. There is an area on the modern map marked Skirmish Point but should not be confused with the actual place of the incident which is known as South Point.
Flinders needed to repair leaks in his boat and pulled it ashore some five miles north of the area he had the incident with the locals for those repairs. Once his boat was repaired he explored the mainland side of the passage and scaled Mt. Beerburrum to get a view of the area. He spent 15 days in the region. It was not until some time later it was determined that this was an island and the changing of the name of the waterway between Bribie Island and the mainland was made at some other point.
The origin of the name Bribie are believed to be linked to a convict named Bribie or Breiby who gathered basket-making material on the island in the 1830s. In his memoirs, Tom Petrie wrote:
In those days there was a prisoner among the others who made baskets for the Government called "Bribie, the basket maker." He was not chained, and was allowed to go about in a boat to get cane from the scrubs for his work. ... It was from this man Bribie, my father thinks, that Bribie Island got its name. He cannot remember distinctly on this point, but has some vague recollection of a connection between the man and the island – whether he was blown ashore there, or what, he does not know.
Bribie in World War II
Bribie Island fortifications were constructed from 1939 to 1943 as part of the defence of South East Queensland during the Second World War, and to provide artillery training for Australian soldiers. Other fortifications throughout Moreton Bay during the war, included at Caloundra, on Moreton Island at Cowan Cowan Point and Rous. Together with the existing installations at Fort Lytton, they provided a coordinated series of defensive batteries for Moreton Bay.
In February 1939, six months before the start of WW2, a review of
the defences of Moreton Bay called for two 6 inch Mark XI guns at
north Bribie. Soon after Australia declared war on Germany on 3
September 1939, 6 inch guns previously carried by the World War
I-era cruiser HMAS Sydney were taken to the present location of Fort
Bribie to guard the northwest channel, which ran close to the shore
near Caloundra, across the bay in a southeasterly direction towards
Moreton Island, and then southwesterly towards the mouth of the
river, forming a Z-shaped route. The most effective sites for guns
were the closest points to the channel bends.
The mounting and placement of the guns was hopelessly inadequate and
according to Major General Robert E Jackson, Officer in Charge of
Northern Command in July 1940, Fort Bribie was "no value from a
defence point of view" and had to be fixed. Before this could happen
an argument about the location broke out, costings being sought for
both Bribie and Caloundra. It was argued Caloundra was higher,
better equipped and cheaper to build, whereas Bribie was flat, hot,
infested with mosquitos and sandflies, had no freshwater, no bridge
and would be much more expensive. The decision came down to Fort
Bribie's ability to cover both entrances to the northwest channel,
while Caloundra could only cover the most northerly entrance. The
guns had a range of about 19 kilometres.
Colonel J S Whitelaw designed the layout of the fort on Bribie and
recommended its completion, receiving the go ahead by early 1942. By
April—hastened by the December 1941 attacks by the Japanese forces
on Pearl Harbour, Malaya, Hong Kong and Singapore—construction of
the gun emplacements was almost complete. The construction cost of
all of Fort Bribie's concrete structures was ₤55,000, about $2.5
million in 2010 dollars.
On 19 February 1942, Darwin was bombed in two raids killing at least
243 people and wounding between 300 and 400 more. By November 1943
Darwin was bombed 64 times, with other towns also attacked including
Townsville.The ferocity and success of the attacks suddenly created
a very real dread in the Queensland population.
In July 1942 after failing to take Port Moresby by sea in the Battle
of the Coral Sea, the Japanese landed on Papua New Guinea's north
coast and moved south, capturing Kokoda on 29 July. This was the
first time any Australian territory had been occupied by an enemy
Reinforcements were sent to Fort Bribie and Fort Cowan Cowan,
strengthening the existing defences at the two forts. A number of
155mm guns from the First World War were provided to upgrade
Australian coastal defences, and new forts were constructed during
1942-43 at Skirmish Point on south Bribie Island and Rous on Moreton
Island. The Skirmish Point Battery at Woorim contained two fixed
155 mm gun emplacements on Panama mounts.
The Pacific War also brought the Americans soldiers. Brisbane during
the Second World War. It was widely believed at the time that the
American and Australian armed forces and governments had conspired
on a plan to abandon Australia north of Brisbane to the Japanese in
case of invasion. The plan, known as the Brisbane Line was never
official policy, but the alleged strategy gained support after
General Douglas MacArthur referred to it during a press conference
in March 1943, where he also coined the term 'Brisbane Line'.
Many historians of the WW2 period on Bribie island refer to Brisbane
Line and draw it from Fort Bribie due west to Charleville, then
south-west to a point just west of Adelaide, as recounted by Warwick
Outram in Bribie Memories 2nd edition 2009 ISBN 978-0-9751971-4-1.
George H. Johnston, War Correspondent for the Argus newspaper was
present when MacArthur mentioned the Brisbane Line on 16 March 1943,
but later clarified the matter by writing It was Gen. MacArthur who
abandoned the Brisbane Line concept and decided that the battle for
Australia should be fought in New Guinea.
At Fort Bribie itself, two mine control huts were used by Royal
Australian Navy during 1942 and 1943, known as RAN 2. These
monitored and controlled the guard indicator loops and mine loops
set in the North West Channel. The indicator loops relied on a
moving magnet or any large mass of metal, which naturally acquires
magnetic field, to induce a current in a stationary loop of wire. If
a submarine was detected by the guard loop, the operator would wait
until there was also a swing mine loop before detonating the mines
by sending a current down the mine loop. RAN 2 was moved to Cowan
Cowan on Moreton Island in September 1943. When the mines in Moreton
Bay were decommission at the end of the war, six were missing. One
was found at Tewantin in 1945.
The mines weighed 1430 kg and were buoyant, so needed to be moored
with sinkers, up to 25 metres below the surface. Every 5 minutes
hour perturbations due to the tides known as perts had to be
recorded. Daily and weekly tests were carried out on all equipment.
In three years of operation, the mines were never detonated.
Another minefield with guard loop built in 1942 protected Pearl
Channel and Main Channel south of Bribie Island. The guard loops ran
from the Loop Control Hut at the end of North Street, just north of
Woorim to Combouyuro Point, Moreton Island. Three Harbour Defence
Asdics, sea-bed mounted submarine detection devices now known as
sonar, were position down-channel from the guard loops, as a second
means of detection.