Research under way into Victoria Point's Aboriginal camps

GRIFFITH University historian Ray Kerkhove says the history of Aboriginal camps like one that existed at Victoria Point has been sadly neglected.

AT VICTORIA POINT: Members of the Coolwell family at Victoria Point in the 1950s.

AT VICTORIA POINT: Members of the Coolwell family at Victoria Point in the 1950s.

Dr Kerkhove has researched camps – known as shanty towns around the 1950s – at Kelvin Grove, Victoria Park, Nundah and Moorooka that operated around the same time as on Link Road.

“We talk of suburban histories, and many suburban histories have been written,” Dr Kerkhove said.

“The history of the Aboriginal camps of Brisbane is much longer, and often more eventful and interesting as they adapted to the changing times, yet it has been sadly neglected up until now. 

“These communities were often as vibrant and productive as European communities, despite the poverty they endured.”

Dr Kerkhove wants to speak to people who have memories of the Victoria Point camp in the 1950s and 1960s.

“This camp seems to be on the same location mentioned as the Aboriginal camp present here during the 1870s to 1890s.

“Aboriginal people of that time at Victoria Point provided many of the fishing, oystering and boating needs of the bayside.”

Dicky and Wally Coolwell photographed at Victoria Point in the 1950s.

Dicky and Wally Coolwell photographed at Victoria Point in the 1950s.

Dr Kerkhove said he wanted to learn about the lifestyle in the camp during the 1950s and 1960s and the extent to which activities and use of the earlier camp continued.

The historian has written a book on Aboriginal campsites of Brisbane and authored articles, book chapters and reports on sites, events and material culture of Aboriginal south-east Queensland.

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“There is a general assumption that – due to the disruption, disease and violence that came with European settlement – Aboriginal people quickly disappeared from the Brisbane area,” he said.

“However, I found at least 100 Aboriginal camps existed around what is now greater Brisbane during the 19th century. A handful of these were still present into the mid-20th century.

“A lot of people assume these later camps must have been fringe camps that sprang up briefly in any available green space but I find many of these camps existed on these same spots long before the creation of the parks and reserves that eventually contained them.”

Dr Kerkhove is working together with Wayne Coolwell who said his extended family occupied three tin huts at Eprapah Creek for about 10 years.

“They had a good relationship with the farmers and both groups supported each other,” Mr Coolwell said.

The pair appealed for anyone with memories and old photographs to come forward to be interviewed for the research.

Contact Wayne Coolwell on 0435 330 758 or Ray Kerkhove via raykerkhove@gmail.com.

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