Mabo Day - June 3rd
When we were in Townsville in 1982 we met the now famous Eddie (Koiki) Mabo - he was teaching an evening class in the Meriam language at the university. In the course of conversation, he mentioned that he was thinking about mounting a High Court challenge for land rights on Murray Island.
Which he did. And when we were on Murray Island, we say the whole thing happening. He was successful, but only posthumously. So now he is celebrated by Islanders on June 3rd. (In the Islands it is a public holiday, but they couldn't persuade everyone on the mainland to do the same!
Mabo Day Celebrations in Brisbane
We have only just discovered through a friend at church that there are 6-8 Murray Island families living in Brisbane. He told us they would be holding a Mabo day celebration.
Island rules: if you know about it, then consider yourself invited.
We weren't too sure of the directions, but driving around the area we stumbled upon the Buffalo Hall with Islanders milling around.
Looking inside, the place was crowded, and people were doing island dances, and eating, but we couldn't see our friend from church ... so we weren't sure what to do.
It was strange. So many people looked so familiar - but we were there more than 20 years ago, so we were looking at the wrong generation. We knew that all or most of our old friends long since passed away.
Then we saw a chap who looked like a cross between
this chap (George, my 'brother') and this chap. (Wilfred - sadly even Wilfred passed away last year.)
Seemed like a good place to start. So Peter went and talked to him, and of course found him to be a close 'relative'.
Then we got to meet Jackie, Peter's youngest 'brother'.
Kab Kar and Island dance
It was so strange, after 20 years, being among these people again. The relaxed family feel, and the sounds - except a lot of them (having been born and grown up in Brisbane) spoke fluent English.
There was dancing, of course, and the men's feet pounded on the wooden floor - a bit different from the sandy ground on the island.
The songs and rhythms and dances were all the old familiar ones, and people were walking among the dancers dousing them with talcum powder and perfume.
They had the proper drums (instead of a kerosene tin they often used on the island!) and the old singers were familiar faces.
There were women's dances too. The lady with the green dress and red around her head is a funny dancer - mimicking but making fun of the dances to make the others look good - it takes skill to do this well.
And the food! I haven't had 'sop-sop' in 20 years ... mmm-hmmm! It's a mixture of pumpkin and root vegetables such as potatoes and yams, cooked with coconut grease in an earth oven. I suspect this was cooked in a regular oven because it lacked the smokiness of the real thing, but it was so yummy!
July 1st is "Coming of the Light" when they celebrate the first missionaries coming to the Island - on Murray there is usually a re-enactment. I gather there will be another get-together here in Brissie. Hope we can be there!