Tag Archives: Quandamooka traditional firemaking

Matthew Burns, Quandamooka Traditional Owner, Talks About Culture, History and Quandamooka Way of Life on Minjerribah



Using the objects and artefacts he’d brought with him, Matt Burns, Traditional Owner, spoke to us at length about Quandamooka culture on the island. The Quandamooka presence on Stradbroke Island has been carbon-dated to have begun over twenty thousand years ago.



The mix on Matt’s table is so great – everything from a shield, a coolamon, a nulla nulla, boomerangs, grass skirt, dugong tusks (and a miniature Torres Strait Island drum carved from a dugong tusk with a snakeskin top), dugong oil, fishing gear, and fire making gear.



Every year at Lines, he brings new ideas, information and objects to talk about. Basically, he says, his job is to educate white people about his heritage.

He described the scarification practices of the Quandamooka – with men having nineteen scars across their chest to mark them and 2 ‘wings’ – scarification lines – on their back and 2 lines on their legs, under their knees – if they were fully-initiated warriors. “This was attractive to the women.”



Grass skirts were worn by both women and men. The dugong tusks were used for trade. The miniature Torres Strait Island drum is carved from dugong tusk into the shape of the traditional Torres Strait Island drum, and would function as an amulet or perhaps a toy.



Matt plays the didgeridoo, which hails from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, not Queensland. White ants hollow out the eucalypt branch and beeswax is applied to the mouth end to form a seal. For readers outside of Australia, the didgeridoo has been adopted here as a national musical instrument, maybe not unlike the guitar in Spain, or the harp in Ireland. The sound of the didge goes right into you with its airy, deep, throaty vibration.



Matt looks on while two strapping lads try their hand at traditional methods of fire making.






Matt steps in.



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And the smoke starts to build.


And build.


A bit of breath to coax the flame.


Swinging the coir to ignite with lots of oxygen.




And there’s the fire.






With lots of follow-up questions afterwards. Matt is really generous with his information and time and the crowd eats it up.