Seasonal Changes and Traditional Owners

Seasonal Changes and
Traditional Owners
Year 2 Science Unit
Good to Grow
Lesson 8
The Ngugi Tribe of
The first European explorers to Moreton Bay discovered a tribe of
about 200 indigenous people living on Moreton Island. They
were the Ngugi tribe and called Moreton Island “Moorgumpin”
meaning strange fish.
The Ngugi tribe had a deep connection with nature and they
would look for signs in nature to tell them of certain events that
were about to take place such as the arrival of the mullet in
Moreton Bay.
Food resources
Fish, shellfish, dugong, turtle and crustaceans formed a major
portion of their diet, which was supplemented by bungwall fern,
midyim berries, pandanus and honey. Their connection with the
land and sea has a strong spiritual basis and some animals are
strongly linked with traditions and customs.
There are approximately 64 edible plant species found on
Moreton Island. Some of the bush tucker found on Moreton
Island is:
Coastal Banksia: Flowers are large and laden with nectar and
were soaked in water, then the liquid was drained which
produced a sweet drink. Paperbark was soaked in this sweet
drink and chewed like bubblegum.
Blue Flax Lily: Raw berries eaten straight from plant and taste
like green peas.
Pandanus: Slender seeds eaten raw or cooked. White base of
leaf edible after cooking. The raw fleshy part of the fruit should
not be eaten as it contains harmful toxins.
Other uses: Leaves used to make string, rope, dillybags,
baskets. Logs tied together to make rafts
Plants can have many uses apart from providing food. Plants and
trees were also used for medical purposes such as:
Goats Foot: Heated leaves placed on forehead for headaches,
crushed leaves to treat marine stings e.g. bluebottle
Lemon Tea Tree: Oils from crushed leaves were used to rub
into bites from sandflies.
Paperbark Tree: Soft inside fibres used as antiseptic bandages.
The Ngugi Tribe
There are three different styles of structures commonly built by
people of the islands. This depends upon the number of people
to be housed, the weather conditions, how long they were
staying in a particular place and how long before they might
A small structure suitable for one person was called a gunyah
and a large, semi-permanent home was made to accommodate
approximately nine people. It would stand three metres across
and 1.2 metres high.
Fire was extremely important to all people for light, warmth
and cooking. Fires were started using sticks. The friction from
spinning one stick onto another caused heat. Dry grass was
added when it was hot enough and then the person would
gently blow onto the grass to create a flame.
Many years ago, when the fish were plentiful in the Bay, Aboriginal People would stand on the beach
and click their spears calling to the Dolphins. The Dolphins would hear their calls and the clicking of
their spears.
The Dolphins would herd the fish to the shallows of the beach so the Aborigines could scoop the
fish for the Dolphins to feed on..
Story by: Uncle Keith Borey of “Minjerribah”
(Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island)
Traditional Messages and
Early Calendars
• Long before they ever heard of the months of the
.year, the Ngugi had their own calendar marked by
changes in the flora and fauna of Moreton Island.
• The Ngugi looked after the waterways that affect
the lives and future of the places that they were
responsible for – the islands of Moreton Bay. The
airways were very important too as they were the
conveyors of the birds with their passage of flight.
The eating of seeds and fruits from different areas
helped to pollinate and cross pollinate the flowers
and plant life in the Moreton Bay islands for
regeneration of the seasons and cycles.
Early Calendars
Seasonal cycles and changes indicated other changes were
also about to happen.
For example, when the gum trees and eucalyptus were in
flower on the island, swarms of mountain parrot would fly
over from the mainland to feast on the nuts and seeds from
those trees and that would signal to the Ngugi that the sea
mullet were running too – both things happened at the
same time. The Ngugi always knew what happened in their
seasonal calendar, and what changes signalled other events

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