...dexterous sailors and formidable warriors...
The younger and older Murray Islanders are fishing out of their motorised family-owned dinghies within traditional waters and selling their catches to the community-owner freezer. In mid-1996, a Murray Islander publication 'Maber', trumpet or bu shell, began publication: they featured themselves completing unfinished business. Between 1996 and 1998 they defended their sea rights by taking their own law into their own hands.
They were also taking up threads, which had been partly broken in their parents' and grandparents' time. The dream of having their own boats, working in their own waters, under their own control has lived on and on and been 're-dreamed' in the Murray Islands. Others say what they themselves believe: 'They are strong people', morally as well as physically. They are the sons and daughters of Meriam who said in 1936: 'Tow the boats to Thursday Island.'
Before pearlers, missionaries and colonisers arrived they were 'dexterous sailors and formidable warriors', who fished with fish-line rope they wove from plants, and lashed their outriggers with vine rope. Today they own and use metal dinghies with 40 HP motors and modern fishing gear; they freeze their catch in a Meriam-owned freezer and they sell it for the best price offering. It has been an uphill battle and much work remains to be done to establish a self sufficient island life suited to the twenty-first century.
But as they established in the High Court of Australia in the Mabo land case, the modern Meriam retain an essential continuity with their past.
Keywords: fishing, High Court of Australia, maber, Mabo Case, Mabo Case, sea, sea rights, seafarers, warriors
Author: Sharp, Nonie