Reviewed by Julie Kearney
North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known to many as Straddie or Minjerribah, has been a favourite holiday destination for south-east Queenslanders since the nineteenth century, when it first began attracting boating parties to its shores. Long before that, of course, it was regularly visited by indigenous mainlanders for similar purposes as well as ritual business with the Quandamooka people. Now, hot off the press in 2017 we have A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah, the first-ever comprehensive printed guide to the island’s natural beauties.
As I turned the pages I found myself captivated by what I found. The book is beautifully formatted with over 700 good quality photographs and 352 pages of up-to-date information on the island’s ecology and wildlife. At a retail price of $35.00 this represents good value in anyone’s estimation.
A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah was compiled by members of the Friends of Stradbroke Island, a non-profit community group dedicated to protecting the island’s unique fragile environment. Two of their members, Sue Ellen Carew and Mary Barram, set out on the long painstaking task of planning, researching and co-ordinating the guidebook.
Their mission was to make the island and its flora and fauna accessible to everyone, not just the scientifically educated few. To this end they worked with people from across the community: bushwalkers, bird watchers, amateur and professional photographers, expert naturalists, island lovers and, importantly, the traditional custodians known as the Quandamooka people. With few exceptions all were happy to give freely of their time and expertise in the preparation of the book. Specialist contributors include well-known Queensland scientists and naturalists, yet the tone of the book remains user-friendly and conversational, fulfilling the promise of its title as a useable guide to the island’s environment.
The book kicks off with a chapter titled ‘A Place of Sand and Water’ explaining the island’s beginnings and its geological history up to the present date. This is followed by ‘Minjerribah’s Wild Places’, which gives tips for understanding, respecting and exploring the shores, lakes and bushland. ‘Beachcombing’ introduces the variety of creatures and objects to be found along the seashore, while ‘Wild Stradbroke Seasonal Guide’ explains the rhythms of the island’s natural world as expressed through its wildflowers and wildlife.
‘Life in the Ocean’ helps the reader spot and identify whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine creatures. ‘Birds’ describes the island’s avian population, along with a visual reference guide and tips on how to identify them. ‘Aquatic animals of the wallum wetlands’ focuses on the island’s frogs, turtles, crayfish, eels and other freshwater inhabitants.
‘Mammals’ identifies koala, kangaroo and other mammal species, many of which are particular and/or unique to North Stradbroke Island. ‘Island insects’ introduces its butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and cicadas. Watch out for some superb photographs in this chapter, as indeed, you will find throughout all sections. Further chapters on lizards and snakes, and indigenous flora, complete the photographic and habitat guide, ending with a well-designed, easy to use reference chapter and indexes.
On enquiry I find that A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah is selling ‘like hot cakes’ at a number of island venues, including the Point Lookout News Agency and the University of Queensland Moreton Bay Research Station at Dunwich. On the mainland you can find it at Avid Reader West End, Mary Ryan New Farm and Indigiscapes Capalaba, though I understand other bookshops and outlets are being added to the list. It is also available online at stradbroke-nature.myshopify.com/
The book is clearly a labour of love put together by people who were not prepared to compromise on its usefulness to the general public. To this end Barram and Carew consulted with experts and gave unstintingly of their own time and expertise, before bringing in Susan Hill as managing editor and the talented Michael Phillips as visual designer. With over 700 colour photos I assume that printing costs were considerable, yet Barram and Carew were able to keep the price affordable, thanks to funding through the Jani Haenke Charitable Trust.
Jani Haenke, whom I had the honour of knowing before her untimely death, is the unseen hero behind the making of this book. It was her love for the island and her desire to see it kept safe from environmental degradation in any form, whether by mining operations or rapacious developers or simply through ignorance on the part of tourists, that led her to found Friends of Stradbroke Island in 1988, and later to establish the Jani Haenke Trust. Barram and Carew dedicate the book to her, and I believe that if she could have known what a splendid job they would make of A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah, Jani would have been well pleased. All income from sales will go to island conservation and the protection of Straddie’s wild places. This book represents the cooperative effort of a large number of people from different walks of life, but credit must go particularly to Barram and Carew for their inspiration and guiding influence in its creation.
Friends of Stradbroke Island
Contributing Editors – Mary Barram, Sue Ellen Carew.
352 pp., laminated protective cover.