Elder pushes for pro­tec­tion of tur­tles for next gen­er­a­tion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - HOT PROPERTY - By KHANI HAWTHORNE

LOOK­ING out over Low Isles from Cooya Beach with Kuku Yalanji elder David Solomon is a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence - par­tic­u­larly with a pair of ea­gles, his totem, mat­ing just me­tres away.

David’s con­nec­tion to the tur­tle breed­ing grounds around Low Isles stretches back hun­dreds of years and his ded­i­ca­tion to en­sur­ing it is pre­served for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions is un­wa­ver­ing.

Cur­rently help­ing to tu­tor in­dige­nous rangers in the cul­ture and pro­tec­tion of sea tur­tles and dugongs un­der threat from com­mer­cial and il­le­gal fish­ing, David is hop­ing to il­lu­mi­nate and ed­u­cate his peo­ple be­fore it’s too late.

“Our peo­ple be­long to the coun­try, to care for it, not to dom­i­nate it with our ac­tions or gain from it through ex­ploita­tion,” he said. “The land owns us, along with the wa­ter­ways and the seas.”

As David points out the ea­gle on his polo shirt to sig­nify his totem, the rare sight of two ea­gles mat­ing on the beach at the mouth of the river and an­other mag­nif­i­cent spec­i­men fly­ing over­head pro­vide the per­fect back­drop to his cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion.

David’s mother Brenda gave birth to him on April 17, 1938, at Bai­ley’s Creek op­po­site Snap­per Is­land.

His fa­ther Char­lie came from the Solomon Is­lands, which is where his sur­name orig­i­nates, and was a slave trade cane cut­ter. Char­lie ran away from Mackay in­stead of be­ing shipped back to his home­land af­ter three years in­den­tured in the cane fields.

Char­lie was pro­tected by the orig­i­nal peo­ples of Bai­ley’s Creek un­til he died in 1949 when David was 11.

David’s mother then sent him to work at Green Hill sta­tion where he toiled as a ringer, horse and cat­tle­man, sur­viv­ing on no wages, just his keep and board, un­til he was 17. The teenage David then found his fa­ther’s peo­ple in Mackay and learned the cane game.

It was here he also earned his “Golden Gloves” in boxing and learned to op­er­ate var­i­ous light and heavy ma­chin­ery.

David is also con­nected to Thurs­day Is­land in the Tor­res Strait through his grand­par­ents and he spent time pearl div­ing there for the Ja­panese lug­gers.

Over the years David has worked from Dar­win to Bris­bane in a range of jobs in­clud­ing driv­ing trucks.

He re­turned to Bai­ley Creek and mar­ried Oui, an is­land girl who gave birth to their daugh­ter and two sons. David also now has two grand­chil­dren.

He was work­ing on cul­tural map­ping sto­ries un­til the re­cent clo­sure of the Moss­man TAFE cam­pus.

But David’s com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing his cul­ture has no bound­aries, just as his an­ces­tors lived for gen­er­a­tions.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion: Kuku Yalanji elder David Solomon

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