Michael Aird

Aboriginal Photographer and Anthropologist


When looking at photographs taken over 100 years ago in urbanized areas such as the Gold Coast, the viewer often considers the huge changes to the landscape. But even within highly developed areas there are still places that have not changed. The waterways and islands of the northern Gold Coast is one such place that has been highly modified in some areas while other places have been left untouched.

I have looked at the old photo albums of my relatives and I have heard stories of life on the bay islands such as South Stradbroke and about life on the banks of the Broadwater and the Nerang River. From these stories I have been fortunate to gain some understanding of what the area was like before developers modified the landscape. Stories of people earning a living and surviving in places that in the past where not considered prime real estate. It was simply where they lived, and where they earned an income, and where they raised their families. But to my family it was also more than that, the areas of low lying Islands in southern Moreton Bay is our traditional country, our country that our ancestors have lived in for thousands of years.

When I am out in my boat, or while I am camped on one of the bay islands, I am normally focused on mundane issues, like where shall I get firewood, where shall I place my crab-pots, or where shall I drop a line. But I also often reflect upon the connection I have through my ancestors to my country. I think of how comfortable I feel in these places and how much more so my ancestors would have been.

Setting up a tent on a small island not far above the high-tide mark, sitting around a campfire or walking through a mangrove mudflat or a shallow creek at low tide are things I have done many times. But each time I do it, I always think to myself how lucky I am to be in such a place, even though many others see a low-lying mangrove island as an un-inviting environment. After spending time in these places I can’t help but love the type of landscape that many others simply overlook.