21 Feb Place
The roots of this old trees’ stump reach down into the earth, the land where it has always been. The land that surrounds it is one with the tree, the leaves and bark have fallen, nurtured and rebirthed new trees and plants. The new sapling that grows from the stump reaches into the sky, starting a new story that is grounded in the old.
Beginning with where the tree stands, this is Kabi Kabi (Gubbi Gubbi) Land, they are the traditional custodians of this place. The colonisation of this area began with the Europeans in about 1824 at this time there was estimated to be at least 3500-4000 indigenous people in this area. In a very short time, this was reduced significantly, due to illness, massacres, and forced removals to settlements further away.
The Noosa Eumundi Road follows the original track, that was then widened for bullocks and eventually sealed and is the main road between the Bruce Highway and Noosa. The closest town Eumundi was founded in 1882. The possible meaning of the area name Doonan may originate from the indigenous word for narrow-leafed iron-bark dooboon. The land was then used for farming (dairy and bananas) and timber. Kangaroos and possums are still common, Koalas and echidnas are scarce, bush turkeys and bandicoots can still be found. There are lots of domestic dogs, and the land is carved into small semi-rural ‘acreages’, there are paddocks of grass, some support horses, and a few scattered cattle.
In this area, one of the most significant visual stories the trees hold is in their bark. When you walk around the bush here, there are scar trees, these were used for many things (Creative Spirit website has a great article and info on how to identify a scartree links on this see below) for canoes, tools, as markers and shelter. This was a sustainable practice of removing a section of bark and the tree would keep growing.
A lot of the surviving Indigenous population from this area were moved to Cherbourg Settlement this occurred 1900-1940. Here they were separated out of family groups and not allowed to speak in language. This has meant that a lot of the sacred trees and the sacred places in part are no longer known, as the knowledge of country has become displaced. There is one tree of significance that is marked with a plaque, the Burial Tree in River Park at Tewantin.
There are also examples of scars on stumps from the colonised way of using the trees, small slits were cut in the base of the giant trees to take the springboard, and then a person with an axe would stand and cut the tree down. Leaving the stumps to dry and age in the sun.
Some of the indigenous stories can be heard if you attend the ‘Shared History’ and Reconciliation talks that are held every few months around the Sunshine Coast. The Noosa Museum has a dedicated room to the Kabi Kabi history, and below are listed some books with more details. The stories of the white settlers are recorded in many books and memoirs available from local libraries and historical associations.
Another way to learn about the area is to look at the objects from the first contact times and see what information is recorded. This tells more of a story for what doesn’t exist and how little knowledge was recorded about the culture and practices, including plant use and every day living of the traditional ways of the land. There are photos in the historical collections that can be accessed online. Records and examples of Fibre work and every day objects are rare in any of the Major and local collections, partly because the first contact objects are mostly in OS Collections. The Qld Museum began in 1830’s but wasn’t collecting indigenous articles until the 1900’s.
There are videos now of contemporary stories of relearning knowledge ‘The Julara Project’ which tells the story of learning about netting and canoes. Learning how to read the landscape can also give insight into the history of the area, finding the ‘trees of significance’ and grandmother trees in your area, to get to know and understand where you live. Also learning language and names of plants, connecting to the cycles and finding out what is safe to eat, to add to your daily diets.
Links and More Information:
A History of the Cherbourg Settlement – A Dumping Ground by Thom Blake
The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage
The Queensland Aborigines by W.E. Roth
In the Tracks of a Rainbow – Indigenous Culture and Legends of the Sunshine Coast by Robin A Wells
Tales of a Warrior – The Clans of Kgippandingi by John and James Green
Reconciliation Shared History, Subscribe to http://www.rqi.org.au/event/our-shared-history-seminar/
Mobile App “Yagembah” has 6 of the South East Qld Languages
The Julara Project https://youtu.be/DEjeKWxPKBo
Buderim – an Indigenous and South Sea Islander History https://youtu.be/Q6EKKe71OkQ
Dream time stories of Cotton Tree http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/05/26/3228092.htm
Wild Food Plants of Australia – Tim Low
Noosa’s Native Plants by Stephanie Haslam