Our Goombungee-based Landcare Group hosted this day as an environmental education themed experience for its members and other guests, including the TFNC. At 10.00am, 29 people assembled at Gumminguru (means “the men of the Condamine”), a little off Old Homebush Road at Cawdor. We had morning-tea, then a talk by Conrad Bauwens, the caretaker, who is a Wakka Wakka man with family links through his mother’s line to this Jarowair land. The Jarowair are a sub-group of the Wakka Wakka nation.
Conrad showed us artefacts (boomerangs, spears, spear tips, core stones, scrapers, different coloured ochres, etc.) all sourced reasonably locally, and also some items that were acquired from elsewhere, but to illustrate the significance of Aboriginal trade routes across Australia. I was impressed with an elaborately hafted axe, with a distinctive flat blade that he’d acquired from New Guinea. Then he produced another blade of the same material that had been traded into Central Australia long ago. Outside, there were four trunks of “scar trees” which had been bull-dozed during work on the Second Range Crossing. These are to be re-erected here at Gumminguru as a different realia display.
Conrad invited Jean to speak on her family’s involvement since the 1960’s process of investigating and understanding the cultural significance of this site by the Queensland Museum. This land was part of the farm that Jean grew up on. Alfred Walker, in 1882, was the first “selector” of the farm containing this stone arrangement site. He built his home on the ridge 300 metres to the west. He reported on the campfires and ceremonies still happening until late in the C19th. Harry Darlow, Conrad’s maternal-line forebear, must have been amongst the last to have been initiated here and was an old man in the Toowoomba area in the late 1960s. The second generation of Walkers sold their farm to Jean’s Dad, Ben Gilbert, in 1948.
In the 1950s, Errol Beutel would visit to collect stone tools in the ploughed fields after rain events and he suggested the site might have significance. (Errol had a private museum in Mary Street in Toowoomba called
“Jedda”, after Charles Chauvel’s 1955 film of the same name.) In the early ‘60s, Queensland Museum staff mapped the stone arrangements. Anthropologists and Aboriginal visitors were able to piece together that this is a men’s ceremonial site depicting Creation folklore and initiation significance.
Conrad led the group amongst the stone arrangements depicting a kangaroo totem to the west, a turtle totem to the east, a bunya nut shape pointing to the Bunya Mountains, where every three years there was a season of plenty and tribes gathered from far and wide for cultural purposes and the settling of grievances in ritual ways, which might avoid full scale conflict. Central to this site is the winding Creation pathways of the Rain-bow Serpent with its representations of “increase” sites as ancestors and fauna were created to occupy the lands. [I have always been drawn to the turtle arrangement, which has remained intact so perfectly. The head stone is such a wonderful representation for its purpose.]
We thanked Conrad for his time, expertise and humour, then moved on to Peacehaven Park for a sausage sizzle and lunch before our guided walk around selected trees and their relevance to Aboriginal diet and medicinal uses. This was led by Paul Carmody, who has Bundjalung heritage (North Coast NSW) and Jane Orme – who are both teachers at the Amaroo Environmental Education Centre at Kleinton.
About 15 Field Nats enjoyed either all or a part of this day, as did a few other non-Landcare neighbours and community members. Jean and I would like to thank Toni Gorry, our Landcare secretary, who pulled these elements together while we were away, and Andrew Gorry, the chief “sizzler”. This was a most appropriate experience in this week of “Reconciliation”, where schools and communities across Australia honour the indigenous heritage of our lands.
|At Gumminguru (photo by Jean Gundry)|
FOOTNOTE: For this occasion, Jean wore a shirt called “Manme” (bushfoods) which was designed and printed by Injalak Arts – a group of Aboriginal artists from Gunbalanya, Western Arnhem Land. The design includes two tubers - “long yam”, Dioscorea transversa and “cheeky yam”, Dioscorea bulbifora, along with “black plum”, Persoonia falcata, “peanut tree”, Ster-culia quadrifida and a medicinal fruit, the “cheesefruit tree”, Morinda citrifolia. The garments are manufactured in Australia by a fledgling company called “Magpie Goose” (https://magpiegoose.com/) whose mission is to create economic empowerment for people living in remote communities. In their own words, “it has become a conduit for people to connect with Aboriginal culture”. Similarly, Gumminguru continues to be a special place where people of all backgrounds come to share, learn about and celebrate Aboriginal culture.
(Report by Ben and Jean Gundry)