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Traditional Owners

Indigenous rock paintingAboriginal presence in the Burnett-Dawson region has been recorded at least 20,000 years.  Sites reflecting occupation include'artefact scatters, quarries, ceremonial places, pathways and special places'.  Aboriginal pathways were regularly used and maintained with fire and it is suggested that early explorers and settlers entered the country by established Aboriginal pathways that followed the boundaries of tribal alnds, major rivers and direct tracks through country to popular meeting places.

Many tribes occupied the region, the Wakka Wakka, who were spread throughout the North Burnett; the Darielbelum and the Dundubara around Biggenden, the Djaku-nde/Jangarie Jangerie, west of Munbubbera, the gooreng Gooreng in Monto the Wulli Wulli bordering on the north west of the region and other claimants are emerging such as the Gurang and the Taribelang Bunda Peoples.

Ban Ban Springs, located at the junction of the Burnett and Isis Highways, was a meeting place for the Wakka Wakka and other tribes.  Just south of the junction are the springs, a dreaming place the Wakka Wakka people associated with the Rainbow Serpent, believed to have originated there.  It is also the first location in Queensland to have been formally registered as an Aboriginal cultural heritage place.

The Burnett River was a pathway to the Bunya Mountains, a gathering place for the Bunya Festival, held every three years when the Bunya trees fruited.  Thousands of people from many tribes gathered there during this time.  Feuds were set awside and crucial business took place around alliances and discussions of rights and obligations, allowing people movement between territories.  Festivals included ceremonial activities, learning and exchanging stories; and items were swapped, such as 'weapons, possum skin rugs, nets, dilly bags, shells and necklaces.'

As the region opened up with new settlers arriving, homesteads were placed on favoured waterholes and Aboriginal people were forced away from the waterways and life and the landscape soon changed.  By 1848, the Aboriginal inhabitants were in open warfare with the settlers.  Hostility was widespread and peaked with the Hornet Bank Massacre in 1857, when 14 settlers were killed.  The reaction to the attacks was excessive.  It is estimated that between 150 to 300 Aboriginal people were killed.  The perptrators never prosecuted.

The Native Mounted Police were renowned to be ruthless to local Aboriginal people, as recruits were enlisted from enemy tribes; it is suggested their violence was the crucial factor in the eventual destruction of Aboriginal resistance.  This effectively ended traditional life as groups were forced into one another's territory and many displaced from their home country.

The first Aboriginal reserve was established in 1873 near Mackay and additional reserves and missions established over the next 30 years throughout Queensland.  The resulting legacy from the removal of Aboriginal people to missions and the accompanying loss of control of their destiny and the treatement they received, lingers today.

The North Burnett is a rich resource of Aboriginal cultural heritage and history.  More information is gradually becoming available through archaeologists studying well known sites, such as Ban Ban Springs and Cania Gorge; and through consultants hired by mining companies and government as an abligatory requirement to assess land they intend to disturb.  Established landowners may also have Aboriginal artefacts discovered on their property and other items and knowledge handed down through the generations.  Other documents are housed in the John Oxley Library in Brisbane.

A New DirectionAlthough the Wakka Wakka are recognised as the dominant tribal group in the North Burnett region, different Aboriginal boundary lines intercept the area.  In Eidsvold, the Wakka Wakka, have established a respectful and transparent process when asked to inspect any new country by private enterprise or government and invite a representative of the Wulli Wulli or the Gooreng People as a 'monitor'.  The monitor is requested to attend if there is a possibility that their tribe may have some cultural affiliation with the same country.

Source: Creating Links 2010