Bauple Museum & District  Historical Society Inc.

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Imagine Bauple, a mountain-backed rural district in Queensland, roughly half way between Gympie and
Maryborough, as it was before the advent of European settlement.

See, in the mind's eye, towering Hoop and Kauri pines raising their heads along the backbone of Bauple Mountain range. Below these sentinels stretch unbroken expanses of dense forest land - almost impenetrable in places, - trees festooned with vines, staghoms, elkhoms and orchids. There is an abundance of majestic trees - Flindersia, Crowsfoot Elm, Leichhardt Bean, Scrub Ironbark, Strangler Fig, the beautiful flowering Barklya Syringifolia and, of course, the Macadamia or Bopple Nut.

A multitude of birds - Bower Birds, Catbirds, Pigeons of many varieties, Whipbirds, Kookaburras - chorus overhead and flash their brilliant plumage through the canopy. The forest floor teems with animal and insect life, - goannas, lizards, snakes, leeches, ticks, many species of ants of various sizes and colours, scrub turkeys, dingoes, bandicoots, wallabies and echidnas.

And, see also, living in close harmony with this natural abundance, the Badjala people, - the Aboriginal inhabitants of the region.

What little we know of the Aboriginal culture of the Bauple region we owe to limited records of a few escaped convicts, early explorers and settlers, and to what has survived of the Aborigines' oral history traditions. We can now only surmise about much of the detail of the Badjala people's particular relationship with the land around Bauple Mountain.

H. S. Russell, who accompanied Andrew Petrie on the first European expedition to the region in 1842, noted:

They are marvelously observant of every object in nature, more particularly those connected with their own peculiar hunting grounds. ...I never found them hesitate in attaching a distinguishing name to every tree, shrub, grass, flower, bird, beast or even insect'.

Aboriginal Tribes of the Bauple Region

We are indebted to ethnographers such as Tindale, Watson, Armitage and Steele for their research into the 'tribes' that inhabited the area. Steele admits that attempts to draw tribal boundaries have had mixed success. Watson records that there were no major linguistic differences between all the clan groups from the Moreton Bay area north to Fraser Island — this language being called variously `Kabi' and `Dippil'. His conclusion was, therefore, that these clan groups were part of the greater Kabi-Kabi nation.' Yet other records indicate that Kabi territory stretched from the northern Maroochy area as far north as Gootchie. There seems to be general agreement, however, that the Badjala [Butchalla] people occupied the country extending south from Maryborough through the Bauple area to about Gootchie, at which point the lands of the Kabi and Dulingbara began. West of Gootchie were the Dowarbarra, who occupied the western side of Bauple Mountain.'

The Significance of Bauple Mountain


Bauple Mountain, on the Badjala—Dowarbara border was an important site both culturally and industrially to the Badjala people. Not only was it a place where stone was worked into axes and spearheads; it was also steeped in legends and taboos.9 According to F. J. Watson, the name, ‘Bauple’, (variously spelt by Europeans as Boopal, Boppil, Bahpol, Bopple, Bahpal and Bahpool), derived from the name of the frilled
lizard, bau ’pval (Clamydosaurus kingii) and alluded to a legendary demon, in lizard form, that haunted the Mountain and prevented anyone from climbing to the summit.10 Watson added: ‘It may be mentioned that the lizard in question, when at bay, opens its mouth and expands an immense frill at its neck, giving it a most ferocious appearance, although it is really quite harmless. To make its appearance more weird, when
in fear it runs on its hind feet only, with open mouth and expanded frill’.


The Mountain was also, according to Aboriginal legend, the home of a Melong, an evil spirit in the human form of an ‘old blackfellow’ who was a burain (madman). He was said to live in a cave and was the owner of the stones on the mountain. Steele records the following legend:


A man named Mooging, meaning stone tomahawk (Muguim), had made many tomahawks and spearheads to trade at the bunya festival. An ibis man and his four wives camped with Mooging, then stole the stone implements and headed for Urangan en route to their home on Fraser Island. Mooging thought the melong had taken the goods, so he went to the melong’s cave. taking a bag of honey as a present. He apologised for
using the stones without permission, and asked for some more, but the melong laughed and invited Mooging to watch his magic fire. In the smoke they saw the ibis man and his wives, and the stolen goods in their dilly-bags.

The sequel to this part of the story was that,


When the ibis man reached Maryborough, the god Yindingie intervened; he made the ibis women empty out their dilly-bags. and the stolen tomahawks fell into the river. Yindingie used his powerful magic to create Baddow Island from the tomahawks, and to turn the ibis people into birds.


Aboriginal Lifestyle and Customs


Badjala territory encompassed the central third of Fraser Island as well as the land now covered by Maryborough, Hervey Bay, the Tuan forestry plantation and virtually all of the Cooloola sand mass. Seasonally, Fraser Island was populated during the winter months when seafood was plentiful, the people returning to their mainland hunting grounds in summer.


Accounts given by escaped convicts ‘Duramboi’ Davis and Bracefleld and also by early explorers Andrew and Tom Petrie indicate that the Aborigines of the region travelled even further afield than Fraser Island. They regularly attended the three-yearly bunya feasts in the Blackall ranges west of Nambour. Tribal boundaries were waived to enable guest groups to travel and camp near the pines for periods of two to three
months. These festivals promoted an unusual degree of communication and exchange between the coastal and inland groups.16 John Archer and Ludwig Leichhardt visited the Blackall Range bunya festival in 1843. They noted tribes from as far west as Dalby, from the coastlands and offshore islands, from the Brisbane area and Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, from the Mary River and Wide Bay Districts and from the New England plateau.l7 Clan taboos concerning intermarriage meant that Badjala Aborigines would have had relatives by marriage in many of these other tribes.


Inextricably linked with interaction in Aboriginal society are the themes of violence and warfare. Even the bunya festivals traditionally ended with fighting. Tom Petrie commented: ‘They always ended up with a big fight, and at least one combatant was sure to be killed. People speak of the great numbers killed in fights, but after all they were but few, though wounds and big ones too, were plentiful enough’.


Several early chroniclers have given accounts of Aboriginal battles in the district. Eugene Rudder vividly described a corroboree (very reminiscent of a medieval tournament) near Maryborough in the l850s involving 150 warriors. which ended in a duel:


Suddenly a really fine-looking man, hideously painted, dashed a spear at a Maryborough warrior. The precision and strength with which that spear was thrown was something to remember. We watched it go straight at the Maryboroughite, who received it cleverly on his shield, and with a sudden, almost imperceptible, twist of the shield. broke it off, leaving the point buried in the shield. As quick as thought he then hurled a spear at his opponent... who watched its direction for an instant and then slipped on one side to avoid it. This was the signal for general action, and with a wild ringing whoop, a flight of spears went hurling through the air from all sides.  As soon as the men in the first rank had discharged their weapons.
they returned backwards, not in a body, but irregularly, and their places were taken by men from the second and third ranks. While this was going on, and during the hottest part of the engagement. we observed three or four men, unarmed, coolly walking backwards and forwards a few paces in front of each line of fighting men. engaged in collecting the spears and other weapons lying on the ground. and taking them to the rear. The
fight was halted abruptly when a young warrior slipped on the wet ground, and as he rose up a spear passed through his cheek. The women removed the spear, and the wounded man chased and wrestled with his attacker; they cut each other with knives until honour was satisfied.


A similar event was documented in the Maryborough Chronicle in 1894:


Hostilities commenced about 3pm and did not cease until near sundown when the King of Fraser Island was laid low by a spear right through his abdomen. About a dozen other warriors were killed on both sides but the allies were completely routed. They appeared to be crest fallen and did not offer the least resistance when a Bopple Chief rushed out to claim the young Princess, daughter of the fallen Monarch or whilst, as
afterwards happened, they carried her away in triumph.


Watson also recalled a ‘kinbumbe’ (a fight about a woman) held at Mungar in 1880; he commented:


Such fights were conducted under a certain code. Among other rules was that which prohibited the intentional hitting of an adversary on the shoulders or breast so that the identification scars thereon should be defaced. Another was that no man should be attacked unaware. Violation of this code was punishment by death at the hands of the onlookers.


The violent and warlike nature of Aboriginal society has, perhaps, been over-emphasised. ‘Rather than inter-tribal violence, in Queensland as elsewhere on the continent, it is the Aborigines’ achievement of a balanced relationship with the land and the flora and fauna that deserves to be stressed.  The Aborigines of Queensland had made a remarkable adaptation to what was often to be for the European a harsh and forbidding environment.’.


The Fate of the Aborigines of the Bauple Region


What happened to the Badjala people of the Bauple region?

Edward Armitage, who arrived in Maryborough in 1861, commented:

Maryborough’s population was said to be 2,000 but I think that must have included the district, where there
were two or three hundred people, comprising timber-getters, a few pioneer farmers. some carriers and
station men. It was estimated that the still wild and dangerous blacks in the neighbourhood were just about
equal in number to the whites. The town population is now [in 1926] 12,000 and with the district included.
over 20000, but the native blacks surviving can be counted on the fingers.


In 1876 there were still Aborigines living at Tiaro - and, we must assume, around Bauple. George Mills arrived in Tiaro that year to work as a farm hand, and later he described the funeral of a King of the ‘Neerdie’ tribe, presumably from Mount Neerdie near Mount Kanigan.26 And F. J. Watson, who arrived at Mungar as a boy in 1876, tells ofa Ginginburra man he met soon after arriving:


The man was stark naked except that he wore a belt and a scanty loincloth of fur. He was probably under twenty-five years of age. His face was typical of the Aborigine, though by no means repulsive. He was bearded, but the beard was neither long nor heavy. His shoulders were comparatively broad, his arms well formed. although the biceps were not over developed; his hips were narrow, the thighs well developed, but his legs tapered very much downward from his knees. His hands were slender. as also were his feet, the fore parts of which, however, were somewhat splayed, as is usual with those who go bare footed. His mien was, generally, of innate dignity. His bearing was common to quite a number of the natives at that time. I recollect my mother remarking of a black woman who called at our home for some purpose, and was departing there from. “Look at that woman, she walks and carries her head like a queen”.


Less than thirty years later, Constance Campbell Petrie, transcribing her father, Tom Petrie’s,
reminiscences of his experiences growing up with the Aborigines in early Queensland, succinctly
summarised their fate:


Most people speak and think of the aborigines as a lazy, dirty, useless, unreliable lot. But, as I have tried to show, it is unfair to pass judgment upon them because of what they appear to be now. They were not always so, and the white man is accountable for their deterioration. He taught them to drink and to smoke, and to feel that it was not worth calling up sufficient energy to make a canoe, a vessel for water, or even a hut to sleep in.  And so they went down and down, travelling on the path which led to laziness, disease and degradation. Poor souls! They did not teach their children to do as they had done, and the children never really knew what the old life had been. How different a native was in the old times! He was full of manly vigour and energy, his life was a joy to him, and the search for his food one long pastime. It is useless to think that we can ever blot out the injury we have done by mission schools and unnatural teaching.


During the 1860s when the white population of the Bauple region was low, the Aborigines would still have been able to live in their traditional manner and find sufficient food. Timber-getters were the first European settlers to venture into the district; and timber-getters did not fence off land or try to restrict the Badjala people from accessing their traditional hunting grounds. But with the subsequent influx of settlers
intent on farming, the fencing and clearing of land spelt the demise of Aboriginal culture and lifestyle. C. D. Rowley likened European settlement to ‘a vortex, capable of exerting destructive pressures over large areas. Taking land from one clan would force it to move out from the point of white settlement or else adapt to European enterprise. If the former happened there would be trouble with other clans; if the latter, it would probably die out’.


Ross Fitzgerald notes that ‘some whites reached a working agreement with local tribes on the use of the land and its resources [but] they were rare exceptions. For the great majority, the Aborigine was just another obstacle or pest to be overcome on the pathway to economic success. Faced with the grim prospect of starvation or warfare, many tribes turned to the intruders’ herds to replenish food supplies’.


In response to Aboriginal attacks on stock and settlers, the colonial government established the Native Police force in 1848 to ‘pacify’ the frontier by ‘dispersing’ the Aborigines. The local barracks for the Bauple-Tiaro district’s Native Police force, under the command of Lieutenant Bligh, was at Owanyilla. ‘For much of its existence, the Native Police force was an officially sanctioned revenge and protection squad, responsible for some of the most bloody massacres in Australian history?“ A massacre of Fraser Island Aborigines in 1851 elicited condemnation in a Moreton Bay Courier report, which claimed that ‘rumours are afloat that the natives were driven into the sea and kept there as long as daylight or life
lasted’.32 When, in 1861, Lieutenant Bligh’s troopers shot Maryborough Aborigines in the street, a committee of inquiry was set up to investigate complaints of brutality and drunkenness on the part of the Native Police.


Generally speaking, however, white intrusion was supported and justified by nineteenth century theories extolling material progress, European colonising virtues and Social Darwinism, as expressed by a correspondent to the Queenslander on 8 May 1880:


He [the native of Australia] never seeks to improve land or those who will come afier him. This justifies ourpresence here: this is the only plea we have in justification of it and, having once admitted it, we
must go the whole length, and say that the sooner we clear the weak useless race away the better.


Within a very short time, Queensland’s racial policy and practices drew criticism from the powerful Aborigines Protection Society in Britain. Archibald Meston, the first appointed Protector of Queensland Aborigines, advocated a new policy of segregation with strong controls over Aboriginal reserves. In February 1897, Meston impressed upon British Home Secretary Tozer ‘the very urgent necessity of
transferring all Maryborough blacks to the closed reserve of Fraser Island’.34 His ultimate aim was to ‘muster’ all Aborigines from the southern Queensland mainland and ‘deport’ them to Balarrgan on Fraser Island. (Maryborough residents later succeeded in having the Aborigines shified to Bogimbah Creek on the Island.)

Including an initial removal of fifty-one Aborigines from Maryborough to Fraser Island before the Aboriginal Protection Act became law in 1897, Meston had, by the end of 1902, shified 410 natives from fifty-three centres in South Eastern and Western Queensland into four main reserve areas. The largest group of 21 6 were sent to Bogimbah Creek on Fraser Island. As early as April 1898, there were representatives of at least ten different tribes at that particular settlement.

Overcrowding, amalgamation of Aborigines of differing linguistic groups and tribal identities, malnutrition, diseases (including influenza and venereal disease) and drugs (including opium and alcohol) introduced by Europeans, all resulted in an extremely high mortality rate. Within the seven years of Bogimah’s existence as an Aboriginal reserve, fifty-six Aborigines were buried in one cemetery and thirty-eight in another,
an estimated forty-three percent of the total population!


Meston’s recommendations were in part incorporated into the Queensland Govemment’s Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act passed in December 1897. This legislation established six large, self-sufficient, closed reserves and ten small ones. Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve near Murgon was established on Barambah Station and it was to this reserve that the Kabi, Wakka, Badjala and other
tribes were taken.37 When Anglican missionaries who had taken over Meston’s control of the Bogimbah settlement on Fraser Island in 1900, abandoned it in 1904, most of the surviving Aborigines were marched first to Woodford and later to Cherbourg. The deportation of “Fraser Island” Aborigines continued until the 19305, when ‘Banjo” Henry Owens was the last known Badjala to be sent to Cherbourg under police escort - for no criminal offence.


With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can look back on this shameful chapter of Queensland’s history and see, in those early days of European settlement in the Bauple district, two very different cultures fighting for two conflicting views of survival in one land — both convinced at that time of the validity of their actions and the justness of their causes.




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