Aspects of the indigenous History of Western Brisbane Suburbs Ray Kerkhove, PhD A hilly and jungled riverside The western suburbs cover the hilly mid-section of the Brisbane River valley, well- watered by creeks, gullies, waterholes and small lagoons. It once comprised many pockets of ‘scrub’ (vine forest and rainforest with some emergent hoop pine) 1; grassy open and closed woodland (especially on the hills) and the occasional swamp. The river, especially where creeks emptied into its bends such as at Indooroopilly, was rich in fish, prawns and other foods harvested by Aboriginals. Robert Coren recalled: It provided a wonderful variety of seafood from mud crabs and prawns to bream, mullet, flathead, whiting, gar and perch. Not many people realised that prawn boats worked the river every night….loads of jewfish and perch could be caught with very little effort… One of the most prolific prawning areas was Witton Creek....Just opposite Morrows’ Biscuit Factory, later Arnott’s, in Coronation Drive, was another school jewfish hole. I remember the fish just leaping out of the water...2 The vine forest patches included Toowong, St Lucia, Long Pocket, Moggill, Prior’s Pocket, Fig Tree Pocket, Kenmore Park,3 Pullenvale and Mt Crosby.4 Aboriginals were recorded camping along the creeks and river reaches next to rather than within the ‘scrubs’,5 but valued the pockets for hunting and gathering. Some of the earliest references we have describe Aboriginals “stalking through the scrub” in Toowong and St Lucia6 - armed with sticks for killing snakes7 or otherwise “scrub hunting… with dozens of yelping dogs” 8 around Kenmore and Moggill – probably driving out wallabies and pademelons. Apart from macropods, the ‘scrubs’ offered a broad harvest of fruits (e.g. lilly-pilly, native quince, figs), nuts (e.g. macadamia, lots of black bean9), native mice (bush rats),10 scrub turkeys, bird eggs, pigeons, ducks, parrots, fibres and adhesives (e.g. hoop pine sap). Further resources were provided by the open woodlands, where wallaby, possum, goanna, kangaroo, carpet snake, bandicoot and useful timbers were harvested, especially ironbark – valued for making spears and clubs. 11 Tree- climbing for honey or silky oak nectar was observed in the western suburbs. Clusters of ceremonial sites A distinguishing feature of the western suburbs was its many ceremonial sites: over 14 boras (earthen rings used or initiation), dance circles and pullen-pullen (tournament grounds, where initiates were tested). Why so many? The region had many micro-environments and ecotones- areas where different environments meet. This diversity meant more, and greater variety, of animals and plants. Aboriginal people considered this spiritually significant. They honoured such areas with ritual areas, to celebrate, maintain and increase the natural abundance. For example, there were apparently rain-making sites at gullies and lagoons, such as the ‘leech gully’ to the west of Indooroopilly Bridge. Aboriginal ‘Health resorts’ Taringa’s railway bridge camp was remembered as a “sort of a health retreat.”12 This probably related to the natural springs here, and its proximity to the tournament grounds. The Tallegalla tournament grounds west of Ipswich had a similar ‘health’ resort adjacent – where wounds were treated with herbs and clays. 13 Quite a few spots in the western suburbs were reputed to have this function. For example, Fig Tree Pocket had a lagoon with medicinal properties: The lagoon had an aboriginal name which signified 'The abode of good spirits.' The full-fed tribes of the vicinity were apparently convinced of the benign influence prevailing.14 In the following account from 1870, this ‘Aboriginal health resort’ status was attributed to the entire Moggill district – the ‘good health’ being related to the availability of a broader range of food resources: The late Tom Warry…told the writer… that "Moggill" … was used at a sanatorium, the sick resorting thither to obtain that health, by its salubrious and invigorating atmosphere… on account of the supply of fish and other articles of diet not so plentiful further inland. …In my intercourse with the darkies I have only met one who was a thorough-going son of temperance… and he was a Moggillite. 15 Tournament memories of the famous Dundalli Pullenvale draws its name from the former tournament ground at Pullen Pullen Creek. This (to judge from artefacts in the vicinity) may have been near or at the current Pullenvale State School site. Here: …a thousand aboriginals once faced each other in bloody combat… at Pullen Pullen Creek, the spot where in olden days the rival tribes of Ipswich and Brisbane blacks used to settle their disputes, the name indicating the battle ground.16 There was another major pullen-pullen on open flats somewhere between Taringa and Indooroopilly. 17 These pullen-pullen were large flattened fields between ridges, where hundreds of warriors from diverse groups would engage in formalized battle – usually with few casualties – to settle disputes and showcase fighting skills. Some contained palisaded rings for one-on-one fights. Dundalli (c. 1825 – 1855), a famous resistance leader, is known to have been involved in a major tournament between Ipswich and Moreton Bay groups at Taringa fighting ground. .18 Dundalli was outlawed by the Colonial authorities, and seems to have stayed at least once at the Upper Brookfield camp, where “the late Mr. P. Pacey, felt Dundalli's hot breath on his cheek one night, but a bulldog saved the situation.”19 Border country This area formed a border between groups from the hills and mountains and those of the Brisbane River valley. The many ceremonial and tournament sites may relate to ‘border country’ status. Archaeologist Michael Strong has found that SE Queensland Aboriginal borders often possessed many bora and tournament grounds. This arrangement presumably asserted ownership, facilitated transmission of Dreaming lore along the borders, and permitted disputes to be settled close to contestants’ territories.20 Scrubs of Toowong and St Lucia were the usual post-bora hunting ground for groups from the Ipswich, Scar tree by bus stop, Moorland Park camp Brisbane and the Wivenhoe areas. 21 Perilous pathways The western suburbs formed an Aboriginal route – a set of ‘bridle tracks’ 22- linking D’Aguilar Ranges to the river, and the lower Brisbane to the upper Brisbane valley. Pathways included Moggill Road, Swann Road23 and Bielby Road.24 Settlers inherited and developed these into our modern roads. Aboriginal groups regularly traversed these routes on seasonal rounds – for instance, descending down the Mt Coo-tha area along Whitton Creek to fish and hunt near the Walter Taylor Bridge.25 Indeed, Indigenous history played out along these pathways. As late as 1868, the roads were viewed as dangerous tracks running through “forest primeval”: ….the use of these proclaimed thoroughfares was not altogether unattended with the chance of taking home an aboriginal souvenir, in the form of a native spear-head in one's bread-basket.26 Such fears were well-grounded. Local Aboriginals wanted the areas for their own use. The dense scrubs were perfect for hiding and attacking. In 1849, 15-year old Robert Hardgrave was tailing cattle at Moggill Pocket when attacked by ‘Black Harry,’ who stole his horse and fled to the ranges.27 In 1851, an Aboriginal party halted a man driving sheep from Mr McGrath’s station near Moggill Creek and extracted one of the flock. Three days later, Mr Hudson was walking in from Moggill Creek when 40 to 50 Aboriginals sprang from the scrub and robbed him of “a few shillings of silver.”28 The police in this case were called to apprehend suspects, but these all escaped. Their only captive (handcuffed to a tree) wriggled out of his fetters.29 A decade later (1865) - a widow, Dorothy Brownscome - claimed an Aboriginal horseman, Stephen Mullens, assaulted and tried to rob her on Moggill Road west of Toowong. . What actually occurred is unclear. The horseman was annoyed that she rejected his offers to escort her along the road, but he pleaded innocence to the assault.30 Camping grounds of the western suburbs Much as the white community had its villages, the Indigenous community had set camping grounds. These were seasonally returned to and used for centuries or even thousands of years, unless environmental changes halted continued use. Some camping grounds were quite large and persisted well into the historic era. A good example is the thousand year old ‘Prickly Bush’ site 31 which continued into the 1880s. There are a dozen camps described by western suburbs pioneers: 1. Head of Moggill Creek - Patrick Pacey’s paddock (now Upper Brookfield Primary School)32 2. Towards Mt Elphinstone/ Helsey (McMullen Road), Brookfield33 3. North-east corner of University of Queensland campus towards Moggill Creek, Pinjarra Hills34 4. End of Lathar Road towards Pullen Pullen Creek, Bellbowrie 5. Opposite the Brisbane/ Bremer junction (off Hawkesbury Road) Moggill 6. Joseph Brady Park area (Brisbane/ Bremer junction), Barellan Point 7. ‘Old Camp’ near Pullen Pullen Creek - probably between Airlie and Grandview Roads, Pullenvale35 8. Kenmore Plaza (Kenmore Tavern) area 9. Within what is now Moore Park (Indooroopilly)36 10. On the ridge between Moggill Road and the Taringa Railway Bridge, towards the foot of Mt Coot-tha.37 11. Along Sandy (now Anderson) Creek in the Indooroopilly (now St Lucia) Golf Course.38 12. Between Moorlands Park - west side of Wesley Hospital39 - out as far as Dunmore Park, Towong/ Milton. Homesteads had an uneasy and wary co-existence with the camps. When Frances Henry’s ancestor in Fig Tree Pocket gave a bucket to an Aboriginal to collect honey, “friends laughed at him for being so naive,” but the bucket “was returned as promised, filled with wild honey.”40 Once around 1859, Mary Wright (nee Shield) was left alone on the farm at Brookfield. She was shocked when some 100 Aboriginals decided to camp near her house. We know the next door area (Pacey’s) was the usual camping ground, but for some reason they were unable to stay there. Despite Mrs Wright’s fears, when the group later packed to leave the headman – to her surprise - came over and cut and piled the farm’s corn stalks as a thank you, bidding Mary Wright a polite goodbye.41 20th Century: Servants and Kindergarten As elsewhere around Brisbane, the 1890s-1910s saw remnants of Aboriginal groups removed to reserves such as Deebing Creek and Cherbourg. Nevertheless, quite a few Aboriginals were thereafter employed in the area as domestic servants. Between 1911 and 1914, these included George Shaw, Elsie Bramble, Dinah Cunway, Nellie Spears,42 Ida Davis43 and Sam Silver.44 In more recent times, Brisbane’s first Aboriginal kindergarten – Yelangi – was opened in 1977 in Indooroopilly by Pastor Don Brady – a respected Indigenous minister and activist.45 1 Ian Cameron, 1999, A Green and Pleasant Land Kenmore: Ian Cameron, p 15. 2 Robert C. Coren, 1991, From Riches to Rags and the Fight Back Springwood: Robert Coren, p 45. 3 Jean Stewart, 1994, Kenmore Park Kenmore: J & D Stewart, p.1-2. 4 Mount Crosby: A Picturesque Hill District,The Brisbane Courier, 28 December 1929 p 9. 5 Ibid. 6 A Station Homestead Celebrates Its Centenary in the Heart of Brisbane, The Courier-Mail, 20 March 1954 p 2. 7 ‘Historic School to be Removed,’The Courier-Mail 26 Jan 1936, p 10. 8 Mr E. J. Hayes Retiring after 45 Years in Sales, Queensland Times (Ipswich), 31 March 1947 p 7. 9 A Ramble in Brookfield, The Queenslander 14 October 1893 p 746. 10 Coren, op.cit., p 22 11 Arthur Benn Palmer, 2003, ‘Aboriginal People of Toowong,’ Susan Leggett & Roslyn Grant, Toowong – A Community History Toowong n/p, pp. 2-3. 12 Junior Award – the Suburb of Taringa, Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 12 February 1933 p 22. 13 Aborigines at Tallegalla, Aborigines’ Folder, Rosewood Scrub Museum, No 9. 14 Diamond Jubilee of Fig Tree Pocket School, Sunday Mail, 30 August 1931 p 20 15 How Moggill Got Its Name, The Queenslander 2 July 1870 p 2 16 Our Water Supply – Visit to Mount Crosby. The Brisbane Courier 19 March 1902 p 11 17 The Early Days - When Creek Street Was a Creek – Pioneer’s Memories, Brisbane Courier 9 Jan 1933 p 10. It possibly ran from Indooroopilly High School to the current Indooroopilly Shopping Town. 18 Ibid. 19 Old Memories Diamond Jubilee: Brookfield State School Original Pupils Present The Telegraph, 12 December 1932 p 2. 20 Michael Strong, personal communication, June 2015. 21 Constance C Petrie, ‘Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences, The Queenslander, 12 July 1902, p.14. 22 The Pellatts of Brookfield,The Queenslander 30 July 1921 p 36. 23 Junior Award – The Suburb of Taringa, op.cit., p.22 24 Pat Dryden, 2014, On Bielby Road Chapel Hill: Pat Dryden, p.37. 25 Doreen Woolard, 2005, ‘Moore Park,’ in Robin Trotter, ed, Indooroopilly & District Historical Society – History Papers & History Notes,2002-2003 Indooroopilly: Indooroopilly Historical Society p.39. 26 Our Own Reading Institute,The Queenslander Saturday 10 October 1868, p 6. 27 Two Old Pioneers. The Brisbane Courier, 22 January 1927 p 11 28 Depredations by the Blacks: Colonial News – Moreton Bay, Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal 13 Dec 1851 p2. 29 Henry Clarkson & Dawn Langford, 1985, Tell the Next Generation Spring Hill: Boolarong, p.6; Depredations by the Blacks, op.cit., p.2. 30 Murderous Assault, The Brisbane Courier 7 July 1865 p 2. 31 Hall, H.J., Love, W.R.F., 1985 Prickly Bush, a site with backed blades on the Brisbane River: a pilot study towards the measurement of site 'disturbance', Queensland Archaeological Research Vol 2, pp 71-81. 32 See Brisbane Courier 20 June 1924 p 16; William Clark, Sketcher – The Aborigines: Their Manners and Customs, The Queenslander 16 September 1916 p. 8; Indooroopilly Veterans – Old Days Recalled, Courier Mail 30 Jan 1940 p 17 33 Libby Wager, 1988, Mud Maps of Moggill Pullenvale: Pullenvale Field Study Centre/ Lavina Wager, n/p. 34 Ibid. 35 Death of a Pioneer, Courier Mail, 12 March 1927 36 Doreen Woolard, op.cit, p.39. 37 Local Intelligence The Courier 9 Feb 1863 p 2 38 'Historic School to be Removed,' Courier Mail, 25 January 1936 p. 10 39 John Pearn, Auchenflower – The Suburb and the Name Amphoior 1997, 14; John Steele, The Explorers of Moreton Bay, p 67 40 Clarkson & Langford, op.cit., p. 6. 41 Mary Ann Wright, 1918 in Clarkson & Langford, op.cit, p.6. 42 QAN Vo.115 (1914) – Queensland State Archives; CPA Inswards Correspondence registers\59001 1918\Applications to Emply (1918/3667) 43 QAN Vol. 58; CPA Inwards Correspondence registers\58996 1911_1913\Removals (1912\395); QSA Transcripts COL/Sec/ HOMJ1 44Cat to Pieces. Black Boy on Railway. Early on Christmas Eve, The Week (Brisbane) 29 December 1911, p 21. 45 Michael Aird, 2001, Brisbane Blacks Southport: Keeaira Press, p.77.