Aboriginal history

(Extract from: Ros Leslie, UNESCO Mimburi Biosphere Proposal: draft nomination, 2008)

Aboriginal land management over the past 40000 years has had a significant influence on the development of Australia’s native wildlife. Aboriginal people had a strong association with their landscape, both socially and culturally. The Dreaming represents a belief system that guides the interactions of Indigenous people with their landscape and its living components. This belief system positions people as part of the living environment which they inhabited. The landscape was viewed as a living entity which required respect and integration with people and their activities.

Early reference to first people who inhabited the range is scanty. (See, for example, Helen Horton’s 1988, Brisbane’s Backdoor.) The Jinibara was the tribe that overarched the clans of the D’Aguilar Range. There are three groups consistently referenced in connection with the D’Aguilar area. The Garumngar people occupied the area from Moggill northward to Mt Mee (this covers most of the D’Aguliar Range); the Dungidau people occupied territory north and west of Mt Mee (northern part of the range westward) and the Turrbal people occupied the area east of the range northwards to the North Pine River (Horton 1988). The language group for the area was Wakka Wakka (Horton 1988). Aboriginal people used a variety of plants for food and for medicine and for manufacturing utensils. Animals were utilised in accordance with strict lores. The landscape itself was alive and there were rules that governed access to parts of the land that were restricted for spiritual reasons. The landscape and its assets were strategically accessed and managed to maintain perpetual health and wellbeing for all of the communities that lived there.

The burning of country was conducted for a variety of reasons. Burn regimes maintained by first people have lead to the evolution of vegetation that required specific fire regimes to preserve ecological stability. The interruption of the connection between first people with their landscape (by European settlement) and the introduction of successful weed species has lead to a rapid change in the natural balance of this vegetation.

During the successive occupation of European communities, Aboriginal communities were displaced by forceful removal, massacre, assimilation through religious and government policy and takeover of traditional lands. The process was so complete that the connection between present day Indigenous people and their past has been all but severed. Traditional links to landscape are still held by descendents but recognition by present governance authorities is very difficult to obtain. Presently, there is one existing registered Native Title claim (under the Native Title Act) held by the Jinibara, a tribe that overarches the clans of the Dungidau and Garumngar people.  [Editor’s note, 2019: this claim is now successful and native title has been recognised over a number of areas of country.] 

Today there are few relics of thousands of years of occupancy. Bora rings are the most obvious physical remnant of a cultural past. Bora rings exist at Moggill, Keppera, Wights Mountain, Samsonvale, Laceys Creek, Mt Pleasant, Dayboro, Northbrook, England Creek, Dundas, Mt Esk Pocket and Oakey creek (Horton 1988). Other physical signs include tree scars and burial sites and some small artefacts have been found. On agreement, physical evidence of Aboriginal occupation has been kept confidential in an effort to protect and respect Aboriginal culture.