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New Bunya Mountain base paves way for Aboriginal groups to gather in ancient tradition

6 Apr 2022

The return of a property to Traditional Custodians in the revered Bunya Mountains in southern Queensland will pave the way for a connection to a gathering, dating back tens of thousands of years, to be re-established.

The Bunya Mountains have always been a sacred place where thousands of Aboriginal people from hundreds of kilometres away would follow songlines to gather every three years to coincide with the harvesting of bunya pine nuts.

During the gathering Aboriginal people from surrounding tribes would feast on bunya nuts, hold sacred ceremonies, resolve disputes, arrange marriages and undertake fire management.

But after losing access to country, these long held traditions ceased.

Bunya People’s Aboriginal Corporation General Manager Paul Dawson said being granted a permanent base on the mountain by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) would help them re-establish connection to country and cultural traditions.

“Our old people have an aspiration that Bunya Camp become a traditional gathering place for Aboriginal people from different tribes once again, and acquiring this property is the first step towards achieving that,” he said.

“It is vital for our old people and young people to have a place to come together so that traditional knowledge and culture can be passed down to keep them alive through our younger generations.”

Bunya People’s Aboriginal Corporation Chair Lurlene Henderson thanked the ILSC for assisting the group to reclaim Camp Bunya.

“It has been an aspiration for many years for all Traditional Custodians of the region to have recognition of the important cultural significance of the Bunya Mountains, and to have our footprint on the mountain is essential for the continuity of Aboriginal culture and traditions,” she said.

“The Bunya Mountains is a very culturally sensitive space for many Aboriginal people and is now recognised by many Australians as a place of healing and spiritual connection with its unique physical environment in our country.” 

Mr Dawson said having a permanent base on the mountain would significantly improve the Corporation’s Aboriginal ranger program, cutting out a three-hour round trip in travel time.

“Being immersed in country will enable our rangers to re-establish their tangible connection to place and develop a deeper involvement which builds on their innate knowledge,” he said.

“Being here at dawn and at dusk, not just during the day, will enable the rangers to gain a deeper understanding of country, how it grows and changes, what animals move through it and what needs to be done to protect it.

“They will have the opportunity to revive some of our old ways, including fire practices our people carried out for thousands of years to keep the land healthy.

“Our rangers will also have a lot of interaction with young people and eventually the wider public through tourism so they can pass on some of their knowledge and foster a deeper understanding of our culture.”

Mr Dawson said the group was developing a ‘bush university’ on the site which would provide an opportunity for young people to learn about their culture while on country through stories, ceremonies and dance.

Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation Group CEO Joe Morrison said the Corporation was proud to purchase and return a property to Traditional Custodians which would have such a significant impact on re-igniting ancient traditions.

“The Bunya Mountains are such a significant and sacred place which played a unique role in bringing together Aboriginal people from so many different tribes to perform essential social, cultural and economic exchanges” he said.

“We are proud to have played a small part in providing the opportunity for the Traditional Custodians to meet their aspiration to be able to have a permanent base on their country, to pass down their traditional knowledge, along with their practice and customs, a very important feature of Australia’s past.”

An event is being planned for April to celebrate the return of country.

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