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Assimilating Nature: The Bunya Diaspora

  • Anna Haebich

Extract

Colonizer and colonized, we all inhabit these death-scarred landscapes. We are here by hope, and we are here by violence.

Deborah Bird Rase (1999)

The bunya pine has a special meaning for Queenslanders, being endemic to the Bunya Mountains and Blackall Ranges in the South-East corner of the state, with a small stand in North Queensland. The bunya holds particular significance for local Indigenous peoples. They are bound to the tree through custodial rights and obligations and systems of traditional environmental knowledge that incorporate ‘classification …empirical observations of the local environment… [and] self-management that governs resource use’, built up through generations of interaction with the bunya forests. Indigenous groups celebrated their spiritual links to the bunya pine in large seasonal gatherings where they feasted on its edible nuts and performed ceremonies, adjudicated disputes and traded goods. The bunya's majestic height, striking unique silhouette, dark green foliage, unique botanical features and Indigenous associations held a fascination for colonial artists, natural scientists, entrepreneurs and gardeners. Over the years they assumed custodianship of the bunya pine, assimilating it into Western scientific, economic, legal, horticultural, environmental and symbolic systems, which replaced Indigenous custodial rights, obligations and knowledge. The spectacular bunya gatherings were mythologised in colonial writings as mystical, primeval ceremonies and barbaric rituals. Despite ‘fierce and actively hostile tribal resistance’ to colonisation of their lands, Indigenous groups were progressively driven out of the bunya forests. Empty landscapes left by the retreating forests – victims of timber felling and land clearing – came to symbolise the vanishing ceremonies and dwindling Aboriginal populations of South-East Queensland. While surviving Indigenous groups were swept into centralised reserves and settlements from the late nineteenth century, so too the bunya trees were cordoned off in 1908, for their own protection, in Queensland's second national park at the Bunya Mountains, where they stood ‘like the spirits of the departed original Queenslanders, mourning over the days which are forever gone’.

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Notes

1 Rose, D. Bird, ‘Indigenous ecologies and an ethic of connection’, Low, N. (ed.) Global Ethics and Environment, (London and New York, Routledge, 1999): 184.

2 Johnson, M. 1992 cited in Fourmile, H., ‘Traditional knowledge and global governance’, in Low, N. (ed.) Global Ethics and Environment, (London and New York: Routledge, 1999): 220.

3 McKay, B. Buckridge, P., ‘Literary imaginings of the bunya’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002).

4 Governor Bowen to Colonial Office 1861 cited in Haebich, A., ‘A chronology of the bunya pine’. On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002): 116. B. McKay and P. Buckridge, ‘Literary imaginings of the bunya’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, A. Haebich (ed.) (2002).

5 22,500 acres of land in the Bunya Mountains were reserved as a national park in 1908, the second such declaration in Queensland.

6 White, S.A., ‘notes upon the birds observed on the Bunya Mountains and Stradbroke Island’, Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, XIX, 1920: 216.

7 I am grateful to Dargavel, John, President of the Australian Forestry Society for suggesting this term.

8 Cooke, G., ‘Representing the Bunya Pine’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002): 85.

9 The Project has also published a collection of articles about the bunya pine edited by Anna Haebich, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, November, 2002. The On the Bunya Trail Project was jointly hosted by the Queensland Studies Centre at Griffith University which promotes research about the state through projects, seminars, conferences and publications, notably the Queensland Review, and Global ArtsLink, the award winning regional art gallery and museum in Ipswich that combines art, social history and new technologies to explore the region. The Project was funded by Queensland Heritage Trails Network, a joint initiative of the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government, established in 2000 thorough the Federation Fund and working partnerships with local government authorities and local councils to create and link 43 heritage places celebrating the state's unique history, culture, and natural features.

10 International Dendrochronology symposium, Araucariaceae Symposium, Auckland, March 2002. The papers presented to the symposium are in publication.

11 Huth, J., ‘Introducing the bunya pine’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002): 15.

12 Hooker, W. J., ‘Figure and description of a new species of Araucaria’, London Journal of Botany ii (1843): 498506.

13 Blake, T., ‘This noble tree': J.C. Bidwill and the naming of the bunya pine’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002): 44.

14 McKay and Buckridge op. cit.: 66.

15 Parsons, P., ‘A view of Araucaria bidwillii in Tasmania’, paper presented to the International Araucariaceae Symposium, Auckland, New Zealand, 2002. The papers presented to the symposium are in publication.

16 Mabberley, D. J., ‘Bidwill of the bunya-bunya’, Curtis’ Botanical Magazine, 18,1, (2001): 33.

17 Watt, A., ‘Araucarias in Victoria’, paper presented to International Araucariaceae Symposium, Auckland New Zealand, 2002. The papers presented to the symposium are in publication.

18 Cooke op. cit.: 85.

19 Paviour, M., ‘Araucaria cunninhamii and its status in gardens of South-West England’, paper forwarded privately to author.

20 Parsons op. cit.

21 Dargavel, J., ‘More to grief than granite: arboreal remembrance in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies, 64, 2000.

22 [Canberra tree]

23 Parsons op. cit.

24 Andrews, L., ‘Management of Araucaria and Agathis species in Melbourne’, paper presented to International Araucariaceae Symposium, Auckland, New Zealand, 2002. The papers presented to the symposium are in publication.

25 Andrews op.cit.

26 Subiaco Post, 19/1/2002: 17, 26/1/2002; Dr Joanna Sassoon, private communication.

28 Langton, M., Burning Questions Emerging Environmental Issues for Indigenous Peoples in Northern Australia, (Darwin: Centre for Natural and Cultural Resource Management, Northern Territory University, 1998: 72).

29 Canberra Times, 13/3/2001: 4.

30 Shiva, V., ‘Ecological balance in an era of globalization’, Low, N. (ed.) Global Ethics and Environment, (London and New York, Routledge, 1999): 62–3.

31 Langton op. cit.: 75.

32 The symposium was hosted by the Queensland Studies Centre and Global ArtsLink as part of the On the Bunya Trail Project. The papers were published in A. Haebich (ed.) On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, (2002).

33 Jerome, P., ‘Boobarran Ngummin: the Bunya Mountains’, On the Bunya Trail Special Edition of Queensland Review, Haebich, A. (ed.) (2002): 45.

Assimilating Nature: The Bunya Diaspora

  • Anna Haebich

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