Land of the Gubbi Gubbi

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Cultural Diversity Report – Land of the Gubbi Gubbi

The aim of this paper is to research, analyse and assess available information regarding the Sunshine Coast Indigenous Gubbi Gubbi nation, in particular, the ease of access to information; the currency and scope of available information; and to develop a conclusion regarding the validity of examined resources.

The traditional landowners of the Sunshine Coast are the people of the Gubbi Gubbi nation. Gubbi Gubbi is the language that united 20 clans, which each consisted of between 150 and 500 people. The most prominent of these clans were the Nalbo, Dallambara, Kabi and Undanbi. Their estate, or dyungungoo, extend from Pine River at the southern boundary, to Burrum River at the north, and the Conondale ranges in the west (Indigenous History of Maroochy, n.d.). This expanse allowed for groups to travel following seasonal availability of plant and aquatic food sources.

Gubbi Gubbi society was deeply generous and gregarious. Clans would gather regularly to feast and celebrate special ceremonies such as initiations, marriages and festivals. The most significant of these was the Bunya gathering held every three years in the Bunya Mountains to celebrate the fruiting of the sacred Bunya trees. A smaller yearly gathering was held on the Blackall Range in the area now known as Baroon Pocket Dam (Kerkhove, 1986).

The land was the fundamental basis for spiritual, cultural and physical life; the spirits of ancestors were believed to co-exist on earth in the form of animals, plant, marine and rock formations. This ensured their connection with current and future generations. Each clan had their own ancestral totem to which they would be appointed as custodians. Totemic guardianship rights were passed on from generation to generation (Adams, 2000).

Authority within a clan was attained due to the strength of one’s relationship with the land and sea. An Elder’s intimate, intrinsic knowledge regarding the biological and ecological systems of their environment and its history was essential to ensure the protection of the land and sea, and all that inhabited it. For this reason, an Elder’s authority was accepted without question.

Protection of land and aquatic ecosystems was managed via an intricate network of rights - including land occupation, seasonal harvesting, marine resource restrictions - and responsibilities based on customary laws. These systems and strategies ensured sustainable use of resources and served to protect land and sea from overexploitation (Native Title Report, 2006, 18).

The arrival of European settlers on the Sunshine Coast initially caused little disruption to the Gubbi Gubbi lifestyle. However, once permanent land was sought for further settlement, the traditional lifestyle of the Gubbi Gubbi began to suffer. Government policy of the day prevented land immediately occupied by Indigenous Australians from being made available to settlers for lease or logging (Tainton 1976). Due to the fertile and expansive nature of the land, this presented a problem to emigrating Europeans hoping to secure a new life in the area.

Furthermore, the disturbance to the natural environment on which the Gubbi Gubbi relied for food, shelter and spiritual needs quickly created tension between the European and Indigenous Australians. As land was cleared for farming and resources, the Gubbi Gubbi were forced to hunt introduced farming animals and take agricultural crops as their food sources were depleted. The ensuing conflict resulted in violence, massacre and finally, the forceful removal of the Gubbi Gubbi . While there are no official records, very few are said to have survived (Davies & Salmon 1995).

In 1877, a number of Indigenous ‘settlements’ were established in South East Queensland to which remaining Indigenous families were transported ‘for their own protection’. The Gubbi Gubbi were relocated,...
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