A SNAPSHOT OF TURRBAL HISTORY IN BRISBANE
Prior to European settlement in Brisbane in 1825, the Turrbal people, according to Tom Petrie (of the founding family of modem-day Brisbane), occupied the area of land extending far inland to the Gold Creek or Moggill, as far north as North Pine, and south to the Logan River … Of all the blackfellows who were boys when he was a boy there is only one survivor; most of them died off prematurely through drink introduced by the white men (Constance Petrie, Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of early Queensland 1904, pp. 4-5). It is this story of near-extinction of the Turrbal people, the original inhabitants of the Brisbane area, that has enticed some neighbouring tribal groups (such as the so-called “Jagera”, Quandamooka, Gubbi Gubbi, Wakka Wakka and others) at the beginning of the 1900s to attempt to falsely claim Brisbane as their ancestral homelands. As the forthcoming book titled The Surviving Turrbal written by Turrbal Songwoman Maroochy Barambah and Principal Adviser Ade Kukoyi reveals, the Turrbal people “are not all dead and gone”. They are alive and well, and their compelling story goes back to the heroic and inspiring survival of Maroochy Barambah’s great, great, great grandmother named Kulkarawa.
EARLIEST ACCOUNTS OF MODERN-DAY BRISBANE
Pioneering explorer, John Oxley, in 1824, noted a large assemblage of Turrbal people along the present-day site of the Wesley hospital, the Regatta hotel and Coronation Drive on account of water being present there. In 1823, the three castaways (Pamphlett, Parsons and Finnegan) had a rather tense encounter with some of the Turrbal people in the vicinity of the present-day central business district. The shipwrecked timber-getters had earlier set out from Sydney in a sailing boat bound for the Illawarra district to cut cedar but were been blown off course.
The earliest historical records suggest that Brisbane was well inhabited by the Turrbal people. In fact, this dense inhabitation was one of the many reasons, which attracted the early settlers to ‘Meeaan-jin’ (Turrbal name for Brisbane) following their initial abortive settlement at Humpybong (Redcliffe) in 1824. The various pathways (Aboriginal tracks) that had existed since the Dreamtime were later to form the basis of road infrastructures around Brisbane today. Examples of these include Waterworks Road and the Old Northern Road. Waterworks Road for example was built on a Turrbal pathway that led Mount Coot-tha – a place of the honey-bee Dreaming. The Old Northern Road was the pathway that led to triennial Bunya feast in Wakka Wakka country. Toowong had a ceremony ring upon which a pub (The Regatta Hotel) is believed to be standing today.
As we begin a new millennium, the task ahead of the surviving Turrbal people is one of cultural revitalisation, says Turrbal Law-woman & Songwoman Maroochy Barambah. Part of that process is the publication of a Turrbal history book The Surviving Turrbal which the Turrbal people hopes will form an integral part of history and social science studies in schools all over their ancestral homelands. Maroochy says that it is very important that Queenslanders know and understand their true history. This is not an era for blaming or finger pointing.