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Traditional Owners

The Sunshine Coast and eastern side of the adjacent ranges are a resource rich area. The original inhabitants used important pathways to access these resources. The arrival of white settlers, pastoralists and timber cutters in the late 1800s and early 1900s hindered traditional use of these resources and soon exhausted them.

The Aboriginal population soon dwindled. Deaths from introduced diseases, shootings, conflicts with settlers and starvation from not being allowed to hunt and gather traditional food all took their toll. Traditions and lifestyles, which had remained unchanged for many thousands of years prior to European settlement, were altered forever. In this area of the Sunshine Coast, there were also instances of positive relationships between European families and Aboriginal families.

traditional owners

Under a Queensland Act of Parliament (1897) and subsequent legislation, most of those who survived were forcibly moved to missions such as Barambah (renamed Cherbourg), Yarrabah (near Cairns), Palm Island (near Townsville) and Deebing Creek (near Ipswich). Here they were confined and used as labourers and domestic servants.

With amendments to the Act, removing restrictions, many Aboriginal people were able to return to their homelands and re-establish their traditional way of life. As a result their culture and stories endure to this day.

The Blackall Range has spiritual and historical significance to Aboriginal people. In nearby valleys and flats, bon-ye (bunya) feasts were held every year for the local community. Every three years there was a bountiful crop from the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii). Larger gatherings of people from a broader geographical area took place in this area. Invitations were extended to communities living hundreds of kilometres away, for example: as far as Townsville in the north; Charleville in the west; and Lismore (NSW) in the south.

These large gatherings featured important social exchanges including marriage arrangements, story telling, songs and corroboree dancing. Disputes were settled and alliances formed through the Greater Bora Council. Sporting challenges of various kinds were issued and contested. The bon-ye feasts started in December and lasted up to three or four months, depending on the abundance and ripening time of the bunya cones.

The bunya pine was an important tree for Aborigines in other regions but supplies were limited – growing only in certain places in sufficient numbers to support the three-yearly large traditional gatherings. The Blackall Range was referred to as the “bunya mountains” in the initial stages of Queensland history.

In 2012, the Jinibara People were recognised by the Federal Court as the ‘traditional owners’ of an area including the Blackall, D’Aguilar and Conondale Ranges.  This area includes Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.


E.M.D. Fesl, Through the Mists of Time (publication pending)
C.C. Petrie, Tom Petries Reminiscences of Early Queensland
Nambour Public Library, Bonyi Gatherings – Notes on their History
S. Jones, Four Bunya Seasons in Baroon, 1842 1845
P. Kelly Tree Fern and Honey Bee
Amanda Wilson, Local Studies Unit, Caloundra City Libraries
E. Serico & M. Ryan, Beyond Survival (in publication)


See also . . .

Ancient GeologyEuropean HistoryHistory of the Reserve

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