Our Bundarra office is located in Morningside Brisbane. We would first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Turrbal and Jagera people. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge their continued connection to the land, water and culture of this area.
The Turrbal and Jagera peoples have lived in this area for more than 32,000 years and their ancestors go back more than 60,000 years. The Turrbal and Jagera people speak Yuggera and their name for Brisbane is Meanjin. On May 13, 1998 the Turrbal people lodged a claim for native title of the Meanjin area starting at the North Pine River and extending down to the Logan River and inland as far as Moggil. In 1999, the application was accepted. This was an incredible moment in history, it was the first native title claim over an Australian city. The title challenged the regular belief that native title and customary law only exists in the outback and remote communities. Customary law is a set of beliefs, customs and practices that come from Indigenous peoples dreamtime stories and ancestors, it continues to be a hugely important part of Indigenous culture and society today.
The Brisbane landscape used to look very different from what it does today, there was once a large coastal plain extending to what are now known as Stradbroke and Moreton Islands. Eighteen thousand years ago, sea levels rose engulfing this plain and forming the Bay and the Maiwar River (Brisbane River). Indigenous people were present in this country 14,000 years prior to the flooding of the coast. The Turrbal and Jagera people thrived off this country and the Maiwar was at the centre of their livelihoods. They were fishing people and the river supported this as well as other spiritual and recreational activities. Binkenba is the Yuggera name for New Farm, meaning ‘a place of the land tortoise’. As such, this was a spot frequently visited for catching tortoises. Indigenous people were the custodians of the land, the animals and plants. Their survival depended on their intimate knowledge of the country.
The Turrbal totem is the freshwater eel, the story of eels symbolically represents the Indigenous sense of belonging to their country. In September, the eel mothers go out and lay their eggs in Moreton Bay. Come December, those eggs will hatch and come up the creeks and rivers to where they know they belong. Turrbal Elder Uncle Joe Kirk talks about his connection to Brisbane in a similar way. This shows how no matter what, people will always return and belong to their country.
“I belong to Brisbane because I feel the traditional spirit that’s here. I always felt that there was something here that identified with and belonged to, it wasn’t till later on in my older life that I found that my ancestry is here on my father's side”. - Turrbal Elder Uncle Joe Kirk
Colonisation had a huge impact on First Nation peoples' connection to country. Relations between the Turrbal peoples and early settlers started off friendly. The first Europeans to meet with Indigenous peoples in the Meanjin area were ex-convicts Parsons, Pamphlet and Finnigan. European explorer John Oxley rescued them in 1823 while searching for a large river called ‘Maiwah’. Tom Petrie and his family were some of the first settlers. He was only a young child when he first arrived and was encouraged to mix freely with the Indigenous children. He was accepted by the Turrbal people as a friend and learnt the Yuggera language. Because he was trusted by the Turrbal people, there was a constant demand for him as messenger and guide for exploration expeditions. Much of our knowledge of Turrbal history comes from Petrie's diaries and notes. Once a Penal settlement was established in Brisbane, interactions became increasingly hostile. From 1825 to 1842 there were many soldiers in the settlement. The tribes formed “The Bora”, a collective council who met to discuss their strategy against the Europeans. Through all of this, the Turrbal people displayed incredible strength, fighting to preserve their land and culture.
Preserving the Turrbal peoples connection to country and culture is what we all need to continue to focus on. The Turrbal Traditional Owners have put together a book about Turrbal history called “The Surviving Turrbal”. It is hoped that the book can become an essential part of history and social science teaching at Schools in the Meanjin area. This is such an important step for the Turrbal people to take, because the teaching of Indigenous history and culture is something that is still very limited. Future generations need to learn about and understand the true history of this country. It is this lack of knowledge and crucial information that leads to the misunderstanding of First Nations culture. We want to acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera peoples connection to the land on which we operate and we hope that this community and culture can continue to thrive.