Cultural Connections in caring for country
  • Last updated:
  • 25 Sep 2018

Caring for the Sunshine Coast’s vulnerable Water mouse and wetland habitat – A few years ago, members of Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation were working propagating mangrove seedlings at the South Sea Islander land, located between the Maroochy Wetlands and David Low Way at Bli Bli, when local QPWS Ranger Les Donald happened upon them while walking the river banks to map the nesting mounds of the vulnerable Water mouse (Xeromys myoides).

This fortuitous meeting led to a collaboration with QPWS and Nina Kaluza (UQ PhD researcher and project coordinator) which sought to extend monitoring and mapping activities along the Maroochy River Estuary and make good use of the local area knowledge held by Traditional Owners. Over 2012-2013, this project (funded by Caring for Our Country and SEQ Catchments) was implemented to aid the National Recovery Plan for the Water mouse and coincided with weed control in known habitat areas. A short film about the Maroochy River Water mouse project, produced with Maggie Maddin is available.

Project workers include Kerry Jones, Arnold Jones, Sean Fleischfresser, Loretta Algar, Bridgette Davis, other family members and volunteers. Monitoring and mapping work for the nesting mounds and habitat areas of the Water mouse are currently being undertaken in and around their Traditional Estates, including the Mooloolah River National Park. The Norman Wettenhall Foundation, through a biodiversity grant, has resourced the ‘Mapping Water mouse mounds along our ‘Old Peoples’ Stomping Grounds’. This not only provides an opportunity for local Aboriginal People to continue to care for biodiversity, as they have done traditionally for millennia, but to strengthen community partnerships and to share in two- way learning, that is, exchanges of technical information between science practitioners and Aboriginal Knowledge Holders. Plans are underway to share knowledge and stories at the 2015 Landcare Conference and council Conservation Forum. Cultural heritage and biodiversity workshops have been held recently at the Maroochy Wetlands and with the Maleny Green Army team at Landsborough.

For information about this group, please go online to the council Community Hub. If you have an interest in working with Traditional Owners, time to spare to help or would like to organise a cultural heritage workshop, please refer to the contact details given in the next article.

Revegetating an ‘Old Aboriginal Settlement’ – Muller Park and surrounds on the Maroochy River at Bli Bli

Members of Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation are looking forward to working with council and Maroochy Waterwatch to help revegetate the southern section of Muller Park starting in April. Just as the Maroochy Estuary and its mangrove wetlands are biodiversity hotspots, so is Muller Park and the surrounding areas at Bli Bli, being ‘heritage hotspots’ for sites, story places and artefact areas representative of the Aboriginal Cultural Landscape on the Sunshine Coast.

Here, before the land was cleared to grow sugar cane and before the David Low Way Bridge was built in the 1960’s, the area around Muller Park was known as a prolific source of oysters and shellfish. Aboriginal People (within their distinctive clan areas) have been permanently settled here along their trading and economic networks, for thousands of years. Past centuries have also seen South Sea Islander People settled here who, like many Aboriginal People across Australia, were exploited as cheap or non-paid labour. This occurred while the Queensland economy was becoming established, replacing the traditional Aboriginal economy and farming practices that had been operating for the longest of times.

In 1927 the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser reported that Bli Bli (meaning She-oak or the casuarina species) was the name used by local Aboriginal People for the peninsula sitting between the Maroochy River and Petrie’s (sic) Creek. Bli Bli, Didillibah and Nambour are also depicted on the 1842 Bunya Scrub map by J.G. Steele’s Aboriginal Pathways (1984) referring to the 1842 Bunya Proclamation or the then bunya tree protected areas that ended in 1859.

Just as the Maroochy had been regarded in the past as a ‘fisherman’s paradise’, Bli Bli has always been noted for its Aboriginal shell middens or kitchen middens on both sides of the river at the David Low Way Bridge. The above article describes Bli Bli on the Maroochy as having, ‘country above the oyster banks (showing) evidence of an … Aboriginal settlement, acres of which are still covered with the shells of oyster and other fish which must have comprised a good part of their diet’. This article, and numerous heritage surveys and reports which followed in subsequent decades, note that, ‘…farmers, when tilling their fields turn up many curiosities in the shape of stone tomahawks, (food) choppers (or mullers) and hollowed stones in which the (women) ground their meal’. The area is known for several camping and ceremonial grounds, as well as burial sites. After rain and when driving along the David Low Way from Bli Bli to the motorway, you can see the species of shellfish found in middens, bleached white, sitting in recently disturbed earthworks at Surf ‘n’ Ski Park or at the new Bli Bli Golf Course.

Locally living Kabi Kabi (Gubbi Gubbi) People have had a continuous presence and connection to this area and the wider Sunshine Coast, millennia before the colonisation of Australia. Many Traditional Owner families are significantly connected to Bli Bli and the Maroochy River. The Chilly family and their descendants are one of these families and they continue to live in the area. Around the late 1800’s Charlie Chilly and his wife would raft logs down the Maroochy River and were known to have their camp in the middle of the log raft. Around this time ‘Susie (Chilly) of Maroochy’ has been reported to trade fish and crab to help support her family.

All artefact areas and Aboriginal sites, be they on private or public lands, have protection under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003. Penalties may apply for the disturbance of such sites. If you have an interest in cultural heritage or have encountered local Aboriginal sites, artefacts or story places you would like to share, contact Traditional Owners, Kerry Jones 0401 205 367 kerryjones0108@gmail.com or Bridgett Davis 0435 918 764 btdavis27@outlook.com.

Article by Kerry Jones, Arnold Jones, Bridgette Davis, Sean Fleischfresser, Anne Miller and Genevieve Jones