Mapping Frontier Conflict in South-East Queensland
Dr Ray Kerkhove, Harry Gentle Visiting Fellow 2016/2017

Hideouts and Bastions of Resistance

The Power of ‘Bastions’

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Settlers’ accounts refer to specific sites within south-east Queensland as hotspots from which Aboriginal resistance tended to repeatedly emerge. These were areas where the natural environment made camps difficult to access. Most had sufficient resources to enable groups and raiding parties to survive. These sites had secluded camps, and in some cases, stockpiles of weapons and even ‘bush pens’ for keeping stolen sheep and cattle. Here resistance leaders such as Dundalli, Yilbung and Multuggerah are reported to have retreated when pursued.

Clearing the dense rosewood scrub which had been a major bastion for resistance (Frank Snars, 1997, German Settlement in the Rosewood Scrub: A Pictorial History Gatton: Rosewood Scrub Historical Society Inc, p.11)

The Geography of Hideouts

Hideouts were mostly large islands, rocky/hilly regions, swampy areas or dense forests (“scrubs”).  Their geography frustrated or at times completely halted pursuers – especially Europeans on horseback.  Partly for this reason, there were concerted efforts by settlers to clear dense woods, especially near areas of settlement.

Inter-Tribal Gathering Venues and Inter-Tribal Planning

Smoke signalling. Here in central Australia, a camel train ambles past, in front of a smoke message that reads: ‘strangers have crossed to the next country (Mountford, Charles P, NLA PIC/14192/501 LOC Album 1151)

The most useful hideouts were places that that were already a venue for inter-tribal meetings.  Such sites enabled attendees to plot combined or simultaneous attacks. For example, the triennial Bunya Festival (Blackall & Bunya Ranges) drew groups from all over southern Queensland and northern NSW. It was reported that major offensives were often launched after meetings here. Various European observers (e.g. James Bracewell) testified that much of the discussions at such meetings concerned such objectives.  Bribie Island and Fraser Island and their adjoining coastlines (Toorbul/ Pine Rivers and Cooloola) had a similar role. These areas had traditionally seen inter-tribal gatherings and tournaments for the communal fishing of the winter mullet runs.

‘Impenetrable’ dense forest once surrounded the valley of Baroon in the Blackall Ranges, a major bunya meeting place (SLQ Neg No 142329)

References :

‘Story of South Fort Cooper Station’, Daily Mercury (Mackay), 17 October 1945 p 6

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Bennie, J.C. (1931), ‘The Bunya Mountains – Early Feasting Ground of the Blacks’, Dalby: The Dalby Herald, 1931

Bloomfield, G. (1986), Baal Bellbora: The End of the Dancing Chippendale: APCOL

Clark, W. (1912), ‘Explorer Walker – Organiser and First Commandant of the Native Police’, The Brisbane Courier 28 December 1912 p 10

Connor, J. (2004), ‘The Tasmanian Frontier and Military History’, Tasmanian Historical Studies, vol. 9

Connors, L. (2005), ‘Indigenous resistance and traditional leadership: understanding and interpreting Dundalli’, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 19: 3

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Mark Copland, Jonathan Richards & Andrew Walker, (2010), One Hour More Daylight: A Historical Overview of Aboriginal Dispossession in Southern and Southwest Queensland, Toowoomba: Social Justice Committee

Dennis, P., Heffrey Grey, Ewan Morris, Robin Prior, John Connor, (1995) ‘Aboriginal Armed Resistance to White Invasion’, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Melbourne: Oxford Uni

Evans, R., (2002), ‘Against the Grain: Colonialism and the Demise of the Bunya Gatherings, 1839-1939’, Queensland Review No.9:2, Nov 2002, 64

JOL Box 7072 Karl W E Schmidt (1843), Report of an Expedition to the Bunya Mountains in Search of a Suitable Site for a Mission Station, p.5, Acc 3522/71

Kerkhove, R., (2012), The Great Bunya Gathering – Early Accounts, Enoggera: Pemako

Kerkhove, R, (2014), ‘A different mode of war? Aboriginal ‘guerilla tactics’ in defining the ‘Black War’ of Southern Queensland 1843-1855,’ A paper presented July 2014 AHA Conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane

Kerkhove, R., (2015), Report: Indigenous Use and Indigenous History of Rosewood Scrub, Brisbane: Jagera Daran

Laurie, A., (1959), UQ Fryer mss, The Black War in Queensland

Meston, A, (1923), ‘The Bunya Feast – Mobilan’s Former Glory. In the Wild, Romantic Days’, The Brisbane Courier 6 October 1923, p 18

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