Northside Brisbane 1840s-1860s
Northside Brisbane was a contested landscape in the 1840s-1860s. As shown on the accompanying map, creeks served as de facto borders which Aboriginal parties – if troublesome or threatening – were sometimes driven across by police. Aboriginal oral traditions recall areas beyond these points as places where they could camp and hunt unmolested. This de facto situation meant that in the view of Aboriginal families, any settlers present beyond the creeks were trespassers. This may explain the continual harassment, robbery and violence experienced by Europeans who ventured beyond these points during the 1840s-1860s.
However, none of this was officially ordained. Settlement continually expanded. From the dawn of settlement onward, civic and policing authorities did not designate any areas in or near Brisbane for Aboriginal camping or any other Aboriginal use. Nevertheless, numerous reminiscences and contemporary accounts attest to the fact that in practice, European residents allowed traditional camping grounds to remain, regardless of who owned the area. This was the case sometimes into the 1890s-1910s and later in places such as Victoria Park, Holland Park and Nundah.
Victoria Park was a very major camp, often seeing hundreds of residents. It is of interest as a conflict site because it saw shootings and burning of camps – first by Constable Peter Murphy and his party in 1846, then by 24 soldiers of the 11th Regiment in 1849.
Nearby lay Wickham Park. In 1846 and 1847, one warrior-leader, Yilbung, took a monthly ‘rent’ of the Colony’s flour – extracting regular bags for his people from the mill workers at the Windmill. Yilbung was imprisoned for this. In 1855 the Windmill site was also where Aboriginal groups staged a very vocal protest during the hanging of Dundalli, a warrior who was seen as a hero and leader by many from the northside and Bribie areas.
Nundah saw Aboriginal raids and attacks on its German Mission – most notably in 1840 when some 20-30 warriors sacked Reverend Schmidt’s fields, forcing the mission to keep nightly armed watch over the crops. Partly in retaliation, Reverend Schmidt shot and wounded a number of elders. In 1850 cattle were harassed; and in 1854, 60 warriors surrounded a homestead and pulled up all its crops.
In 1858, Nundah settlers became frightened of a war-making corroboree and the voiced threats of Aboriginal warriors. They decided on a preemptive strike. With some police in assistance, a group of settlers crossed the swamp at night to one of the Nundah camps (probably the old Cemetery site) and fired a volley of shots into the camp. Casualties are unknown but the camp was abandoned for two months. The surviving occupants took revenge by dispersing and killing numerous cattle on the Pine Rivers.