A reflection after camping at Bunya Mountain National Park 20th-22nd April 2012
Like so much of Australia' indigenous history, the true and full history of the Bunya Nut Festivals in South East Queensland may never be known. Stories of celebration and cooperation, finely tuned to the erratic fruiting of the Bunya Pine, which drew thousands of Aboriginal people from as far away as Charleville, Dubbo, Bundaberg and Grafton not only fires up one's imagination but also demands an enormous respect for the traditional people and culture of this land. Recently, after I moved to Montville in the Blackall Range of the Sunshine Coast, I was under the impression that Baroon Pocket, just down the road from my new residence, was the site of these famous gatherings. Then I spoke to an Aboriginal lore man, a dear friend of many years, who stated that the Bunya Mountains were in fact the home of the Bunya Nut festivals. Being the curious person I am, a little research found one source that states that the last “traditional” Bunya festival was in Baroon Pocket in 1887 and then another source stating that the last festival was in the Bunya Mountains in 1902. Regardless of the conflicting historical data, it appears most likely that these unique festivals took place at more than one specific location within the natural range of the Bunya Pine forests.
The tree itself is magnificent and the sight of large dominant conifers in full rainforest was, to me, a new and unexpected experience. The dome shape of its uppermost foliage is iconic and the massive bunya cones are spectacular. If you've ever witnessed one of these cones hitting planet earth you'll appreciate the respect these trees demand from even the most hard headed Homo sapien. The very sizeable nut with it's distinctive flavour and high nutritional value could be described as the quintessential bush tucker. The fact that over thousands of years aboriginal people have gathered from such huge distances when the nut was in season is testament to its value both as a food and as a unifying symbol of Aboriginal culture.
View from Mt Kiangaro, Bunya Mountains National Park
There is no doubt that the decimation of the indigenous people and the land of Australia as a result of the occupation of the East Coast by Europeans since 1778 is something that many look upon with utter shock and disbelief. I feel this most when I find myself in what I, both mistakenly and naively, believe to be untouched forest only to stumble upon massive tree stumps that evidence logging from often well over 100 years ago. It may be with the wisdom of hindsight, but nevertheless still inexcusable, that so many of us today scratch our heads and wonder “what the hell were they thinking?”. The speed at which white man spread out across practically every square inch of this rugged landscape to steal the very best timber is staggering. And to think that most of the very best timber was shipped back to England is seriously worthy of tears. One can only now wonder at what it must have been like in the not too distant past when the Bunya Pine occupied a much more natural distribution and abundance. How amazing the land must have been in those times. But the past cannot be changed. We who walk the earth today have a duty to learn from our history and to change how we act today so as to ensure that there is a future worth leaving to our descendants. To give just one example, the issue of Coal Seam Gas that presently confronts not only the Bunya country of South East Queensland but vast areas of the whole land, marks a point, where our decisions and consequent actions will surely be judged one way or the other in the future. I sincerely hope that we can with the immense knowledge and experience amassed by the human race, and for once with a dash of respect for this finite planet, develop a true understanding of where we stand and how we must behave so that in 100 years from now our descendants are not scratching their heads and wondering “what the hell were they thinking?”.