Chris Anderson & Bloomfield River: Unpublished speeches and manuscripts

Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield River material

(Note: This material is copyright and the relevant Indigenous people also have rights in it. Please do not use elsewhere without consulting me. Open access yes, but also respecting other's rights!

Bob Yerry and Chris Anderson at Wujal Falls, ca 1982


History in the Rain Forest

Chris Anderson (

Paper written when I was Director, SA Museum and Hon Fellow, Anthropology Department, Adelaide University, Australia. Also given at the Australian Anthropological Society Annual Conference, Sydney University, ca 1992


This paper arises out of my more than 20 years personal experience in the Daintree rain forest region of far north Queensland in Australia.  Over this time, I have marvelled at the starkly different ways people who live and visit there think about the land, and particularly about that repository and symbol of nature itself, the rain forest. I discuss in this paper my ‘reading’ of what different locals have said to me about the landscape here and what it means to them. In particular, I focus on Kuku-Yalanji people, the indigenous residents of the area. I also draw for this paper on my reading of texts created by other, non-indigenous parties with interests in the Daintree. This latter includes early colonial explorers, contemporary land developers, tourist operators and conservationists.


Overhanging this beautiful, ecologically significant landscape is a popular and wide spread interpretation of an opposition between the forces of development and stasis, change and preservation. Indigenous perspectives (and interests) are seen by some to be encompassed only in the latter. It boils down to ‘Black = Green’ and vice versa. A summary analysis of the experiences and texts of what landscape means here reveals that it is not that simple. The Green views has a colonising and negating potential as powerful as that of any ‘modernising’, assimilationist force. Where do humans sit with the views of nature inherent in this dichotomous perspective of the rain forest?



This paper arises out of my experience of as well as my exploration of the relations between the Aboriginal people of the north Queensland rain forest and the other people who have come there in the last 100 odd years. In an earlier paper (Anderson 1989), I analysed a prolonged incident concerning the introduction of a road through an ecologically significant area, the Great Daintree Forest. In this incident, which occurred in the early 1980s, local Aboriginal people, to the surprise of conservationists world-wide, supported the road's construction. In my analysis, I put forward a complex explanation for this, primarily of a social and political nature. Over the years since then, however, during my many and various returns to the area, I have marvelled at the different ways people who live and visit there think about the land, and particularly the way they think about that repository and symbol of nature itself, the rain forest.


In discussions about north Queensland, as for the Australian environment elsewhere, it is often assumed that there are parallel views: a simple dichotomy between a development view and a conservationist or 'green' view. The first derives from a notion of 'nature', land as wilderness, outside of human beings, a commodity, land as a practical, concrete entity, affect-able by human beings and part of a relationship which is temporary, of short standing and linearly progressive. The second is seen as 'natural' and rational, based on scientific categorisation of the world and on values which are seen as universal, right and 'good'. In general, this second view is often identified (mistakenly, as we will see) with Aboriginal culture and what is seen as a wholly or primarily spiritual and abstract relationship of unimaginable time depth and of stable harmony. Both views, the development view and the green view, essentially place humans outside of nature and separate from it. Society and nature are independent.


In contrast to this, there is Cicero's 'Second world within the world of nature' and Raymond Williams' (1981:70) comment: "The idea of nature contains an extraordinary amount of human history." I stood recently in the forests of Cape Tribulation National Park north of Daintree and felt at the same time their exclusionary and encompassing forces. How could this be? I saw a Mercedes Benz six wheel drive bus coming along the road carrying eager and freshly scrubbed Germans, Japanese and American tourists and backpackers. A little later, I saw several Aboriginal people whom I knew walking along the track heading for a scrub hen nest in the bush.


Are there parallel views? Are humans in it or outside of it? And from whose perspective? What is 'it', anyway? In this paper - impressionistic and perhaps even journalistic - I argue that there may be more than two views of nature and that some of them converge and diverge in surprising ways instead of travelling parallel through time and space. I'm not going to say as much about the development and conservation views as these are well known. I want to say more about a new view emerging from the interaction of these views. I also reveal an old view whose reality does not inform either development or conservation views although it is very affected by them.


Part One

Bill Quid[1] sits in his private plane gazing down at the heavy, green and lush forests of the mountains rising steeply from the blue waters of the north Queensland coast. As he swings the plane south and heads along the beach, the cityscape and suburbs of Cairns come into view. Bill thinks about the thought of the years of work he and his companies have put into providing homes, shops, businesses, and the transformation of the land from bush to land, from 'scrub' to property. Like his father, the timber-getter before him, Bill, the developer, wants to make this country, this north Queensland, a place that more and more people, ordinary Australians with children, can live in and enjoy. In line with this aim, Quid has pushed dozens of roads through the rain forest; he has cleared and brought utilities to many new property development blocks, sitting in previously inaccessible bushland.


Bill’s view is that the land in north Queensland was not human and that now it is. He has carved his own identity into it. He has subjugated it on behalf of the thousands of people who want to live here. Man's God-given rationality has allowed, through individuals like him, the taming of an uncultivated wasteland.


The earliest European visitors to the Daintree expressed similar sentiments. Early reports reveal the fear, hostility, and need to dominate and change the landscape as a means of humanising it.


William Hann was the first European land visitor to the Bloomfield and Daintree region in 1872. I quote here a text from his diary. He is on the Bloomfield River and is climbing up onto the ranges and then trying to travel south east back to the sea and the coast near Cape Tribulation north of Daintree:


12 October, 1872

The intervening country between this and the last camp was of the roughest and worst description; scrubs had to be cut through, the steep faces of ridges had to be ascended, only to be descended, owing to the impassable nature of the country among them; men had to dismount and drive the horses before them.


In some places, the ridges just afforded passage along its crown for one horse at a time; one peak after another was ascended as being the last one, when another came into view, only to shew still another...We crossed and recrossed the river several times, penetrated several patches of scrubs and long grass, when at the end of nine miles we ascended a high hill, densely covered with the former, from which one look was sufficient. Here the last lingering hopes vanished, depression took their place.


From this hill I could see the sea to the east, a distance of eight or nine miles, with a black and impenetrable patch between us, stretching over low and very broken country; this black patch was scrub. To the south, the Dividing Range reared its front, covered with the same vegetation and forbidding approach; the range hung over the sea as far as the eye could see south, all equally clothed in scrub. Cape Tribulation rose with its clouded head to the north; to look at it was sufficient to create the feeling indicated by its name, it revelled in scrub above, below, and around it for miles; the eye rested on hills and scrub everywhere, there was not the ghost of a chance of finding a track to thread these mazes, and to endeavour to penetrate them would have been madness. There was no course left open to me but to turn my back on this dismal scene, and retrace my steps to camp. last hope vanished, and I descended the hill with a feeling of disappointment exceeded by nothing I had felt previously... I have struggled hard, but to no purpose; all my endeavours have been frustrated by the completely impassable nature of the country for white men...



Hann's labours did, however, eventually pay off. Settlement did occur, although not until some 8-10 years later. The new arrivals faced the forests all around them and though they were often awed by them, saw them basically as an enemy of their well-being and their fortunes. As one writer put it:


To the pioneer the forest was no friendly resource for posterity, no object of careful economy. He must wage a hand to hand war upon it, cutting and burning a little space to let in the light upon a dozen acres of hard-won soil, and year after year expanding the clearing into new woodlands against the stubborn resistance of primeval trunks and matted roots. (Billinton 1966)


Frawley (1983) discusses the contradictory views about rain forest in north Queensland following European settlement in the 1880s. On the one hand, it was a 'Northern Eldorado' (a phrase used by Dalrymple who discovered the forests in 1873), with “numerous writers rhapsodising on the bounteously fertile soils, the treasure trove of timbers and mineral wealth, 'Two Californias in one...' was one description” (Frawley 1983:11).


"The promotional literature stressed a future with 'hundreds of thousands of acres under sugar cane' made up of 'thousands of happy homesteads’ (Boyd 1886). In this context clearing the rain forest was (for some) a regrettable but necessary task and nowhere is ambivalence in attitudes towards forest more clearly demonstrated than in the promotional literature. While there was constant reference to the beauty and wealth of the forests there was also the acceptance that they must be cleared for agriculture. Forest wealth was generally seen in terms of the once only harvest which might occur prior to settlement.....”


Rain forest was held in awe by representatives of all classes. The splendour, beauty and luxuriance were widely proclaimed, yet no alternative was seen but to destroy it completely to make a living from agriculture.” (Frawley 1983:11)


Frawley describes the order of events as follows:


“Firstly, an awe inspiring landscape having some aspects of great beauty was to be replaced by an ordered one of even greater aesthetic value. Forest destruction was the first step to improvement. Secondly, the unused and unproductive would now produce a harvest for man and this harvest would have even greater value if it came from a large number of small farms. Thirdly, the opening up of the 'scrub' was symbolic of bringing light and civilisation. Finally the word 'scrub' contributed towards a more lowly valued image assisting to down play the aesthetic splendour of the rain forest and the potential value of its timbers. Reference to 'miasma' and fever, persistent wet, leeches, foul air, afflictions such as 'scrub itch' had a similar effect or could even dominate images of the rain forest so that there was nothing attractive about it." (Frawley 1983:11-12)


The idea of a lush green but temperate landscape in the midst of the tropics meant an altered and comfortable landscape, a cleared and settled one. This was an especially valued notion, summed up by a writer of the day:


“Ferns abound everywhere, and the cultivation for miles around the district is simply lovely. The landscape is essentially English - a result which speaks volumes for the energy and heart of the selectors who have turned the original cedar-clad jungle covered lands into endless cultivated fields. Life in such a country is simply an endless joy.' (H.S. Williams, Cairns Post 4/1/1899).


These perspectives and those of Hann’s, the lineal ancestors of Bill Quid's views, can be seen as the classic pioneering or development view of nature. As I noted earlier, this view is often opposed to the conservation view in the contemporary context of the Daintree rain forest in north Queensland.


Part Two

Instead of analysing and talking about a conservation perspective, I want next to quote at length from a text which illustrates well this view of the same landscape which Hann traversed. It is an account by Rosemary Hill, a prominent figure in the north Queensland conservation movement, of a solitary journey through the rain forest country of the Daintree-Bloomfield area.


During December of 1981 I was lucky to find time to walk from Cooper Creek Valley to China Camp. These several days spent in a virgin tropical rain forest are some of the most enjoyable I have known. Patches of the scenery and my feelings in the wilderness remain vivid.


The ascent from the fan palm forests of the lowlands skirts the Cooper Creek waterfall. From the top of this 100-metre sheer rock face, the lowland forest is an inviting patchwork of soft tree tops. The white cockatoos are kings - they hurl themselves from the slopes of Thornton Peak to glide over the tree tops and land screeching in some rain forest giant, winged creatures mocking my plodding.


The upland valley of Noah-Roaring Meg is about 460 metres above the coastal flats - a steep climb. The roots and rocks on the hill shelter a brilliant blue mushroom and many insects. A golden fungus adorns a tree trunk, providing a splash of colour among the varied green-browns of the forest. Occasionally there are glimpses through to the Cooper-Hutchinson swamp, a fascinating maze of channels winding through mangroves, and to the beaches and headlands of Alexandra Bay.


My first camp is by one of the streams in the upper catchment of Noah Creek. An icy, early morning plunge; the joy of being alone with the wild creatures of the forest brings peace. The top of Noah is a forest of trees protruding between large granite boulders covered with moss, lichen, fern and orchid. Pale-headed Robins chime almost incessantly. The Fan Palms have disappeared, and Orania Palms grace the gullies and creeks. The character of the forest is completely different from the coastal lowlands. Cloud hangs almost continually on this part of the Thornton massif; everything is cool and either damp or dripping.


Eventually I leave Noah Creek and cross into the upper Roaring Meg catchment. The granite boulders, tumbling steeply down Noah to the coast, are gone. The valley broadens into a wide plain. This forest is grand. I am strolling on a carpet of leaves, amid a forest of large tree trunks - a clear understorey beneath a high canopy. Here many of the trees are hundreds of years old, and some perhaps more than a thousand. Their time spans dwarf my 30 years.


Throughout the forest is a tremendous variety of trees. One trunk hangs down hundreds of tiny roots, for all the world like a beard. Others are covered with yellow flowers, or black, brown and red fruit. Perfectly horizontal lines of white lenticels adorn one particularly handsome dark trunk.


Night falls suddenly in the forest - but bright gleams illuminate the dark. White and green lights shine from fungi on scattered broken twigs, or small mushrooms on the forest floor. Fireflies flicker about in the understorey. White-kneed Crickets provide a noisy accompaniment to the light show, aided occasionally by the deep 'bwoaark' of the Great Barred Frog, or one of the many tree frogs. It rains.


Next day Roaring Meg catches me unawares - suddenly there is a clear sheet of water slithering over white granite sand. She whispers, in these upper reaches; a shining surface with barely a ripple. I dawdle along the creek bank for hours and camp the night.


[I] leave the path and rejoin Roaring Meg, now a large stream flowing fast. Suddenly she emerges from the quiet pools overhung by forest to spill out on a large sheet of granite. Roaring now, through crevices and over boulders to drop out of the upland valley. My last camp in the wilderness. (Hill, quoted in Russell 1985:202-203)


Part Three

After a very public and protracted battle, conservationists succeeded in their aims to protect this region from development and human encroachment. In 1988, the Daintree forest became part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing. The Federal and Queensland Governments set up the Wet Tropics Management Agency and this body, along with the local shire council, seek to conserve, present and rehabilitate the area for future generations.


In the late 1980s and early 90s, this area of north Queensland became one of the country's and the Pacific's leading tourist destinations. A large international airport was built in Cairns. Tour operators with buses and four and six wheel drive vehicles, along with private cars at a rate of hundreds per hour now pass through and visit the Daintree-Cape Tribulation-Bloomfield area. It is also a major backpackers' destination.


It is now no longer merely the climate, the air and the sunshine which brings people here. (One hardly hears of the area's other major attraction, the Great Barrier Reef). It is NATURE. It is RAINFOREST. The new word to describe all this is 'Eco tourism'. On a recent trip to the Daintree region I realised the full impact of the notion by the weight of the suitcase full of brochures which I gathered and brought back with me.


The brochures deal with a narrow coastal strip less than 50km long and perhaps 10km wide. I quote from a selection to present the view of nature now being associated with eco tourism. We see with these a rather haphazard mixing of concepts such as wilderness, jungle, primitive, ancient, adventure, experience, paradise, tropical, safari, and trekking. There is also, in the brochures, every use of the word ‘rain forest’ imaginable (including 'Inn the Rain forest', a motel! and a company called Kangoala whose slogan is 'Kangoala is the Rain forest')


There are a variety of companies. I want to share them with you and what they have to offer according to their brochures:


Australian Wilderness Safari

"Discover the secrets and the beauty of the ancient rainforests. In your safari vehicles, you head off on the environmental land safari to the Daintree World heritage regions. Australian Wilderness safari guides are naturalists: they have a diverse knowledge of natural history, botany, ornithology, and zoology. To be a Safari Guide in Tropical North Queensland, one needs to have a close affinity with the natural attributes of this unique and beautiful region.


The wet Tropical Rainforests of North East Queensland which stretch along the coastal belt, are protected under World Heritage laws and various National Parks and State Forests are situated within World Heritage Boundaries.


The Rainforests are the most diverse in Australia...and contain the most primitive flowering plants found on earth...The Wet Tropical Forest also contains the highest diversity of animal life of any region in Australia... The region contains the largest track of rainforested land left in Australia. The conservation of the remaining virgin rain forest is one of the most pressing environmental concerns in Australia today. We all are custodians of our environment's future and by continually striving to ensure the environmental protection of the Wet Tropical Rain forest, The Great Barrier Reef and the Australian Outback, we are ensuring that the natural attributes of Australia are protected to enable future generations of all nationalities of the world to enjoy. (Japanese guides available)”


Wait-a-while rain forest tours

"If you like the thought of spending some time in a true rain forest wilderness area, you'll love this tour. This large area of rugged mountains and mysterious valleys is often shrouded with mist, and much research and exploration is yet to be done of the flora and fauna found there. We are fortunate to be able to visit such a delightful area which is home for rare and unique plants, birds and animals".


Heritage Lodge

"Here bandicoots and fireflies will often be an attraction on dusk or evening and you will dine in an unsurpassed rain forest setting enjoying quality home style cuisine featuring local exotic fruit whenever available. A small lounge bar is an attractive venue for congenial conversation or perhaps a quiet read".


Oz Tours Safaris

"Think of your tour with us as a bush walk on wheels, anything else is just a bus ride! The Daintree/Cape Tribulation region offers us a spectacular backdrop for this fantastic full day tour. Our 4WD and 6WD vehicles pick you up, and return you to your accommodation in Cairns. You will travel in safety and air conditioned comfort to experience one of Queensland's most beautiful areas. You'll marvel at the undisturbed and magnificent World Heritage rain forest, cool forest canopies, breathtaking views and spectacular beaches and have a bit of fun too! You will learn about some of the unusual fruits of the jungle in our rain forest commentary, and top off the fun by sharing your morning tea with cassowaries and perhaps a crocodile!"


Daintree River train

"Eco environmental wilderness cruise in a State Marine Park - a World Heritage area! Reef and rain forest retreat; educational commentary. Optional tropical luncheon - vegetarians catered for."


The Daintree Eco Centre

"Nestled alongside Barratt Creek in the rain forest, the Daintree Eco Centre houses a wildlife display well worth a visit. Included in this menagerie are a beautiful display of live butterflies, fish, wallabies, and flowering plants. There is a resident crocodile, with the appealing name of 'Agro', and other tropical curiosities such as tame fruit bats".


Near here there is even an artificial rain forest called the Rain forest Habitat (you are taken there by Down Under Tours): it "is an exiting new concept, with 300 metres of elevated timber walkways climbing through the trees in the enclosed canopy, providing close contact with our natural tropical rain forest. The Habitat houses over 30 species of birds and butterflies amidst its lakes and waterfalls. Beyond the canopy in the free-range area you will see wallabies and other native animals."


True Blue Tours presents: Eco tour of the Daintree River and rain forest,

"Travelling north along the Captain Cook Highway viewing the spectacular coastline over the Coral Sea, we arrive at Mossman Gorge for a short guided bushwalk set in the middle of World Heritage listed rain forest. Through Mossman and up to the mighty Daintree River for a unique river cruise. After leaving Daintree we proceed to our lunch destination where grilled barramundi and fresh tropical salads and fruit await us. A short drive ... down to Hartleys Creek Crocodile Farm to view the ancient crocodiles of the far north region.”


Tropical Horizons, Northern Delights

"Our day commences with travel north to Daintree through sugarcane farmlands and beside beautiful coastal scenery. After morning refreshments we board our river boat for a relaxing informative cruise viewing the wildlife of the Daintree River. On crossing the Daintree, we travel on bush tracks and pause at Alexandra Lookout for panoramic views over the Daintree River estuary and unspoilt coastline. After travelling through the magnificent lowland rain forest of the Cape Tribulation National Park and crossing crystal clear jungle creeks we arrive at the coconut Beach Resort for Lunch. Enjoy a swim in the resort pool or relax on Coconut Beach. We then visit Cape Tribulation Beach where two of the worlds' natural wonders converge - the rain forest gives way to white sand and fringing reef. Examine the amazing Bouncing Stones. Our visit to the Daintree Rain forest Environmental Interpretative Centre allows our visitors to really see, feel, smell, and experience unspoilt rain forest wilderness as they are accompanied by a Qualified Botanist along an elevated board walk through pristine virgin lowland rain forest. Enjoy afternoon refreshments whilst viewing the remarkable rain forest audio visual in the Centre's theatre, before returning you to your accommodation with wonderful memories of your visit to this unique wilderness area".


Strikies Safaris

"The Cape Tribulation and Daintree wet tropical rain forest is among the most primitive in the world today. Unravaged by volcanic and climatic activity for the last 120 million years, this rain forest is home to many primitive flowering plants, the origins of which date back to the time of the dinosaurs. Let Strikies Safaris take you into this fascinating rain forest world, so unique, it has recently been added to the World heritage list. We offer:

Guided walk through the rain forest

Mossman Gorge

Cruise along the majestic Daintree River

Cable Ferry river crossing

Valley of the Palms

Daintree and Cape Tribulation National Parks

Giant Strangler Figs

Controversial Bloomfield Track

Fascinating Bouncing Stones

Hand Feed Kangaroos and Wallabies at our lunch stop

Reef fringed Cape Tribulation beach

Naturalist guides and reference books


Nature photography

Bird watching

Delicious barbecue lunch

All our guides are true north Queenslanders"


Australian Rain forest Safaris

"Prop. Gary & Bev Zillfleisch, now 29 year genuine local locals presenting Gary's 4WD Safari Adventurer 1

Presenting a genuine off the road, four wheel drive section (we go bush!)

(The tour chosen by the United States Heritage Commissioner M/s Anne Smith.)

Entering the World Heritage Daintree and Cape Tribulation National Park we find the world's oldest rain forest, the rare, the beautiful, odd and sometimes deadly Dinosaur Trees, that make this area World Heritage! Some of the trees are freakish, some extremely beautiful, some are deadly, but all are interestingly different with different stories to tell of the days of Gondwanaland. After lunch and a beach walk we visit the famous Board walk to see the Rain forest ecosystems. During this tour special emphasis is placed on seeing the 3 best examples of strangler figs in the area eg. The Double Monster, The Sydney Harbour Bridge Tree, and last but not least the most gigantic and unique The Spirit Tree'!!!


We return through the picturesque upper Daintree valley to a (4WD only) access road, through private property and visit the Dinosaur Falls (where Paul Hogan helped put the wet tropics on the map by making the Shrimp on the Barbie series of TV ads!) also his famous Dive Sequence for the Winfield Cigarette commercial and more recently was the scene for the forthcoming TV series Ocean Girl. At the falls we see the breathtaking giant fern (Angiopteris). With beautiful (4WD) lookouts, beaches, crystal clear rain forest rivers and streams, this is where the Rain forest meets the Sea!


Note: Your guides are all local Aussies, which enables them to add that extra depth of commentary which help to impress their love of this beautiful area and their understanding of local Native [and they don't mean Aboriginal] Culture. All tours include 'Bev's Banana Cake' and the Ten deadly jokes'!



Part Four

Throughout the brochure descriptions above, wilderness is the central concept, defined literally as the dictionary does: "A wild region, as of forest or desert, inhabited only by wild animals; a waste; any desolate tract"; or from the thesaurus: 'untamed, uncivilised, savage, ferocious, feral, unbroken, native'. Rain forest is the other key concept. The brochure texts reveal rain forest as primeval, the epitome of the primitive, something dark, mysterious, unknown; wild; and enigmatic. Its great (and unknown) number and variety of flora and fauna, the hint of danger (snakes, and things anathema to human beings such as leeches) and the overwhelming beauty are also features.


What of human beings in this? Are they only visitors, and recent, curious strangers in a strange land? The Aboriginal inhabitants past and present are certainly not in the view presented to us in our brochures.


A clue as to where humans fit into it all in the eco tourism perspective lies with Michael Fromenko. I go again now to another text, one of many possible. It comes from a recent article in the Australian Way airline magazine (July 1993) by Lester Brien titled 'Jewels of the Jungle'.


In the late 1950s, Michael Fromenko - a Shore College old boy, the son of a lecturer, a scion of the late Russian aristocracy, an athlete of Olympian proportions - travelled to the Daintree River in Far North Queensland, carved a canoe from a sandalwood tree with the aid of a tomahawk, and paddled alone to New Guinea, a distance of over 1200 kilometres.


Later, when asked why he had done this, he replied: "I like to travel." For his efforts, he was hunted down, charged with vagrancy, committed to a mental institution and sedated.


When it was finally agreed that he suffered no recognisable form of mental illness, Mr Fromenko was released and promptly returned to the jungles from which he had been forcibly extracted - the Daintree River-Annan River region. This is where he still lives, an aging, haunted, solitary soul whose chief preoccupation, apart from survival, appears to be avoiding other humans.


By today's standards, Mr Fromenko would probably not attract too much attention - although a man running around in canvas shorts and living it rough in the jungle may still solicit some news coverage.


It has haunted me, since I first heard about Mr Fromenko, that, when asked why he had eschewed a career in banking in Sydney for a life in the jungles, he replied: "The man that lives for tomorrow, loses today."


The article then goes on to describe vividly the features of the Daintree-Bloomfield area which attracted Mr Fromenko there (features we are now I think very familiar with), and then outlines in typical travel brochure manner, the bus, boat and four-wheel drive trips one can take to see the region. The article finishes: "If you are holidaying in the Cairns region and are attracted to raw, physical beauty then you should take the time to visit this region. And while you are there, spare a thought for Mr Fromenko, who, on any given evening, is hunkered down under a log, somewhere out there in the primeval jungle, hopefully at peace with the world."


Another article (from the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 28 June 1984) uses phrases such as 'the rugged loner', and calls Fromenko 'Tarzan'. (The title of this article is 'Tarzan still roams the jungle'.) It notes that 'Tarzan...has been built into a legendary figure by the Australian media during his 30 years of solitary existence in the Cape York peninsula jungles.' The article goes on to add that Mr Tarzan is polite and 'takes off his big Bowie knife before entering settlements so as not to scare any women'.


'In nearly 30 years of wandering the rainforests, beaches and rivers, he has never sought medical help. He has never been bitten by any of the venomous snakes that are plentiful in the areas, has been known to kill crocodiles with his big knife, and swims with apparent impunity in seas noted for their deadly sea stingers and monster sharks.'


'He has no permanent home, preferring to make a small shelter each night when the weather is fine, or camp under a rock overhang when it is wet. He wears only vee-style underpants when he is in the bush. In cold weather he builds a fire lets it burn down and then sleeps in the ashes'.


Apparently, we can only be human in this environment by being Michael Fromenko, and to do this, we need to be super-human (overcoming danger) or by being less-than-human, primitive, alone and away from society. Many of the articles concentrate on Fromenko's rejection of his family, his turning his back on success, society, and humanity in general. He has done this to embrace Nature. The two obviously cannot be mixed.


Part Five

I have always been fascinated by early Australian explorers' comments, and in fact those of many tourists and visitors today, on the desert and arid regions of central Australia. They emphasise the land's harshness, its emptiness, its meaninglessness, and its lifeless-ness and humanless-ness. It is not a place for human beings. With the rain forest we now see much the same thing: It is Nature par excellence and a humanless landscape. It is not now meaningless, however. It has been defined, categorised and labelled with specific terms, but it is always out there apart from the 'Us' looking at it. If humans are involved, then they must be Michael Fromenkos: solitary, a-social, jungle men and a little mad. In other words, not quite human.


The amazing thing about all of this is that there are humans in this landscape, the Greater Daintree Rain forest, the World Heritage listed, Wet Tropics. There have been for some tens of thousands of years. They were there at first European settlement. And there are some thousand living there now. They are Kuku-Yalanji-speaking people who think about, talk about, use, and live in this environment. Two questions then: What do they think and say about this landscape? And why are they and their thoughts, perspectives and views invisible in the discourse of conservation and eco tourism?


I will try to answer the first in part by using a few texts from my field books[2]. Note again, that the area is exactly the same one in which Hann and Rosemary Hill wandered.


9-11 June 1978

I am travelling on a bush trip to Bargamuli and Burungu (China Camp) with Bob Yerrie, Bamboo and Ruby Friday and their kids, Mary Wallace, Clara Jones and others. Bob, boss for the trip, says that we are going for orchids and jilba ('walkabout', camping out).


Old Walker says I might get sick because I'm not used to the bush. 'I get like that when I go to different place' Stranger for country. Ngarrbal. We saw Michael Kulka on the road coming back from Daintree. He said road was good.


Our first camp is at Bairds Creek, on the south side of the old road crossing. It is a sandy, gravely creek bed. The water is slightly muddy, probably from tin-mining further upstream according to Bob and Bamboo. Everyone complains about it. 'Bana buyan ngujay manil, nugalnugal'. Mary, Clara and Ruby, the senior women, clear the camping area with their hands. Ronnie, Horace, Willie, Bob and I get firewood. Five fires are immediately started over an area of about 20 metres. Mary let her fire smoulder and put a billy of tea on it for the single men. Ron and I get water for the camp. Clara eats by herself. Fridays by themselves. The rest of us together, Bob and I first. After dinner, rain threatened and we went up to Victor Cummins' (tin-miner) old shed on river bank. The areas within the shed and around it are cleared by the women. Iron sheets are upturned to check for snakes. We all sleep like logs. During the night Willie was wandering around the camp and over to the creek's edge. Bob called out: 'Yinya bubu dubuji!' (This country is full of spirits), and Mary said, 'Watch out for ngaji (MF, who died nearby at China Camp and is buried there)!'


Up early the next morning. Bamboo, Bob and Willie have cut dura (spear shafts) and leave them to pick up tomorrow on our way home. We leave for China Camp by 7:45. We saw bigi-bigi on the way in. Bob shoots but misses. We set up camp at Dumubaja. We had gone further upstream to what everyone thought was a better camp. However the nyumbil [leaches] horrified everyone and we went back to Dumubaja.


Adults set up camp while kids look around. Willie and Horace bring in sheets of iron they got from an old tin miners shed for use if rain threatened. Then they went off to dive for ngujay with goggles. By 9:45 we all headed off upstream, following the Roaring Meg Creek edge. Bob carrying a rifle, Bamboo with an axe and billy can. Clara with a sack bag knife and billy can, She hopes to find mujur. We stopped many times along the way to look at various things. Saw two large yanga nests (I thought it wasn't supposed to be here!) We find orchids everywhere and the women eagerly get them, especially the tassel ferns. The boys dive for eel and turtle in the large waterholes. Willie speared a large eel but he got away. Some people move back to camp. Bob, Ron and I go upstream for mujar. Back at camp by 1pm. Clara was hiding in the bushes because white 4WD tourists had gone by.


After lunch we headed out towards the river. Bob cuts gunjari and we ate it. Willie then cut another one. Also got jidu and junjun. This is the best season for bush foods! Onto the road near the second bridge at China Camp, Bamboo shoots at a flock of brown pigeons ('For bait'). Misses. We're always looking for bigibigi traces. Back home to camp and everyone complaining about 'Minya kari'. Ruby says that at Kunanga, her home, 'Minya everywhere!' That night Clara stays awake and worries about jarba [snakes] and dubu [spirits] and then is the last to get up. Bob says we need to be careful in this country: 'Lotta Bama been here before. Lotta dead fellas.'


After an early morning and unsuccessful hunting trip with the young men we go back to camp empty-handed. Whole group then goes to waterfall, Bob acting as a kind of tour guide. When at Gijanga, reverent behaviour, sort of. Kids were admonished not to scratch rock with knife ('Jaramali will come!'), No rolling or throwing rocks, no singing out. Bob talked to Bamboo and me quietly off from the others (about the sexy bits). After looking at falls we went up to see Bald Mountain. Looked at place were sex change operation occurred. 'Blood' on rock noted. Photos taken. Bob asked me 'Which way home?' (Directions checked vis-a-vis key landmarks)


As we walked to Gija, Bob called out: 'Hello grandfather, I am here. I'm sorry I haven't been in this country for awhile. I'm sorry its duduy (not burned off and 'clean'). I am bringing all of your jija and gaminjirr (grandchildren) so they can see this place’.


Left about 12 and went up past China Camp towards Bourgaymba looking for mandarins. Stopped because of white miners there with dogs. Heard about Peter Wallace incident from woman at miners' camp and headed back with everyone perplexed and worried. She said someone came up to their camp last night calling out 'Johnny Walker' 4:30 am. She thought they had lost someone at the mission. Everyone speculated: ghost, someone died at the mission ('something wrong') 'trouble' -fighting there and Bob was wanted; telegram for me re problem with my family in Brisbane.


Had planned to stop at Baird's Creek  for dura but only pick up ones already there, On to Bargamuli, Everyone looks for tracks on road (re Peter). Stop at Chapman's Forge. Bambu, Ruby, Mary and Clara walk along looking for sugarbag, Lots of wanjigun (Bama iron around), Clara collected Nganjir to take home. On way home, Bamboo points out Walarr, dabu, and budiyaja along the way. At Roger's Scrub we stopped at mandarin tree and everyone loaded up. Used tree shaking and long sticks left there.


We saw Reggie King, Ruben and Ernie going to China Camp in Ford They solved the mystery. Peter & Paddy Wallace had come up to China Camp looking for us (they were home from stockwork at Laura), but couldn't find us.


2 July, 1978

JW and I go off to China Camp with Jimmy Ball, and Stanley Walker. He gets mujur at Roger's Scrub. We camp at Baird's Creek. We had roasted turtle, damper, syrup and tea for dinner. Fishing for eel that night. JW took a full cup of water with him to protect against burrku [forest spirit] (although he told me he had never seen one in scrub)


Next morning we go first to old Bourgaymba road, decide we probably can't get to the site that way so go back to real China Camp and leave truck near old William Burchell's camp near the lemon tree. As we walk through to the site, JW is calling out and checking directions with JB. We get there eventually, dogs trailing. Sit discussing the site. JW says:


'Oh, Bama used to camp everywhere, all around here. Old man Yerri, old man Corporal, that mob. They been here long time. That old woman, she died over there, one young baby buried there too.


JW later makes blazes on the trees around the site. We stop at old Juwan bayan (mango trees and flat), then go to old Yerri's grave. Here Walker calls out to the old man and introduces me, as a stranger to the old people and the land


Part six

What does the land, the environment mean in all of this for Kuku-Yalanji? First of all, the forest provides. It is utilitarian in the extreme. Major resources and their locations guide the trips and provide a broad purpose. People (channelled by cultural prescriptions of gender, age, etc.) are constantly on the look out for 'products'. It is amazingly like a shopping expedition. Discussion is intense; teaching goes on about species and their contexts and behaviour. Materials for building and tools are sought. People make their mark on the landscape as they go. (One man said to me that a bitumen highway should be put in so that people could go hunting more easily!) Roads and paths are made everywhere. (Makes it easier for people to get around, just like knocking down a wall in your house.)


The knowledge of species, among older people and many adults, is extensive and rivals that of European scientific experts. Broader ecological relations are also known about. Yet, this is not where Kuku-Yalanji stop, by any means, in the way they think and talk about the environment.


Kuku-Yalanji have a perception of and psychological or sentimental attachment to the land as individuals. Above and beyond this is a cultural notion of the environment as being humanised and personalised. At a more general and formal level, relationships with land were mediated by group or social category membership. The environment itself is a means of describing people and vice versa. It is a human land above all.


The environment for Kuku-Yalanji is not, in a sense, an objective entity, fixed in nature and external to human life. Environment is a `culturised', humanised landscape termed bubu, or `country'. It is often described in human terms; changes in it are interpreted as changes in the human or social world. It is interacted with: spoken to and acted upon. In turn it, re- acts by providing goods and resources or by withholding them and bringing hardship or climatic catastrophe upon humans.


Bubu in its most specific sense means `dirt' or `earth'. Most often though, it refers to `country', to the environment or one's physical surrounds. The landscape is socialised by the projection of a human persona onto it. Minute changes in the environment are read immediately and wholly in social terms: who has burnt off what area, who has cut down that `sugarbag' (wild honey bee hive), who has camped where, whose track is there, whose bit of clothing is that and so on. Major changes, too, such as floods, fire, drought, the failure of seasonal resources to appear on time or food not being of the right quality, are perceived as being brought about by action in the social world. Even with simple description, country is humanised or subject to cultural assimilation. The lie of a hill or a series of mountains is often referred to by use of analogy with the human body. Country is classified according to ease of human movement upon it. Anomalies in the environment are explained in cultural terms, for example when only one individual of a particular species is found in an area where this species is normally not found. Such a situation is invariably explained by reference to `human' actions during the Ngujakura or Creation era.


The environment is also individuated by the often intense personal relationship which one might have with it. The term bubu_mukul_bajaku (`very old place') is used as an expression of respect, intimacy and utmost familiarity. It connotes a place or area that has been used in a variety of ways for many years. Every part is known in great detail. This is seen as opposed to bubu jirakul or new, unfamiliar country, always containing the possibility of danger: physical danger in not knowing safe paths, good creek and river crossings, patches of stinging tree or snake- prone places. There are the spiritual dangers of not knowing the locations of yirmbal or `story places', particular sites of cultural significance. Improper entry to these can lead to illness or death. Country can also be bubu_ngulkurr or bubu_buyun (`good' or `bad' country) depending on the ease of passage or occupation it offers or the state of resources available there. There is a strong sentiment that one's country should be looked after `properly'. The term miyilda_kujil, literally `to guard, keep or hold something', is normally used here. One of the most obvious manifestations of this is whether the country has been kept bunjal or `clean' by being burned off regularly and having sticks and leaf litter cleared from campsites. Country that has not been visited for some time and which has not been cleaned is referred to, often with great disapproval or remorse, as duduy_bajaku (`overgrown' or `bushy').


Bubu_jirrbujirrbuda is another concept which expresses the personalised nature of the way Kuku-Yalanji think about country. This concept refers to country that has been uninhabited or not visited for some time. Such country is considered to be lonely and sad because it has been neglected. Arrivals at these places are conducted in a formal but emotional manner when visitors often speak to the country and to the dead ancestors whose spirits reside there. Apologies are made for absences, and children and others who have never been there are introduced. There is also a real sense of anxiety on the part of owners of country learning of other people travelling in or using it. Unseasonal rainfall and other unusual climatic phenomena are always attributed to such occurrences.


The environment is thus never seen as something conceptually apart from humans, as something only to be exploited by them for a living. There is a definite psychological factor of `home' - the familiarity and known quality of country. Importantly, too, bubu is the essence of people who belonged to it and who have died. And it is the essence of the living persons who are identified with it and who are using it. It is believed that bubu looks after one and provides sustenance as long as it is utilised regularly and properly and as long as the social order is maintained. The environment is culturally defined and perceived, but it is also individuated. In other words, nature is not only equated with society, but also with particular individuals.


Social categories and land

There is much more, though, than a general cultural interpretation of the environment in human terms. A structural element of the social system is also projected onto the landscape. Categories of people or groups have as one of their defining features a close association with particular areas in the landscape. Thus relations among people and among groups are seen also as relations among territories or countries (‘nature’ itself). Here we have clans and estates, and moieties and regions. I do not go into detail about these relationships here except to note their existence.


Environmental features:

Actual features of the landscape and environment play a role in defining Kuku- Yalanji social categories and in fact people themselves. A fundamental distinction in southeastern Cape York Peninsula is that between the inland and coastal environments. This dichotomy is overtly labelled in Kuku-Yalanji and is based on two criteria, the type of water found in a given area and the type of specific environment. Thus bana_kalkilji, `saltwater', is opposed to bana_yaralji, `freshwater', and jalunji, `of the sea', opposed to ngalkalji, `outside' or `away from the sea'. Both sets of terms are used to categorise people, plants, animals, as well as country. The Roaring Meg River region is `outside', `freshwater' country par excellence, including as it does, no coastal area nor tidal river zones. On the other hand, places, resources and people associated with the coastal estates were all defined as `saltwater'. Some groups associated with areas like Thompson Creek and the present Kuku-Yalanji community at Wujal Wujal on the Bloomfield River were said to be `half and half' or `little bit jalunji'. This reflects their country's proximity to both marine and inland environments. This categorisation is reflected in symbolic terms in a number of sites and also in food prohibitions (e.g. not mixing up salt water and freshwater food)


Other environmental differences reflected in social categories are those based on predominant vegetation. The most general dichotomy, and an important one, is that between vine or rain forest country (`scrub' in north Queensland European and Aboriginal English), and woodland or forest country: respectively, madja and bali. As with the coastal/inland division, the madja/bali classification applied equally to clan estates, plants, animals and people. The categories are also seen as opposing sets. Madjaji applied to all territory that had a predominance of rain forest vegetation, the people associated with that territory, plants, animals and other things normally found in rain forest environments. Likewise, open-forest country territories and their people and fauna were termed baliji. The suffix -warra, as with patriclan names, was also used here, as in Baliwarra or `forest mob'.


Apart from these general cultural factors, there is above all a projection of social history (i.e. the history of the recent past of known people, read onto and from the landscape). Everything is considered from this point of view. It is impossible to think about Burungu for Kuku-Yalanji without thinking about Yerrie and where he camped and where he is buried. It is impossible to think about it or even talk about it without reference to Bobby Yerri his son, and Billy Burchell, and Dicky Fisher and the mark they left on the landscape. Their actions are there, not just in the memories of people, but in the way they talk about and act in the landscape today. For Kuku-Yalanji it is not possible to think about the environment of China Camp and of the Upper Daintree forest without these living reference points. They use people in order to talk about nature. There is no other way.


Part Six

I can discern at least four models of nature in the texts and other material I have presented.


The first we can call, perhaps, the pioneer view. Over time it has changed from hostility and fear to one of comfortable domination. It involves an imposition of self on the environment; land's potential contrasts with its 'thereness'; it is knowable; dominatable; and is physically consumable in a whole sense; change involves improvement and progress; it is a generalised relation with the environment; there is little or no historical perspective. Rain forest itself, as a part of nature becomes an actual physical commodity (As the real estate agents said during the Daintree-Bloomfield road struggle: "Save your piece of the rain forest [by buying it]" Once it had to be fought against and destroyed, now it is parcelled up and consumed as is (as long as it isn't too unruly).


The second model of nature is the conservation or green one. This involves a generalised relationship of the environment as a whole to humans; it is ideological; sentiment providing a way of maintaining separation - the 'other place', not home, not self; the environment is consumable only in an intellectual sense. It is the opposite of an imposition of self on the environment. It distances, alienating the self and all humans from nature. The only history is a natural, or a prehistoric one. Specifically, rain forest becomes an intellectual commodity; dehumanised, but controlled and labelled by humans from afar: "Think, but don't touch!"


Within this view lurk strange bedfellows in north Queensland: the gee whiz, far out and amazing view of the green hippie and the cool, calculating, categorising and classifying of the scientist.


The third is the eco tourism view. This perspective, often driven by the pioneer, involves the consuming-all, seeing-all but seeing nothing, tourist avidly gathering experiences and video footage of their tropical-wilderness-paradise rain forest-adventure-experience. Nature is an ephemeral, holiday encounter.


The final view is of course the Kuku-Yalanji one. It posits little or no generalised relation with an overall concept of landscape or nature. It is intensely local. It has no notion of nature itself. There is a unity of self and society with the environment; There are only particularised relationships; The environment is given; thereness instead of potential; there is a 'naturalness' of provision to humans; nature is imminently consumable, but only in terms of selective elements; there is a totally socio-centric interpretation of environment; an aggressively social, individualistic imposition of society onto it (although this is not entirely true as there is little distinction in the first place. There is no means in English to describe this really); sentiment here is a way of maintaining unity ('home'); short term historical perspective (the environment is read only in terms of its human history).


Despite the theory, despite the voluminous literature on it, and, despite Aboriginal ideology, there is very little of what one could call a spiritual relationship here. It is too practical, too human-centric, too immediate and too 'real'.


These are very, very different ways of looking at the world in the Daintree. However, they do co-exist. People live in, travel through, see and use the same environments. What are the implications of this? I return in the last part of this paper, to my earlier question: Why are Kuku-Yalanji and their thoughts, perspectives and views invisible in the discourse of conservation and eco tourism?


Part Seven

Aborigines are left out of the eco/environmental/conservation/tourism discourse in north Queensland for several reasons[3]:


     The widespread belief that the 'real' Aborigine is gone from the rain forest. The ones there today ‘don't know anything’.

     The view that tourism and Aborigines don't mix well together: ‘We don't want tourists to worry about their living conditions/ the Aborigines might be drunk/we can't understand them/what if they ask us for money?...’

     Aboriginal people have proved themselves problematic with respect to their interaction with and views of the environment in this area (eg the Daintree road case).

     True nature is independent of human beings;


The last two are the nub of the matter for the argument in this paper. I can't think of an Australian environment which has been so little altered physically and yet so drastically and completely colonised intellectually. On the one hand, the direct destruction and often racist exclusionary attitudes of development proponents, and on the other, the arrogance and presumption of the conservation view have, combined, led to the invisibility, the exclusion of Aboriginal reality and consciousness with respect to nature. Both of these views are coming together again now in, for Aboriginal people, the deadly notion of eco tourism - a philosophy and enterprise which, as we have seen, deletes Aboriginal people from the landscape entirely.


There is another major and serious consequence. The State is now institutionalising much of the view of nature I have described in its Wet Tropics Management Agency. The WTMA is a framework of policy and practice which has been overlaid onto the Daintree and other of the northern rainforests. It has legislative and other power and it has money. More than this it has the clout of morality (How can saving the rain forest not be good?) The philosophy of the Agency is meant to work against the bad old views of the pioneer developers, it is built on the scientifically-based and universally good values of conservation and because these latter are seen as coinciding with Aboriginal perspectives on the land then everyone is covered. This sound and massive moral force can then guide us all towards eternal prosperity through eco tourism.


The structure, ideology and practice of WTMA and in fact the National Parks Service here, too, are based on a dehumanised view of rain forest. The mere concept of 'Wilderness', much analysed elsewhere and a core value for WTMA, proves this. WTMA defines wilderness in the Wet Tropics area in terms of 'aesthetic naturalness, biophysical naturalness, remoteness from settlement, and remoteness from access,' (WTMA 1992:116). It speaks of 'wild and scenic values'. It speaks of untouched landscape. I wonder how Bobbie Yerrie and Jimmy Ball feel about this? WTMA is talking about their larder, both of food and of sociality. It is the physical manifestation of their society, their family, their ancestors.


Contrary to the received view of Aboriginal culture and its relation to the environment, I argue here that land is predominantly an extension of human beings (obscured deliberately by a spiritual ideology). In this, Kuku-Yalanji people may have more in common with Bill Quid than anyone has ever considered.


My 1989 paper on the Daintree road received considerable publicity and I got calls and letters from all over demanding to know how I could say that Aboriginal people were not natural conservationists and wholly spiritual inhabitants of the wildernesses of Australia. From that point on, however, in the history of land and conservation struggles in north Queensland, the Greens basically turned their backs on Aboriginal people. The progression seems to have been one of:


1. Conservation (nature as a scientific commodity);

2. Formalised controls in World heritage listing (the State imposes its view of nature);

3. Eco tourism (fetishised nature and a way to make green money),

4. WTMA (to further extend State control, and ensuring Aboriginal invisibility).


Where once there were coexisting consciousnesses of nature, we now clearly have competing ones: Is it only Bill Quid or Michael Fromenko? Does it have to be the light step of the ascetic, wandering ecologist versus the intimate, humanising, social hurley burley of Blackfellas in the bush? Are these the only possibilities for humans-in-nature?





Anderson, C. 1989. Aborigines and conservation: The Daintree-Bloomfield road. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 24, (3):214-228.


Billinton 1966 [Can’t find for the moment]


Boyd, A. J. 1886. ‘Queensland: An introductory essay’ in Queensland: its Resources and Institutions, Essays prepared for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London, Ed. P. Fletcher (Govt. Printer, Brisbane).


Frawley, K.J. 1983. Rainforest management in Queensland before 1900. Australian Historical Geography No. 4:2-26.


Hann diary [in CA  PhD thesis biblio]


Russell, R. Daintree: Where the Rainforest meets the Reef. Sydney: Kevin Weldon. 1985.


Williams, Raymond 1981. Culture. London: Fontana


Wet Tropics Management Authority 1992 [In my old office file]



[1] This is an imagined person.

[2] Ideally, texts directly from Kuku-Yalanji people would be better here. However, none exist in written form. Oral texts from tapes are possible but require translation and contextualisation anyway. I decided then that a glimmer of Kuku-Yalanji reality (or at least my experience of it) might exist in my field notebooks.


[3] Central Australia is a very different case. This is because of the sheer dominance of Aboriginal people in many areas of the Centre in terms of numbers and presence. It is also because many of the choice environmental features are on Aboriginal-owned land.


Bob Yerry, CA Zig Zag Horse Camp, ca 1995 


Eulogy for Bob Yerry

Given by Chris Anderson at the request of the family at Bob’s funeral , Wujal Wujal, 1998


Niku, ngayu bakal for ngayku yaa.  Ngayu wawu-karrabal [happy], balkal for nyulu.  Jana girls, nyungan ngujur-ngujur, balkan ngayu.  Ngayu balkal kuku for ngayku haba, ngayku jawun.


Ngadiku 1977, ngayu Kadan, wujal-wujal-bu.  Ngayu kadan for kuku - milka janay: bubu, ngujakura, mayi, minya.  [21 years ago this week].  Ngayu bundanday first time wangkar wawubaja.  Yaba kadan, bunday, nyulu yalaman: “Yundu can’t stop here, milka-bujar, jawun-kari.  Yundu kaday wangkar mission-bu ngayku bubu, ngayku bayan.  Ngayku jawun-dana look after you-mun.


Yurra bama dingkan, jalbaljalbal, all buban, kankay-ku.


Ngalin bundayayn old bayan, warru, single man dornitory.  Juma-Juma yinya dingkar yalaman: yundu ngayku yabaju kidu; yinya yunu babarr, jingkurr, juway, ngujurr, all the family.  Jana dagin ngayu mayi.  Nganjim jilba-dungan x 3.


Ngayku yaba milbayn yayu bubu, yirrmbal, story, mayi, minya everywhere.  Nyulu milbayn proprly.  Bubu-Kuda!


Ngayu najim bubu and kaban maninda.  Kari for ngayu, for bingabinga and kankay coming up now.  Dama!


Niku, ngayku haba wulayn.  Nayu walburr [grieving].  Ngana all jiba-badi [sorry].  Wanya bama, yinya wawu-juljal? [man who has passed away].


Life History


Family links back in time.


Nyungu Nganjin Wulman Yerri wujal wujal warra; babi nyungu burri Ngamu-ngamba-Burruwarra.  Yinya wulman juljal Buru-nga.


Nyungu ngamu - Bawanga - Nellie King.  Nyulu bunan Dikarrba long time.


Bubu from njayku yaba-nga kami, wulwoman, kaja kaja.


Ngaji nyungu-wulman kalka manangu - king.  Mulujinbu.


Bawanga kangkal kangkal wulbul dunyu kulurr.


Elsie, Nancy, Queenie, Dolly, Mabel, Jack, Ivy, Mary and all the family today.




Ngayku yaba - wujal wujal warra properly.  From Yerri, but Dikarrba from Kami, mulujinwarra from Wgaji and Buru-warra from babi-nga sie.


Nyungu bubu.  Ngayu balkal yurra, kuku-wambal jirray.  [explain all]


1.         Kuwa wawu baja-burr.  Wujalwujaldarr: [along the river north of the community] from Dilngkubaja, nyungu yirmmbal, bajabaja, wangkarr wawubaja-horse crosing, Jilnganji, Jinjurri, bular, wujal wujal, bana yirril [to waterfall].


2.         Naka wawubaja burr wujalwujaldarr from Dikanba [south of river] to ngurku.


3.         Wujalwujal mun wangkar, Binda Babar-anga:  From Wujal Wangkar, bana yiril, Bulngkalba, bindababara [to top of divide]


4.         Dikarrbanum [from Thompson to Meg falls] main ampmunbu:  Dubumirrkayin to mabarrba, to Ngumbuyinba and Mara, to Walbamurru, burunbu, Riba Ngalmbungu, Kubi, Ngama Kaja then Kija-nga.


5.         Wawubajanum burngu numbu: [up old China Camp road]




Chapman’s Forge



All ngungu bubu.


In that bubu, yinya yirrmbal, stories bajabaja at Dilygkubaja

bular bada

jarramali Thompson Creek mundurr Wangkau

banayirril (nyungu burri from this one)


Ngayku yaba:

Nyulu wunjan [pleasant to be with]

nyulu minday [brave & confident]

Kuku mini mini, juyuy kari humbag.  [good speaker but man of few words]

Kari kuku baka

Waludandi sometimes [stubborn]

only a few times Kuli

mala minya [good hunter]

jurru walay

nyulu maja yalbay

junkali [straight, truthful]

wawu mini [happy]

jaway [generous]

jayarr-jayarr [good to talk to]

walmbaji [peacemaker, blocker]

yaral [right attitude,kept ‘cool’]

mala-nganyi [clever]


Ngayu balkal kuku waybala niku.


Achievements and Life Story


Born & Bred in bush, schooling at Biddles; worked at stockman most of his life - for different people in Bloomfield valley; loved horses, handling cattle and was an expert; ended up running the community’s tock work, fencing yards, horses and everything.


Council (spent almost two decades on the Council; as chairman and deputy - from mission times to self-management; from BRM to WW.


Land gains (wujal wujal, Dikarrba, Jajikal, Burungu, Peirce lease and Zigzag, Landin)


Specific cases and issues.  He fought for what he believed in - the right of Bama to determine themselves.  What happens on their land.  The wilderness - world heritage listing:  and the right of Bama to hurt and camp on their land; the road from Kulki - yaba stood up to politicians, to missionaries, to environmentalists, to hippies, and sometimes to land councils other Bama, lawyers and anthropologists - to all sorts of people.  But he could and did work with all of them too.  He worked for his community and for his people.  He was a leader, a time and natural leader.


What will the future hold without him?  I think his loss will affect all of us in many and different ways.  It will change the life of this community as younger people and new leaders come on and take their place.


The great tragedy is that nyulu didn’t live to see the KY native title land claim go through.  Everyone should be spurned on now even harder to make it a reality for the Bama here now and for generations to come.


Sad as no one here to sing malkarri now.  To send his wawu off.  We’ll do it waybala way a little bit.


We need to loo forward and all remember one happy times with this old man.  He would want us to be strong.  Kari banbadi.  Nyulu yalaman.


Before Christmas, I was in a place in Adelaide, and I saw a Baja Baja - very unusual there.  I didn’t know what was happinging; then Frances rang me and said, Nyulu bambay, nguba nyulu wulay.


This was a wulngkul, this lizard, his mandimandi, his Boss and mate from the Ngujakuna.  But it was also a message, his farewell to me (some Bama had that here).


He would want W-W to keep going as it has - very different than before - not all good, but mostly.  Bana control-land, employment and strong law and culture.  These are all areas where ngayku yaba made a big difference to the lives of everyone here.


We will all miss him.




 Walker, CA and Bob Yerry; Walker, CA and family, Thompson's Creek,  ca 1991


Eulogy for John Walker (1912-1992)

Given by Chris Anderson at < xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" prefix="st1" namespace="">Walker’s funeral, Wujal Wujal, April 1992

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The family have put together the life story of this old man here. And they have asked me to say a few things about it. I knew this man for over 15 years and he was a friend and great influence on my life, so I am more than happy to do this.


This old man was born probably around the beginning of the First World War. According to records we have gathered he would have been 80 today.


His mother Nellie was from Boolbun side and his father was an Englishman who was killed in World War I.


This old man's bush name was Kalbay or 'tall one' and he was born at Ngulukaban near Rossville but grew up as a Kuku-Nyungkul at Kuna-nga or Shipton's Flat.


He was married three times and had 15 children, 31 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.


Although he was a man of the bush and knew his own culture intimately, he also worked very hard at many jobs in the European world. He worked on the Cooktown to Laura Railway; put up the Government stockyard at Laura, worked for the Sycamore Mining Co., worked at Home Rule with the Hatfields and on the Big Tableland; at Rossville and at Main Camp later on. He had great experience and knowledge of tin mining. Worked with Sergeant Hegearty at Cooktown. He did scrub felling for Norman Watkins and at Olafsons and worked at the sawmill at Bloomfield.


When he finally and reluctantly brought his family to live full time in the mission, he did much of the scrub falling, the stock work, fencing, and was the butcher. He was on the maja-maja council in Mr Hartwig's day. In 1971 he was elected as Chairman of Council and was then a member of Council until early 1980s. He was also a Church elder.


His first marriage was a tribal one and they had three children (1 died). When that marriage ended his wife took the daughter to live with her and he took the son. Wherever he worked he took this son, Henry, with him. His second marriage was also a tribal one. The couple moved into Cooktown to have their fourth child. His wife died in childbirth. The child, Allen, was then cared for and raised by the Wallace family as Walker had to raise all his other children by himself.


During this time he worked all around the place. At Bloomfield he met his third wife, Ivy Yerry. They were married in the Cooktown Courthouse. Later they had to leave Cooktown because of problems with the children at school. He wanted his kids to have an education so they walked down to Bloomfield. Bama were then camped over on the southern side of the river and the children were frightened to cross by boat. The family camped with Matty Boatboy at Dikarrba, then built a house of their own there. At this point Ronnie was born. The older children were getting married now: some at Hope Vale, some at the new mission Wujal Wujal at top camp. Later on, everyone came from Thompson Creek and elsewhere up to Wujal Wujal.


From Wujal Wujal the family moved to their own place at Dikarrba in 1981 where they have lived since.


Walker died of cardiac arrest at 11.15 a.m. on 26th March on the way into Cooktown in the ambulance accompanied by his daughters. He passed away at Kalkajaga (Black Mountain) not far from his own country.


Although he was a man of senior standing in the community, Walker never lost touch with his country or his law. It was through this that I was privileged to meet him and work with him for more than 15 years. He patiently taught me about bubu (country), about ngujakura (ngadibajaku - the Dreaming stories), about yirmbal (sacred sites), about mayi and minya, about bush tucker. For me, in showing me another way of seeing the world, this wonderful place, he was a great influence in my life as a teacher and as a friend.


He wanted his children and grand children to learn about these things too. He did this by taking them into the bush at every opportunity, hunting, gathering, camping out weekends and holidays. He was fiercely independent, knew how to work hard both in his own setting and in that of the white fellow.


He was a family man. Caring with seemingly endless generosity and concern for his dozens of children, grand children and great grand children. He passed on to these children a wonderful and great legacy - the importance of family, the importance of independence - of being separate, of not necessarily going along with everyone just because the group is doing it and while working and making one's way in the European world, the importance of never forgetting about country, about Bama way.


He leaves behind many many friends, both European and Bama, his children and grand children, his great grand children, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law and many other relatives.


But he leaves us all a great influence and inspiration.


He will be missed and remembered by all.


Goodbye old man.


Chris Anderson

South Australian Museum

4 April 1992


Details from the family:


Johnny Walker (Kuku Name Kalbay)

Born: Rossville

Date of Birth: 4th April 1919

He died at the age of 72 on Thursday, 26th of March 1992 on the way to Cooktown Hospital at 11.30 a.m. Accompanied in by 2 daughters Lily and Francis and Clinic Sister Harry Bate and Wardman Peter Cahill. He had a cardiac arrest at 11.15 a.m. and as resuscitation was unsuccessful he died at 11.30 a.m. He had been having heart trouble for some time.


Mother: Nellie Yurie

Father: European Father he never knew

3 brothers, 2 died, 1 was George Rosendale's father.

2 sisters, 1 died.

He left 1 brother, Harry Shipton, and 1 sister, Ida Bremmer now.

He had 15 children.

From first wife he had 3 children, 2 sons, 1 died, and 1 daughter.

From second wife he had 4 children, 2 sons and 2 daughters.

Allan was adopted to Willy and Dolly Wallace.

From his third wife he had 8 children, 4 sons, 1 died, and 4 

daughters. He also had 31 grandchildren but 4 died and had 26 

great grandchildren, also 1 died. He left 5 son-in-laws and 3 



He left his brother-in-law, Bobby Yerry, and sister-in-law, Mary Wallace. Also friends and relatives. He raised his two great grandchildren, Charlie and Stanton.


He is very much missed by all family members and by those who knew him.



He spent his early childhood around Rossville, Shipton Flat, Cooktown and Helenvale area. As a teenager, he used to work with a lot of white people around these areas.


He worked on the Railway Line from Cooktown to Laura. When that job ended, he helped build a Government Stockyard at Laura. At the completion of this work, he returned back home to Rossville. He started Tin Mining to fend for himself. He met and Tribally  married his first wife and lived at Rossville. From this marriage he had three children, but one died, the first child (son). Then the marriage ended, the wife taking the daughter and he kept the son.


He then joined up with Sycamore Mining Company. A year after that he worked with another Mining Company at Home Rule with Percy and Ritchie Hatfield. When he completed that job, he started with another Mining Company, at Big Tableland with Boggy Wynet. With the same company he returned back to Rossville, and continued Tin

Mining, then returned back to Big Tableland for work.


Wherever he worked he took his son, Henry.


A couple of years later he met his second wife, and they were also tribally married. They moved to Cooktown for a while waiting for his second wife to have their fourth child. She died giving birth to the baby (Allen) at the Cooktown Reserve. Then the baby was taken to the Cooktown Hospital for Anti-natal care, because he was a newborn. He and the rest of the children returned back to Rossville.


He later returned to Cooktown to see the baby, but concerned relatives already took responsibility of Allen. He never really wanted to give him up but concerned relatives insisted that they keep him because they were aware of that he had to look after the other children. He advised the adopting parents he would be happy 

if the baby's name could remain as Allen Walker Wallace. He then returned back to Rossville, with the children, and continued Tin Mining to support he and the children.


He moved back to Cooktown, he and the children, because of the job offer he had as a Tracker working with Sergeant Bob Hegedy. When his service with the police no longer was needed, they returned back to Rossville to continue to support his children.


He set out looking for work again. He searched as far as Bloomfield, leaving the children with his mother in Cooktown. While in Bloomfield, he met up with his third wife (Ivy Yerry) and took her back to Cooktown. They were legally married in the Cooktown Courthouse. The couple then returned to Rossville with all four of his children. There he started up Tin Mining again. He was offered another job Scrub Falling by Norman Watkin, while his wife done domestic work for the Watkin family. to earn extra money for the children.


He was concerned about the children's education, so they returned to Cooktown, starting them in school there. The children did schooling there for about one week until Racial Accusations were being made at the children by other students of the school. So he removed them from the school and journeyed back to Rossville.


He was a very independent man, therefore did not rely on anyone to take care of the children, so he took them wherever he went.


He wanted the children to continue their education in a better school, so they set off from Bloomfield by foot. In those days the family had no means of transport so they walked wherever they wanted to go. They walked until arriving at Whyalla,  

approximately halfway, and done a bit of hunting and food gathering then camped overnight. The next day they continued walking until arriving at Bloomfield (Middle Camp). The children were scared to jump onto the boat, because this was the first

time they rode on one. In order to get over to Degarra, they had to cross by boat. They stayed with Matty Boatboy (Eileen's father) and family. They stayed there for a while until deciding to build a house of their own. When all of that was done and they were settled into their own house, the children started school. By this time the first child of the third wife was born (Ronnie).


He started up Tin Mining again at Main Camp, to continue supporting his family. The third wife took responsibility of the children from his previous marriages while he went out to work. The eldest son, Henry, was now old enough to help his father support the family, so he set out for work at Kings Plane Station as a Station Hand for about a year. Then returning back to Bloomfield to work with his father. They started up Tin Mining up at Main Camp, Henry and his father and also accompanied by

four year old Ronnie. The older children assisted his third wife with the younger children. After completing that job, they, he and Henry, started work at the Sawmill (Bloomfield).


He was not used to being around a lot of people, so they moved to the South Side of Degarra, to build another house of their own. In order to build the house they wanted, they had to walk for miles along the beach searching for suitable timber.


As the years went by the family extended.


He again had a job offer at Olsen's, Scrub Falling. He ceased work after one week and stayed home for a while to help his wife with the children. He always relied off the land hunting and fathering food for his family.


The older children were all married by this time and already starting their own family, and was living at the new established Mission (Wujal Wujal). Two of the four eldest children settled down in Hopevale Mission and started a family there of their own while two remained in Wujal Wujal Co. The younger children stayed with parents at Thompson Creek (Degarra).


When more houses were constructed at the Mission, the families around the Degarra area were collected by the missionaries, to move up there to the Mission.


He and Ronnie worked for the Mission doing Scrub Falling, stock work, Butcher, fencing, etc. The younger children attended the Bloomfield School.


In the year 1971, he was elected Chairman of the Community, for a period of three years. He was re-elected but only as a Council member for another three years. He was a Church Elder of the Community also. His third wife past away in the year 1981. Then he retired and went on the Widowed Pension. He also had a grand daughter in his care (Gloria). Later on he helped his two youngest daughters in the bringing up of Charlie and Stanton Walker.


He assisted in gathering information concerning Aboriginal traditional ways for Anthropologists. He worked closely with Chris Anderson and also other people from this Department.


He built camping huts around the area for weekend camping. He built two at Thompson Creek with the help of his children.


In the mid year of 1981 the family moved to Thompson Creek. In 1985 extension of the house commenced.


The family is very grateful to Chris Anderson for the help he gave to make it possible for them to have a house of their own away from everybody. He always was alone with his family until the day he past on.


He taught his children to be independent. They all worked and learnt from him how to live of the land traditionally. The children return their affection to him by being with him until he went.