TRADITION: A likeness of the traditional bunya torch held by Jaal Willmot (left) with dad Jimal Willmot.
TRADITION: A likeness of the traditional bunya torch held by Jaal Willmot (left) with dad Jimal Willmot. Contributed

Bunya trees significant to Aboriginal culture

FOR much of the time that humanity has been settled in south-east Queensland there was no electricity, yet traditional Aboriginal technology made easy use of local resources to make life on the coast and inland more comfortable.

The branches taken from fallen trunks of dead bunya trees could be crafted into a cone-shaped torch containing a flame fuelled by the burning resin sourced from the Hoop pine.

Before colonisation the culturally significant Bunya tree (Auracaria bidwillii), Hoop pine (Auracaria cunninghamii), together with the Brown (She) Pine (Podocarpus elatus) grew around the higher points of Coolum Beach.

Such was the significance of the Bunya tree and its bunya nut foods in traditional Aboriginal farming and cultivation, the 1842 Bunya Proclamation was declared, to protect the bunyas around the Maroochy and Mooloolah catchments, from timber-getting.

Bunya trees along the Blackall Range (Jinibara country), Nambour and the lower coastal plains (Kabi Kabi country), provided food resources enabling the gathering of many clans.

So did the Bunya Mountains (Wakka Wakka country), near Kingaroy. Clans across south-east Queensland, and from far-away places such as western Queensland and northern NSW would travel to these bunya gatherings, informed by a network of smoke signalling or message sticks (Aboriginal telegraphy).

A likeness of the traditional bunya torch held by Jaal Willmot (left in photo), sitting with father Jimal Willmot, holding a Hoop pine seedling.

The Willmot family are Wakka Wakka traditional owners for the eastern side of the Bunya Mountains.


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