Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Justine Dillon

This resource is related to the following Learning Area –

And responds to the following Enquiry Questions –

Q4.Ways to care for a familiar place – Indigenous perspective on how they care for their special places.
Q6.How the Kombumerri cared for Country.
Q26.What were the spirits and gods significant to the Kombumerri people?

Resource transcript –

So, we would have our men’s and women’s areas. So, the women would particularly take care of their site. So, like the women’s birthing area, I’d say they would have kept it clean of debris and after storms there would have been clean ups where all the groups would have helped clear up the sites around the Gold Coast that were damaged. My main practical experience, myself, with caring for country… at my Quandamooka country I help my grandmothers look after the Aboriginal cemetery there by going around, tending to each grave. We clean it up. Clear all the sand and dust off. Rearrange all the rocks and the shells so that they’re put back in place respectfully for each ancestor buried. We don’t have an Aboriginal cemetery here on the Gold Coast. We do have our ancestors buried under the ground at a local park. And, I would like to have some sort of caretaker role of that area but because they’re under a slab of concrete there’s not really much we can do to tend to those areas. A lot of areas have been developed, so, I think that part of our cultural heritage has kind of been lost due to… we very much assimilated to our Gold Coast region. We wanted to fit in and stay. So, a lot of those practices, I think, have been lost over the years. But, I do know stories my grandfather, Graham, shared with me about one of the last Kombumerri occupied settlements at Gardiner Island at Brighton Parade in Southport. Just near Sundale bridge, a lot of people would know that area. It’s a football field now but once upon a time it was an island and our aunties would take the young uninitiated men and children over and teach them how to collect shells and catch the crab and a bit of weaving, I believe, and other things. Just cultural heritage practices. And that was the last known occupied area that they practiced traditional Kombumerri cultural heritage. Some of it’s been lost now due to our Elders passing on and some of the younger generations not taking on and listening and continuing that cultural heritage. There’s a few of us but we’ve discussed… we don’t all… not one person knows the entire culture. So, hopefully we can gather bits and pieces to one day reignite some of that cultural heritage and start tending to our country again. Personally I’ve been striving with my Indigenous Protected Area role. I’m the manager, project manager for Guanaba Indigenous Protected Area in the Hinterland. And, our main goal there with the federal government funding is to conserve the fauna and flora, bring it back to its natural state with a combination of our traditional owner management mixed with the new age management and weed managers that we incorporate. And, we boast to everyone that we’ve found our harmonious balance there, that the work we’re doing mixed together our traditional knowledge with new knowledge. It’s working really well for us and we invite everyone out to show them the results of how well it’s working. That the proof is there. That working on our country and using techniques that have survived over generations with certain plants and fauna seems to be working. We’ve only got 200 acres to do it on but we’re showing people what we’re capable of and hopefully we can extend that to other sites on the coast, working with councils and Queensland parks and other places like that. That’s the goals anyway. There’s another site, Pine Ridge Conversation Park. Main Roads did roadworks down there about 10 years ago and they found an Aboriginal man’s partial skull. 40-year-old… I believe UQ carbon dated and everything… 40-year-old male. We had questions culturally why he wasn’t buried with the rest of his people, the bones we talk about over at Merrimac. We believe that he might have been ostracised from his group because he might have done something bad or he might have had a disease that they didn’t know about. They might have just preferred him to be away from the rest… majority of the tribe. Usually they had markings on the rest of the body, they would have been able to tell, but all they found was a partial of his skull because roadworks had already been done many years in that area. So, who knows where the rest of the remains were. In Pine Ridge Conservation Park, right next to those roadworks, my father and another senior male went and found some native plant and they wrapped up the skull when the university gave it back and they did a secret ceremony in the park. Men’s business. None of us women know where it is. Not many of the other boys do because it was senior business only. And they buried it in the park. The council and that asked if we could do a plaque. We said no because we want to leave it undisturbed forever by anyone. That he just needs to be reburied respectfully away from public eye and let him rest kind of thing. Because he was disturbed for the new road, we reburied him and they’re things we can do along the way as they’re found. We’re trying to preserve as many artefacts as we have found along the last 30-40 years of being involved in cultural heritage. Each one of us in our family has an artefact of some sort. I was going to bring some up today to show you. And, we’re working, I think, with Griffith with a MoU on storage for those artefacts and archiving and cataloguing them properly so we can start building that bigger picture of our cultural heritage. So, it’s a good goal for us.