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Kambuwal People

Contributed by Tom Brown


According to Norman B Tindale the Kambuwal tribal boundaries covered an area of 3,700 sq meters (9,600 sq kilometers) from Inglewood to Bonshaw, New South Wales, north to southern vicinity of Millmerran; east to Stanthorpe and Wallangarra and the western slope of the Great Dividing Range (see readings.1).

(Tindale's map of Aboriginal tribal boundaries (1974) ­ South-East sheet detail) map not available at present.

Australia has a long history of aboriginal occupation ­ a date of 40,000 years
(see readings.2) is the commonly accepted date among the scientific community although claims of arrival as early as 140,000 years ago have been made (see readings.3) but the aboriginal population state that the debate over their arrival is irrelevant as they have been here.

Every part of this country was known to the aboriginal people from Ulluru in the Northern Territory to Wallangarra (meaning 'long water hole') on the Queensland, New South Wales border and 'Yandilla' a small town to the east of Millmerran meaning (meaning 'running water), and 'Girraween' which means 'Place of flowers'.
(see readings.4)

On the 19th March 1852 the artist and painter Conrad Martens sketched the Pyramids situated 15 kilometers east of the Ballandean head station, then leased by Henry Nicol. The Pyramids are now the central feature of Girraween National Park and it was named 'Terrawambilla' (see readings.5).

'Terrawambilla' sketched by Conrad Martens 19th March 1852) sketch not available at present.

The aboriginal people held Boras and as Donald Gunn states 'As far as I could gather from the old blacks all the tribes within reasonable distance used in the old times to meet for these 'Bora' ceremonies on what was regarded as neutral ground. The purpose of these boras were many, there were initiations of the young men, already mentioned and their was bartering for weapons ­ the stone implements made on the hill districts being exchanged for boomerangs, etc that were made on the plains'
(see readings.6). At Girraween National Park there is a number of stone implements on display and one of them is of New Guinea origin and was found during the clearing of the first orchard at Ballandean in 1872.
The aboriginals (if a good sharp edge could not be found in natural stone) had to obtain certain stone material for the manufacture of their tools. It had to be fine-grained and homogenous, without a plane or cleavage meaning 'when the raw material was struck the direction of the force would not vary'. These rocks are called 'Isotropic' Sometimes a sharp edge could not be obtained and grounding is the process used to achieve this and the stone material used on the Granite Belt was exchanged for other material that was not found in the Granite Belt area with other tribes.
Donald Gunn writes in 1895: 'I got your paper on stone tomahawks and was glad to notice you had mentioned a stone used for grinding seeds etc. I have seen a number of these stones but the people who I mention them to hardly credit it. Stone tomahawks used about here, came from high up the river, near Stanthorpe at Pikedale where I lived once, they used so the old blacks told me to make the tomahawks and exchange them for spears, boomerangs etc, that were made down this way', Donald Gunn was manager of the adjoining grazing farm to Merriwa at Goondiwindi (see readings.7).

Because of the climate at Stanthorpe and surrounding areas possum skins would have been used as a source of warmth for the local aborigines and it is thought that one of the other trading goods used by the Kambuwal people of the Granite Belt were 'Possum skins'.
Possums (this is the correct term. O'possums being South American animals) existed in huge numbers. Donald Gunn has recorded that on one of his early visits to Ballandean station the possum and ducks were in plague proportions and he went to Hogarth, (who was managing at the time) to help keep the possums of the Lucerne. This visit was apparently after 1868. When the Bents were camped near the same Lucerne paddock, it was teeming with possums.

George Smith (who later established a successful orchard at Glen Aplin) has left it on record that in 1894 from the 14th April to the 18th August snaring one month on his own and three months with his brothers helping him, 7390 possums were taken (see readings.8).

There is not much information on the Kambuwal, Granite Belt people as they were dispersed very early but what we do know is that Aboriginal people lived in harmony with the land only taking what was needed and never depleting the land of its resources. They knew when it was time to harvest and hunt for food and what foods they could eat, how to make their implements and what materials could be used for there manufacture. They had meetings with other tribes for initiations and ceremonies to barter goods that were needed and give information on what was going on in their area, each community had to follow a set of rules governing their tribe and they must be adhered to. Each group had their own language but it wouldn't be long once they got together that neighboring tribes could understand each other.

Bora Rings, rock paintings, scarred trees and stone artifacts are the only materialistic connection left of a vibrant and strong history that has lasted for over 40,000 years.

1. Tindales Map of Aboriginal Tribal boundaries (1974)
2. Flood J (1995) Archaeology of the dreamtime: the story of prehistoric Australia and its peoples. 3rd ed. Angus and Robertson.
3. Allen J (1998) Archaeology of Aboriginal Australia: a reader. Allen and Unwind.
4. MacPherson John: Australian Aboriginal names of places. AIATSIS, Manuscript (1901).
5. WWW.visualarts.qld.gov.au. Conrad Martens Journey, graphics/martens/popup
6. Donald Gunn 'The last Bora held on the Weir River 1908-09 (volume 24 pages 88-91)
7. Donald Gunn 'The last Bora held on the Weir River 1908-09 (volume 24 pages 88-91)
8. Photocopied papers kept at Girraween National Park.