Firstly we acknowledge the traditional owners of Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat, the Mullunburra people, a clan of the Yidinji nation. Their country extended from the Mulgrave River where they lived during the winter months to the uplands of the Atherton Tablelands around Rose Gums in the summer months.
The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area extends from Townsville in the south to Cooktown in the north and covers 900 000 hectares. Although it represents 0.1 percent of the land surface of Australia, it has the highest diversity of species on the continent. The Wet Tropics has the world’s oldest, continually surviving tropical rainforests. Inseparable from the natural heritage, the area is also recognised as a series of living cultural landscapes being the homelands of rainforest Aboriginal people. Their lives, customs and beliefs are intricately entwined with the plants, animals, waterways and seasons of the tropical rainforests which have provided food, shelter, medicine and a way of life to the rainforest Aboriginal people since time immemorial. The aborigines lived in harmony with the country for over 40,000 years before white invasion. It is still a living culture and accessible for all to experience if they choose. There are a total of 18 rainforest Aboriginal tribal groups with 20,000 Aboriginal people that live in the region.
The rainforests of North Queensland are not an easy place to obtain food despite the lushness of the landscape. Most of the fruits of the rainforest are very toxic and will cause severe illness, if not death, if eaten unprocessed. The processing of the fruits and nuts of the rainforest took great skill in crushing then leeching the paste for days in baskets in the flowing freshwater streams before becoming edible.
Hunting is difficult in dense forest and hence a regime of burning the landscape was observed to clear the country of undergrowth and attract wildlife to the ‘paddocks’ that were created. A misconception is that there are a great number of reptiles in the rainforest. There are only about 150 species of snakes and lizards, many more exist in the drier parts of Australia which is a keen source of food.
How can you interact with the Rainforest Aboriginal Culture?
Rose Gums Walking Trails
The kilometres of tracks at Rose Gums take you through the forests the rainforest Aboriginals use to burn (Wet Sclerophyll), to a hidden waterfall where the people prepared their food, to a rainforest creek where children played for thousands of years as their mothers ground the nuts before placing them in baskets (you may even find an ancient grinding stone). Learn about the Mullunburra people and their way of life from information provided in every treehouse.
Walk With A Rainforest Aboriginal Elder
Ernie Raymont, a Ngadjonji elder and others of his tribe take small groups on an intimate walk though their traditional country at the Malanda Falls. They give a fascinating talk on how their people lived their traditional lifestyle.
Tel: (07) 4096 6957
Ravenshoe Aboriginal Interpretative Centre
Behind the Visitors Information Centre is a fascinating display of the local Jirrbal tribe’s artifacts and interesting historical accounts of their life.
Where: 24 Moore Street Ravenshoe
Tel: (07) 4097 7700