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From the President - July 2018

22 Jun 2018 9:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dear Members, welcome to Brisbane’s winter! With days in the low-mid 20deg.C and nights usually 8-10 deg.C, we are, indeed, spared from really cold winters. To give our winter woollies an airing, my family recently had a brief sojourn in the Bunya Mountains, 200km or three hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane. We passed the impressive construction of the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, a 41km-long toll bypass route, due for completion in late 2018. It will run from the Warrego Highway at Helidon in the east to the Gore Highway at Athol in the west. The final ascent to the Bunya Mountains National Park is via a steep, winding road. Upon arrival we were greeted by large mobs of red-necked wallabies grazing peacefully in the paddocks surrounding “Bunya village” - accommodation cottages, cafes and a well-stocked park shop.

The Bunya Mts rise to 1100m, a unique elevated refuge of biodiversity surrounded by plains and cleared farmland. The mountains are the remains of a shield volcano active approximately 24 million years ago, and although there is no visible crater the broad shield shape can be visualised from the west. The biomes comprise wet and dry rainforest, open eucalypt forest, distinctive plant, animal and bird communities, including more than 30 rare and threatened species such as sooty owls, powerful owls and the black-breasted button quail.

The Bunya Pine trees (Araucaria bidwillii) are the world’s largest remaining stand of these ancient flowering plants, having survived since Australia's Cretaceous and Jurassic environments (65–210 million years ago). Growing to a height of 50 metres or more, they tower above the rainforest along the range crest. While the Bunya pines are protected today from direct human disturbance, it is unclear what effects climate change might have on these pre-historic survivors.

The intriguing Bunya Mountains balds support rare native grasslands, thought to be the result of firing by indigenous people, combined with drying of the climate and shallowness of soils. The balds are monitored closely as an endangered ecosystem threatened by invasion by woody plants (Willmott, 2004).

Bunya Mts National Park is Queensland’s second oldest national park. In 1842, Governor Gipps had decreed that no logging licences be granted in lands bearing Bunya Pines, in recognition of their importance to Aboriginal people. In 1881, however, a timber reserve was declared for logging red cedar in the mountains. When the cedar was depleted loggers moved into the Hoop pine and Bunya stands. The Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, Queensland Branch (now RGSQ) played a role in lobbying for protection of the Bunyas against powerful timber and grazing interests. Despite national park status being declared in 1908, logging continued for some time. By the early 1930s, roads had replaced rough tracks to the mountain top and construction of walking tracks in 1939 heralded a new age of conservation and tourism. By the end of the 20th century many private houses and rental cottages had been built in the Dandabah area, the basis of today’s mountain tourism.

Aboriginal Bunya Gatherings: The Wakka, Jarowair, Djaku-nde and Barrungam people have traditional custodianship of the Bunya Mountains. Every three years the Araucaria trees produce mature edible cones, which local indigenous people traditionally celebrated by holding Bunya Gatherings, sometimes lasting for several months. Tribes from all over Southeast Queensland were invited to enjoy ceremonies, renew friendships, pass on lore, share ideas and resolve disputes. Hunting of wildlife was strictly controlled during the gatherings. Protocols dictated who could harvest Bunya cones. The mature nuts were roasted and pounded into meal for cakes. European clearing for grazing and farming around the Bunya Mts in the 1840s and 1850s made it difficult to travel along traditional pathways and many Aboriginal people were forced to leave the Bunyas.

The last great gathering was held in 1902 (Queensland Museum) but local indigenous people still maintain ties with the Bunyas through family, trading, songs and stories. There is a 2017 native title claim over part of the area.

Bunya trees (Araucaria bidwillii); photo I.Childs; Bunya “bald” grassland; photo I.Childs

http://bunyamountains.com.au/about-the-bunya-mountains/history-bunya-mountains/

https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/bunya-mountains/

Willmott,W. (2004) Rocks and Landscapes of the National Parks of southern Queensland. Geological Society of Australia, Queensland Division

http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Cultures/Gatherings/Bunya+Mountains+Gathering

Dr Iraphne Childs, President




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