Mianjin ngatta yarrana (Brisbane, I’m going)
“We are suffering from the usual annual nuisance created by the distribution of blankets among the blacks. They are congregating in considerable numbers in camps near the city, and as, despite the law, publicans and others will supply them with drink by way of cheap wages for woodcutting and other odd jobs, the unfortunate creatures become noisy and offensive. They are not permitted to remain within the municipal boundaries after dark; but in order to enforce this regulation, they are driven out at the point of the whip by mounted troopers.”
“Our Brisbane Letter”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 1875, p.5.
“I was born on Ukerebagh Island, in the mouth of the Tweed River. Because there was nowhere else for my mother to go, in those days […] Aboriginal people had to be out of the towns before sunset. And they couldn’t get back into town again until sunrise the next day, my mother was not allowed to go to hospital to give birth to me, she gave birth to me in a little gunya under the palm tree […] on a government issued blanket.”
Neville Bonner, Quoted in “Neville Bonner (1922-1999)”, ABC Website
In 1852, iron-bark posts were placed at intervals to indicate the boundaries of the fledgling settlement of BrisbaneTown, marking the town from the suburbs. Boundary Street, West End, became one of the city’s limits, Old Boundary Street, Spring Hill, the other. One boundary post was later photographed near Somerville House, Vulture Street, in West End.For those who had called the peninsula of mi-an-jin home, these ‘Trespass’ posts marked dispossession.
Fiona MacDonald has examined fragile old baskets made by the Aborigines of Brisbane and Stradbroke Island that are held in the collections of the Queensland Museum and the University of Queensland’s Anthropology Museum. In Brisbane they were called ‘dilli’, on Stradbroke Island, ‘kulai’. One was a rectangular dilli of the ‘Turubul tribe’ from Tom Petrie’s collection, which may well have been carried within those early town boundaries. MacDonald’s practice has long drawn on historical records and museum artefacts and methodologies. In a 1993 exhibition at The Rockhampton Club in her home town, she interwove historic photographs of local Aborigines together with those of squatters, suggesting the region’s dark history of frontier violence. Here she weaves photographs of Brisbane’s indigenous people so that they smile at us in the very texture of the artefacts, affirming their humanity and resilience.
Michele Helmrich, Excerpt from One Square Mile catalogue essay 2003
Source images courtesy of the portrait subjects and the Michael Aird Archive.
Photo Credit: Sue Blackburn – artwork installation and documentation