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Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Fight for Fingal

Dreamtime Beach Fingal today

We've visited Fingal a lot on 70 Plus, and chatted about the flora of the place and admired the deep torquoise sea, the creamy beaches and the unusual rocks that dot the shores. But so far I haven't said a lot about the original inhabitants of this magical place - the Minjungbul people of the Bunjalung nation of Australian Aborigines.

The Minjungbal tribe roamed the entire Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales for thousands of years. Their existence must have been idyllic. That is, until the white man expanded north from the original colony which was established in the Sydney basin in 1788. Since then it's been a long dramatic story. I have been told stories by oldtimer white people that Fingal Aborigines were given poisoned flour in an effort to wipe them out.

The wonder is that there is still a very strong Minjungbal presence at Fingal and in Tweed Heads South where they live in communities and learn of their culture. Also, of course, you can see signs of past generations of the tribe, if you keep your eyes open.

I took the photograph above when I saw unusual little indentations in the rocks on the headland which I suspect may have been made by Aborigines, perhaps making fire by twirling sticks in the stone. However, I am prepared to be proven wrong on this.

Regardless, the community's history in the area is well documented. Historian Andrew Chalk says Aborigines have been associated with the area stretching back into the Dreamtime with anthropologists claiming that it supported one of the most dense nomadic populations to be found anywhere in the world.

He says that skeletal remains of Aborigines seven feet tall have been found on the Fingal Peninsular, attesting to the superb nutrition which must have been available to the locals in the past.

Today there is an Aboriginal cemetery in Fingal, not far from a bora ring which has also been preserved by the local community.

This notice announces that Aborigines and Islanders of the Tweed area are buried there, among them the elder Caomoi and his son Churaki. A nearby plaque installed in memory of community members of the period 1864 to 1964 named Caomoi as 'The King'. We won't intrude any further here ...

This beautiful peninsular was almost lost to all but the very well heeled when a development company announced in the late 1980s that it would build a gigantic luxury resort and golf course there. In 1989 the Aboriginal community, conservationists and many white friends established a small tent settlement at the entrance to the peninsular, in demonstration against the plans.

That settlement remained in place for almost a year while legal and political moves were made elsewhere to halt the development. This eventually led to an inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the legal validity of actions surrounding the development.

The plans were scrapped and people were prosecuted as a result.

As Andrew Chalk says in his document:
'As always there is a good deal more to the story. The best parts - the intrigue and manoeuvring, the anguish and joy, and above all the people - are most wisely kept for late nights around a fire on Dreamtime Beach, where, well out of earshot of the defamation lawyers, a group will be sitting waiting for the snapper to bite. They will be remembering and they will be laughing, because in 1989 they all did something which they didn't really think was possible. In Fingal is the great Australian novel waiting to be written.'

Is the good fight being fought to save precious parts of the environment near your place? Or are sad things happening without comment?


  1. June;

    What a great history lession.
    Maybe you should write the story.
    I love your pictures and those tree branches are beautiful!

  2. PEGGY
    Thanks for visiting again ...
    Yes, it's an interesting bit of history.
    I think it best to leave this story to the Aborigines themselves. They've had enough of 'whities' speaking for them!

  3. When ever I read a your blog it takes me long time because I got to read it for many times and it is thought provoking. There may be enogh of spaeking for them but not with sprikle of life added toit. You can do that I believe it and do it for at least some of our's sake.

    I think it's fine for me to write a blog and pass on this information. But I think it very important that if anyone is to write the full story of the Fingal Aborigines, it has to be them who do it. That is not the business of white Australians in my view.

  5. O June,you thoughtful soul,You are great in your understanding and respecting other culture.May be they are writing it for a long time but we do not understand the language? Is it possible?It would be wonderful if the story is writen olso in English,but who will do it?
    Have a great,happy days,greetings from Sandra

  6. Hello, I am from Canada and while browsing I happened to find your blog, I find it very intresting and am so happy to have popped in. Enjoy your 70's, your writing and all the good things life has to offer. I plan on reading your other blogs when I have more time. Have a wonderful day and thank you for sharing your history of this unknown culture.....:-) Bernie

  7. Hi June, Every time I see a movie like Australia (I loved it) these people always fascinate me. There was another, Quincy Down Under (I loved it, too) where the baby was Aborigines. I had it in my mind for some reason that they were small people! I find them very interesting. Yes, we fight here for the environment but sometimes it does no good to fight. Loved this post.

    The Australian Aborigines have a culture that has been handed down over thousands of years - orally. Many had lost their knowledge after the arrival of the white man but there is a big move to undo this damage.
    There are certainly many Aboriginal academics in a position to write a history the way we understand it, in English.
    The oral story - as told on Dreamtime Beach - is the main way Aborigines pass on their history.

  9. Thanks for dropping in BERNIE. I like a person who is open enough to say what they feel, after they have really considered the sitution. Seems from your blog that you're that type of person. Welcome.

  10. Hi JUDY
    There is so much more to the Australian Aboriginal culture. We could learn a thing or two, believe me!

  11. Judy--

    This is such a rich subject. I believe that you should write the story. How many cultures have been lost in the name of progress? Love to read more--

    best c

  12. Happily, there is quite a lot of evidence that Aboriginal rights & customs are being respected about the Central Coast.
    I despise the white man's way of thinking he is superior when these peoples survived for countless generations, on this hostile land.I applaud every concession to Aboriginal rights.

    The link included in the blog leads to a lot more information. Also, this is a local link re the Aboriginal culture here:
    I'm sure you'll find them interesting.

  14. Goodonyou Meggie! It's about time we tried to redress some of the wrongs, and change our attitudes from the bad ones of the past.
    I'm pleased things are changing on my old stomping ground - the Central Coast.

  15. Dear June,as an artist I was thinking of language in drowings,certain colors or songs.
    + - 10 years ago I saw a documentary about the Dream Keepers or better say,what was left of them and their culture,I was moved to tears.Ever sinds I felt deep conection to their culture,I became a little Dream Keeper myself,untill Ive got ill.Ever sinds I can not dream.Love your informations,journalist stile of writing,writing with in the spirit of living and those who went before us,thank you
    greetings from Sandra

  16. Oh June, you should have been my history teacher. You tell the tale so well make it so exciting, it brought back memories of high school history in England. We studied the history of the Aborigines and their legends, their early medical practices and their beliefs in the after-world. Had you been my teacher, I might have gotten an "A" instead of a "C" - lol!

    Happy Mothers' Day1

  17. I loved this post and was riveted by the writing. I hope you will write about how the oral storytelling works on Dreamtime Beach. I also would love it, as a stranger to Australia, if you would refresh my understanding of the Dreamtime. Thanks so much for the wonderful post and photos.

  18. Hi June great post. What I find interesting are the comments. Its great that so many are interested in the Aboriginal culture. thanks for sparking interest and it would be good if you could do some more posts on this theme - your writing is, of course, beautiful. Hope you have a wonderful Mothers Day too. Its cool down this way and that beach looks lovely.

  19. Very interesting as usual - with great photos too.

    You don't dream any more? That is terrible. I do hope you return to your former health - quickly.

    The Aboriginal culture is wonderfully interesting. I love their art as well. It is very beautiful of course, and intricate. It incorporates the history of the past, and is used alongside the oral stories which are carried down through the generations.

    I don't pretend to understand - it is not my culture. But I can admire much of what I have seen ...

    That is really interesting that your school curriculum included the Aborigines. What did they say about the way they were treated during early British colonisation?

    I am pleased you enjoyed the post about Fingal.

    Aboriginal culture is so very interesting, and a non-Aboriginal will never understand its essence.

    I was most privileged a few years ago to share a journey of many kilometres in the Kimberley in Western Australia with a very old Aboriginal man. For hours he sang his songs, tapping a tobacco tin to keep a beat, and told his stories. They were about spirits and his people, about his time as a worker on early sheep stations owned by white people, and of his concerns for improvements in the Aboriginal condition today.

    He told us about using plants for medicine and we stopped and he showed us some plants his people used.

    This is the way Aborigines pass on their history and their knowledge - through stories and paintings and song.

    The recent (and past) history of Fingal would have been discussed long and hard much in this way, I should think. Aborigines sit around swapping stories, and this is serious business.

    Some of us whities think they are lazy sitting and talking, but we are generally wrong. They can be seen under trees, on river banks and on beaches near their communities. Sometimes they can be seen drinking but that's another different, sad story ...

    I hesitate to speak too much of a culture I can not truly understand. I do not want to be seen as disrespectful, or just plain wrong.

    I refer you to the link regarding Fingal in the post itself. Also, the local Midjungbal Museum site is at and has heaps of information.

    There is some information about the Dreamtime on this Australian Museum site:

    It says, in part: The Dreaming has different meanings for different Aboriginal people. It is a complex network of knowledge, faith and practices that derive from stories of creation, and which dominates all spiritual and physical aspects of Aboriginal life. The Dreaming sets out the structures of society, the rules for social behaviour and the ceremonies performed in order to maintain the life of the land.

    It governed the way people lived and how they should behave.

    As you read TROPIGAL you will see that it is even much more than that ...

    A fascinating subject from which we may all learn.

  23. Hi LILLY
    I bet it is cold in Canberra, Please look at what I have written for Tropigal (above). I really do hesitate to speak of this subject which we as white people cannot deeply understand.

    The links are fairly reliable, I believe. That's the best way I reckon.

    I did have a nice Mothers' Day. My kids are busy in their garden centre with chrysanthemums and such so I go to help them out in the morning. I arrived to flowers and chocolate for me ...

    My son is overseas ...

    This afternoon I took a bike ride - as you will see in my most recent post.

  24. LADYFI it is always pleasant to have you drop by ...

  25. Nice article shared with us. Keep on sharing... ;)

  26. Thanks for the encouragement DIET MENU

  27. Hey June, I am a school student in the area and I loved reading your blog. I take the suject Aboriginal studies and reading your stuff has helped with my understanding a lot. Your right in saying that the story should be told by the Aboriginal people as European people can get it wrong very easily. Loved reading what you have to share .. :)

  28. Hi Amber
    Great to be in touch with a local!
    I hope that I got right what I wrote here - I did my best. I suppose my attitude is that it's important that we should not ignore the story of the Aboriginal people and the early history of European Australia. As my history lecturer used to say 'he who writes history gets to own it'. I'm so pleased Aborigines are becoming a voice and thus can own their history, but we can all do our bit if we have the best of motives, I think.

  29. Hi June

    You might be interested in a Fingal Head history day being held at the Primary School this Sat 4th June where locals will be bringing old photos to have scanned and swap stories over a cuppa and cake. Its from 10am till 2pm.


  30. Hi Dawn
    Thanks for the info about the school history day at Fingal. I'll see how the cookies crumble on Saturday - meaning: if I can, I'll be there!

  31. many years ago myself an a mate camped at dreamtime beach in the bush there for a week it is a beautifull , amazing place to see , an feel the life all around


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