Mandate of heaven

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  • Published 20080902
  • ISBN: 9780733322839
  • Extent: 296 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

WHEN HE KNEW we were moving to Australia, my father wrote to two friends in Brisbane asking where our family should settle. He was looking for a town rather than a city, but not too small. It had to have a good hospital and a good school; it had to be not too far from a major city – and it would be nice if the surrounding country could be the new muse for an artist who specialised in watercolour landscapes. Dad expected the return letters to contain a range of strange place names; the friends to whom he had written didn’t know each other and had led very different lives. Both wrote back with just one suggestion: ‘Nambour’.

Lying in the humid warmth, encircled by chaotically verdant hills a hundred kilometres north of Brisbane, Nambour’s story is its ability to attract. As Brisbane began to grow in the 1840s, the region around Nambour was proclaimed the ‘Bunya Reserve’ for Aboriginal people displaced by white settlement. But settlers who had found the land on Brisbane’s outskirts barren after selling its hardwood began to hear of fertile soil to the north. In 1842, leaders of the local Undambi and Nalbo tribes held a war council near Baroon Pocket in the ranges behind Nambour, resolving to push back the white settlers. A vicious war was fought, increasingly by Native Police, until 1855 when the resistance leader Dundalli was captured and hanged. The Bunya reserve was quietly forgotten among the massacres at Murdering Creek and Eudlo Flats.

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