The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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The Myall Creek Massacre

Myall Creek and Myall Creek Station is about 10 kilometres out of Bingara towards Inverell. The Myall Creek Massacre occurred on the 10th June 1838, when 28 Aboriginal men, women and children were slaughtered by a gang of 10 white people.

What makes it stand out in history is that it was the first time that white people were punished for murdering black people.

So much has been written about the Myall Creek Massacre that I really can’t add anything to what is readily available on the net. It’s interesting to read reports from both the Indigenous and European perspectives. This cartoon was featured on a site called Creative Spirits with the caption

Myall Creek Massacre NSW

 

Aboriginal killings ‘run in the family’. The cartoon reflects that many colonists saw shooting Aboriginal people as a sport [15]. It also plays with the fact that many people see having some Aboriginal ancestry as ‘fashionable’. Graphic: Ian Sutherland

 

Gamilaraay Elder, Uncle Lyall Munro, 2013:

[The Myall Creek massacre Supreme court trials were] the first place white man’s justice done some good. Right across Australia, there were massacres. What makes Myall Creek real is that people were hanged, see. That was the difference.

This site of the National Museum Australia also provides details of the court case – there were two due to some of the white settlers  intimidating theoriginal jurors into staying away from the court. Eventually a jury was formed and 7 men were found guilty and sentenced to public execution. The following are quotes from the NMA page.
The colonial community of New South Wales was more outraged by the execution of British citizens than they were by the massacre of the Wirrayaraay people.

And then …..

The executions of British subjects for the murder of the Wirrayaraay people hardened colonial attitudes towards the First Peoples of Australia and shaped later behaviours on the Frontier.

In Australian English, the word ‘dispersal’ became the commonplace euphemism used to refer to the killing and massacre of Aboriginal peoples, which went on to take more insidious and devious forms: disease, starvation and the poisoning of food rations are just some of the ways that the Indigenous population was further decimated.

Meanwhile, perpetrators took better steps to cover their tracks and avoid prosecution.

In 2000 a memorial site was opened on Myall Creek, set up by both indignous and non-indignous people. It is a memorial not just to this local massacre but to all massacres around Australia. The Bingara website lists the words on the 8 memorial plaques that are placed at the memorial.

Every year on the Sunday of the June long weekend, hundreds of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, gather at the site to attend an annual memorial service. Descendants of the victims and survivors, such as Aunty Sue Blacklock, Aunty Elizabeth Connors and Uncle Lyall Munro, as well as descendants of the perpetrators of the massacre, such as Beulah Adams and Des Blake, come together to remember and reflect on past atrocities, as well as to express shared aims for the future.

Gamilaraay Elder Sue Blacklock, one of the founders of the memorial site and service, talked about what the annual service and the reconciliation process means to her in a 2013 SBS interview:

It has lifted a burden off my heart and off of my shoulders to know that we can come together in unity, come together and talk in reconciliation to one another and show that it can work, that we can live together and that we can forgive. And it really just makes me feel light. I have found I have no more heaviness on my soul.

When I spoke to  local Bingara people about some of the topics I was going to blog about they were upset that this dark part of their history was included. I get the feeling that when people write about Bingara, the Myall Creek Massacre features high on the agenda and I hope I’ve been able to show you, through my other blog topics, there is a lot more to this friendly town than this historical blot on their landscape.
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I’ve Seen Sawn Rocks!

Sawn Rocks at Mt Kaputar National Park in New South Wales are an amazing cathedral like formation, the result of a lava flow from the Nandewar Volcano between 17million and 21 million years ago – I find that time frame hard to get my head around!

The forty (40) metre high cliff face visible at Sawn Rocks is the sheared off remains of a basalt lava flow from the (now extinct) Nandewar Volcano ….The striking columnar fractures are a result of the cooling process: the basalt cools from the outside toward the centre, causing shrinkage cracks to form, commonly, in a hexagonal pattern. The shape of the columns is attributed to tensional stress. When the molten rock within the basalt lava flow cooled slowly and, importantly, evenly, this enabled the individual crystals within the molten rock to align perfectly with each other.

While this type of six-sided (hexagonal) ‘organ piping’ is not rare to lava flows it is exceptionally rare to find them so perfectly formed and preserved and Sawn Rocks is recognised as being one of the best examples of columnar jointing in Australia.

 

Some of these pillars had fallen to the ground and sheared off to look like perfectly formed paving stones.

Mt Kaputar is the highest peak in New South Wales outside the Great Dividing Range and when I went on a guided tour there we were told that from the top of Mt Kaputar there is nothing to obstruct a view all the way to South Africa. Obviously it needs greater vision than I have but isn’t it interesting to think there is nothing as high or higher for just over 11,000 kilometres.

Mount Kaputar, Mount Kaputar National ParkTwo volcanos pushed Mount Kaputar high above the plains, and millions of years of erosion have carved a dramatic landscape of narrow valleys and steep ridges. Many of the mountains are ancient lava terraces. Experience ancient history for yourself by standing on Lindsay Rock Tops – an excellent example of a lava terrace.  (Information and photo from http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au)

Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), Mount Kaputar National ParkNow here’s something you won’t find in any old back yard! Mount Kaputar is famous for a very unusual, colourful local – a bright pink slug. It can be seen after rain on rocks, trees and amongst the leaf litter. Not what you’d call your common garden variety of slug.

 

Sawn Rocks is located 64km out of Bingara on the road to Narrabri. On the way you pass the ancient Rocky Creek Glacial Area. The glaciers that we are more familiar with were formed about one million years ago but this glaciation is very old, dating back some 290 million years to the Carboniferous Period. A vast amount of weathering and erosion occurs in over 200 million years, so all the original glacial landscape features have been eroded away and replaced by those typically associated with running water.

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Bingara is a perfect base to explore this wonderful landscape. It was recently named the Free Camp Capitol of Australia and the town values all the different tourists who discover all it has to offer. Can you say “I’ve seen Sawn Rocks”?

Roxy Theatre, Bingara NSW


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It’s All Greek To Me

New York has its Greek Theatre – Bingara has the Roxy, a magnificent Art Deco theatre built by three Greek partners from the island of Kythera, in Greece, in 1936.

 

Bingara is justifiably proud of this testament to its cultural history and the Roxy was faithfully restored and reopened in 2004 after languishing unused on the main street since 1958. Step into the theatre and you step back in time, with the original ornate plasterwork, lighting, paintwork and … atmosphere!

Although The Roxy certainly made a statement at the time it was built, it sadly affected the bank statements of its developers who were declared bankrupt. Unfortunately for the developers descendants it became one of those things that the family didn’t talk about and its history was nearly lost to them. Peter Prineas, a grandson of one of the founders stumbled on to his connection when

His attention was drawn after reading a newspaper article about the reopening in 2004 which mentioned three Greek immigrants from the island of Kythera, the same Island his parents came from.

While researching some of the history of the Roxy I came across this great story from the ABC presented in 2017 that is well worth following by clicking here.

Only recently the wonderful retro cafe re-opened and it’s worth calling in for a coffee just to reminisce about other Greek cafes you’ve been in with laminex table tops, timber booths and milkshakes.

The Roxy Greek Museum is also housed in the Roxy building and you can incorporate it into your tour of the Roxy by asking at the Information Centre, which is also in the building.

The mission of the Roxy Museum is to evidence, explain and illustrate the story of Greek immigration and settlement in the country areas of NSW and Queensland in the first half of the 20th Century. This was a period when most Greeks owned or were employed in cafes and a considerable number conducted picture theatres.

So there you have it! I hope this hasn’t been all Greek to you but inspires you to travel to Bingara and call in to experience the fabulous Roxy for yourself.

Happy Campers: There is loads of free camping along the Gwydir River and a neat little Caravan Park right next to the swimming pool and opposite the Gwydir.


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Orange is the New Black

I’m currently house and dog sitting in Bingara, New South Wales and thought I would share with you a delightful celebration this community enjoys. (And my thanks to the Northern Daily Newspaper for the catchy headline)

Many towns plant Memorial Avenues of trees to pay tribute to the soldiers from the area who didn’t return from the wars. Bingara chose to celebrate and remember their fallen soldiers from World War 1 and 2 with a Memorial Avenue with a difference – they planted a living memorial of orange trees.  But it is not just the trees that honour their dead, it’s the tradition that has grown along with the trees and how they have become a symbol of community pride.

Bingara Oranges

In spring, the heady orange blossom perfumes the air, while in autumn the fruit develops and ripens on the trees. The tradition is that on a designated day only local school children pick the fruit. This year 2018 it is on Friday July 6.

During the year, all Bingara residents leave the oranges untouched, even the children, who are taught the significance of the trees.

This respect, self discipline and pride in this unique memorial has been carried on since the 1960’s, from one generation to the next. In some cases, those picking the fruit are the third or fourth generation to do so.

It can get a bit nippy in Bingara! (photos from bingera.com.au)

As the tradition has grown it has morphed into the Bingara Orange Festival which follows the orange picking day. This year it happens on Saturday July 7.

Each year the bar is raised even higher, with the inclusion of new initiatives and each year a new theme is announced, keeping the festival fresh, innovative and attractive year after year. However, one thing that never changes, is the memory of those who have fallen and for whom the orange trees represent.

I think this is a wonderful local initiative and a fantastic community tradition that helps to shape the identity of this little town of Bingara.

 


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Gone to the Dogs!

After Pit Ponies in Collinsville I’ve continued the animal theme and have been dog-sitting in a couple of locations for fellow Solo travellers. My first jaunt was to Buderim on the beautiful Sunshine Coast where I looked after this little cutie, Chai, while her mum was in hospital. Chai is known as a Milky – a cross between a Maltese Terrier and a Silky Terrier.

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she? It wasn’t easy to leave her when Lesley arrived home but she left me for dead when her mum walked in the door!

Christmas was spent in Bundaberg, my home base on the mainland – with nephew Simon (I call him my surrogate son as I never had children of my own – fortunately my sister is happy to share him with me), his lovely wife Sandy and their daughter Lauren. As they had booked a holiday to the Gold Coast I looked after the pets while they were away. Lily the cat and Lucy the dog let me know who was in control by lolling on MY bed, although they did leave just enough room for me to squeeze in too!

By the way – Lily the Cat is a male but that hadn’t been determined when he was named! Anyhow, he doesn’t seem to have a personality complex about his sexuality.

And now I’m at my third dog-sitting venture looking after this cheeky little devil, CJ! Once again, whose bed is it???

I have been looking after CJ for a month now and have another month to go before mum, Janet, returns from her trip to India, Vietnam and Cambodia. This house/dog sit is in a cabin in the Bingara Caravan Park in New South Wales. In my first year travelling (2013) I attended a Solos Rally in Bingara and loved the little town then and particularly the fantastic camping beside the Gwydir River.

I’ve thrown myself into what Bingara has to offer and have been going to Aquafit classes 3 times a week at the swimming pool next to the Caravan Park and last week CJ and I visited Touriandi Lodge, an aged care facility on the other side of the CP to the pool. CJ was cuddled by everyone and fussed over and slept for hours when we came home. The next day we visited the hospital where once again he was made to feel very special. Funny about that, CJ was supposed to be making the residents and patients feel special! I’ve also been going to Wednesday coffee mornings with some of the locals so all in all I feel like I am a little part of the community.

There’s some really interesting information to tell you about Bingara and surrounds so I’ll do several short posts over the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to telling you about Sawn Rocks, Cunningham’s Track, the Roxy Theatre and the Myall Creek Massacre along with a couple of other quaint local customs.

PS: Thanks to an old friend Sam (Rudi) for prompting me to switch my brain back on and get back on The Snail Trail.

Collinsville Pit Pony


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Collinsville – It’s the Pits!

The coal pits of Collinsville have forged this strong community inland from Mackay and Bowen in Queensland. It is at the northern most tip of the huge Bowen Basin Coal Deposits, which is so extensive it covers an area half the size of England!

The Bowen Basin contains the largest coal reserves in Australia. This major coal producing region contains one of the world’s largest deposits of bituminous coal. The Basin contains much of the known Permian coal resources in Queensland including virtually all of the known mineable prime coking coal. ….

….. The Bowen Basin covers an area of over 60,000 square kilometres in Central Queensland running from Collinsville to Theodore.

Brett, from the Information Centre in Collinsville, is a ‘mine’ of information about this town and credits the sense of community on the coal miners that rely on each other every day to keep them safe and alive as they worked underground. The threat of disaster and death bands them together and that mateship forms the strong bonds that unites the community of Collinsville. (Mining at Collinsville is no longer underground and is now done by the open cut method)

Not so long ago pit ponies worked at the Collinsville mine hauling the containers of coal to the surface. When mine management decided to retire the pit ponies the union signed them up as members so they couldn’t be ‘sacked’ and sent off to the knackery. This gave Wharrier and Mr Ed, as they were known, 2 more years of work before an agreement was reached to retire them to a local property in 1991, where they lived for another 8 and 10 years respectively.

Collinsville felt so strongly about their ponies that they instigated a crowd funding exercise to build a bronze statue in town. It’s a wonderful memorial to the role of the pit ponies in this town.

Unfortunately, the history of most mining towns includes a disaster and Collinsville is no exception. In 1954 a high pressure pocket of carbon dioxide moved 450 tons of coal and destroyed everything in its path. 7 men were killed and 2 pit ponies died. There is a wonderful display at the United Mine Workers Club called The Coalface Experience that pays tribute to those men and illustrates the mining history of Collinsville. It’s a must see!

The Coalface Experience, Collinsville, Queensland

The Coalface Experience is an interactive display with fantastic information. Until I’d spoken to Brett I had no idea of the history of this town and was so glad I stayed an extra day to find out more about it.

Collinsville is a town of boom and bust, dependent on mining, which in turn depends on the price of coal and market demand.

A great way to support this community is by staying at the excellent RV stopover they have created right opposite the Workers Club. There’s a grassy central park with shelters, potable water available, a black water (dump point) disposal …… and let’s not forget Brett at the Information Centre on site.

At the moment the Workers Club offers showers for a gold coin donation, and the motel next door has laundromat facilities.

Collinsville is more than an ‘overnighter’ if you’re travelling through this area. Take some time to get to know this proud mining town and enjoy discovering its history by talking to the locals and visiting The Coalface Experience.

PS: Leesa at Beaute at the Ville does a great pedicure and has been so inspired by traveller’s tales she just bought herself a van to convert to a camper. Pop in for some pampering and to share some travel stories with her!

Mosaic wall, Ingham Queensland


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Ingham – La Dolce Vita

Ingham embodies ‘the sweet life’ in more ways than one! It’s a thriving sugar town in FNQ (Far North Queensland) and is the service centre for many sugarcane plantations. Victoria Sugar Mill, the largest sugar mill in Australia and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, is located close to the township of Ingham (Approx. 6km).

 

 

It also celebrates it’s Italian heritage originating back in the 1890’s when Italian migrants came here to work on the sugar plantations.

The Australian-Italian Festival is held in Ingham the first weekend in August each year and is one of the most popular events in the region, with thousands of people attending the event. The festival celebrates Ingham’s cultural background, dating from the 1890s, when the first Italian immigrants came to the region. More than half the population of the town are of Italian descent. The town is known as “Little Italy”. Wikipedia

I’ve been lucky enough to be in Ingham for this years Italian Festival, a celebration of good food, good music and good fun enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

There was something for all the family and it did indeed have a wonderful family atmosphere…. lovely to see young teenagers being ‘kids’ rather than playing the bored young adult. One of the challenges was a Slippery Pole competition, the first to reach the top a young, very agile, girl. Some participants never made it off the mat. I decided it would need a lot of upper body strength and as mine isn’t at its peak I gave this activity a miss. Fun to watch though!

The Gondola Races also proved popular – and chaotic – but once again a lot of laughs.

Along with spaghetti eating competitions, cooking demonstrations, fabulous food and wonderful singers crooning everything from Volare to opera it truly was a feast for all the senses.

The first time I was in Ingham, on my way north to a Christmas in July celebration in Mareeba, I had a wander around town and discovered this fabulous laneway of mosaics and murals telling the story of Ingham. I’ve put them together in this slide show with some of the explanations for the panels to ‘put you in the picture’, so to speak.

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The Italians who came to Australia so long ago to chase opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families have certainly built a wonderful culture in Ingham.

La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life………………………………………………… Perhaps not always ……

Ingham, North Queensland

The Canecutter’s Lament