Mapping Frontier Conflict in South-East Queensland – OLD
Dr Ray Kerkhove, Harry Gentle Visiting Fellow 2016/2017

Hideouts and Bastions of Resistance

The Power of ‘bastions’

Settlers’ accounts refer to specific sites within south-east Queensland as hotspots from which Aboriginal resistance tended to repeatedly emerge. These were areas where the natural environment made camps difficult to access. Most had sufficient resources to enable groups and raiding parties to survive. These sites had secluded camps, and in some cases, stockpiles of weapons and even ‘bush pens’ for keeping stolen sheep and cattle. Here resistance leaders such as Dundalli, Yilbung and Multuggerah are reported to have retreated when pursued.

The Geography of Hideouts


Figure 1: Clearing the dense Rosewood Scrub which had been a major bastion for resistance

Hideouts were mostly large islands, rocky/hilly regions, swampy areas or dense forests (“scrubs”).  Their geography frustrated or at times completely halted pursuers – especially Europeans on horseback.  Partly for this reason, there were concerted efforts by settlers to clear dense woods, especially near areas of settlement.

Inter-tribal gathering venues and Inter-tribal planning


Figure 2: Fred Walker of the Native Police recalled that smoke signalling was used by the groups that fought him, often over vast distances to send alerts, arrange meetings or call in assistance from other groups.  Here in central Australia , a camel train ambles past, in front of a smoke message that reads: ‘strangers have crossed to the next country.’

The most useful hideouts were places that were already a venue for inter-tribal meetings.  Such sites enabled attendees to plot combined or simultaneous attacks. For example, the triennial Bunya Festival (Blackall & Bunya Ranges) drew groups from all over southern Queensland and northern NSW. It was reported that major offensives were often launched after meetings here. Various European observers (e.g. James Bracewell) testified that much of the discussions at such meetings concerned such objectives.  Bribie Island and Fraser Island and their adjoining coastlines (Toorbul/ Pine Rivers and Cooloola) had a similar role. These areas had traditionally seen inter-tribal gatherings and tournaments for the communal fishing of the winter mullet runs.


Figure 3: ‘impenetrable’ dense forest once surrounded the valley of Baroon in the Blackall Ranges, a major bunya meeting place