Mayor Alan Sutherland, Mary-Anne O’Neill MP – Member for Kallangur, Mrs Janice Hall – great grand-daughter of Tom Petrie, distinguished guests and fellow Australians.
I stand here before you as the representative of the Turrbal People – the original inhabitants of the North Pine area. My other Turrbal Elders are unable to be here with us this morning but they have asked me to convey their apologies as well as wish you well at this gathering.
This is a very special occasion. Special to the Turrbal People because it marks the first time that we have come face-to-face formally with descendant/s of Thomas Petrie – a man whose accounts and experience of living with my ancestors in Brisbane, from the 1830s, remain one of the most invaluable sources of information about life in the Moreton Bay penal colony. I trust that Mrs Hall will shortly be given you all a detailed account of her great grandfather’s life in the Moreton Bay penal settlement hence I will not be going over that aspect.
One of the events that took place in Queensland’s history, of which little is known about today in the broader community, was the <em><strong>Qld. Legislative Assembly’s Report from the Select Committee of the Native Police Force together with the Proceedings of the Committee and Minutes of Evidence</strong></em> in 1861. Tom Petrie actually appeared before this Inquiry. He was then aged 30 years. When questioned about the whereabouts of the “Old Brisbane Tribe”, Mr Petrie replied that “he only knew of five people left out of the people that he grew up with”. Some other observers at the time argue that the Turrbal People were extinct (e.g. Capt Coley)
One of those that survived was Kulkarawa – my great great grandmother. Petrie (Constance) in fact wrote about Kulkarawa in Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Qld. (at pp. 18-28). Grannie Kitty (as we call her), fled into the bushes (with some of her relatives) during a raid at Barrambin (today known as Victoria Park) in the late 1840s. These raids (which, in my view, were deliberately aimed at destabilizing and undermining our preexisting system) were sometimes undertaken by the Native Police and Surveyors who were paving the way for the new settlement in Brisbane. Grannie Kitty and others later found refuge at Kenilworth Homestead. I am a direct descendant of the few Turrbal People that survived the adverse impact of European settlement in Brisbane from the 1820s onward. Whilst the Turrbal experience was rather ugly, brutal and devastating, some humanitarians emerged around that time. They include people such as William Duncan and Isaac Moore. In spite of our harsh historical experience, the relatively few remaining Turrbal people bear no grudges. Rather, today, we continue to practice our customs and traditions proudly within our ancestral homeland.
Let me conclude by thanking the organizers of this event in inviting us to partake in this important and historic occasion. By all accounts, Tom Petrie related well to my ancestors and this is evident in the fact that my ancestors invited him to participate in some sacred ceremonies. He respected and abided by our traditional laws and customs at a time of deep and widespread hostility toward my ancestors in Brisbane. He sought the permission and approval of Dalaipi before acquiring a piece of land at Murrumba in 1859. Contrast Tom Petrie’s approach to that of the then State Govt of Qld which, upon being proclaimed a separate state (from the Colony of NSW) in 1859, began to sell various parcels of land in Brisbane. And by 1861, many of our places of cultural significance had been sold off around Spring Hill and elsewhere. We must remember that the permission and consent of my ancestors were never sought in this whole process. In this regard, we, the Turrbal People, intend to honour Tom Petrie, William Duncan and Isaac Moore, in due course, for their contributions to humanity and race relations in the early days of the State of Queensland.
Thank you all for listening.
Songwoman & law-woman
26 August 2010