Weekend festival

2 February 2009

Bev welcoming everyone with her clapping sticks.
(click on the photos to enlarge them)

We had a wonderful weekend. I hope you did too. Saturday morning we were up and dressed early to go to our local annual aboriginal gathering - the Bunya Dreaming Festival, a celebration of the local Gubbi Gubbi people and aboriginal culture. It's held when the Bunya pines produce their delicious nuts and for thousands of years, the local aboriginal people gathered at this place to eat and share the nuts. In the old times, the coastal clans were invited up to the mountains, they brought fish with them and when they met, they feasted, had games and challenges, dancing and corroboree.

Message stick invitations went out to many people and about 700 attended as family groups. The festival wasn't advertised and only those invited could come along. I was invited as part of my Centre's family, and as part of this family, we helped cook and serve the food and drinks. My wonderful friend Bev, the organiser of the festival and elder of the Gubbi Gubbi, spoke to me about six months ago about us helping and we jumped at the chance to be part of this event.

Bev wanted the food to be simple and easy to walk around with. She supplied us with an amount of money and asked for something like sausages on bread, fruit, and drinks. On the invitation she asked people bring a plate of food to share. What we ended up with was the sausages on bread, onions, sauce, barbecued bunya nuts with wattleseed and wild tomato dressing, oranges, watermelon, rockmelons (cantaloupe), grapes, bananas, peaches, soup, scones and jam, tea, coffee, spring water and fruit juice, plus the shared food people brought along. There was also a bunya cooking competition and when that was judged, the pies, bread and cakes, were sliced up and shared as well. With over 700 people there, there was not one drop of alcohol, which I thought was wonderful and amazing. I'm no wowzer but it is commonplace in Australia now for alcohol to be a part of almost every social gathering so when no one turned up with beer or wine, well, I was shocked.

Aboriginal artifacts on the dance area.

Oh, and part of the culture is that everything is shared, so Bev asked me to ask the volunteers who helped cook and serve, to give whatever people asked for. No one paid for anything and no one was to be refused anything. I had visions of giving out 20 sausage sandwiches but that didn't happen, we just had a few kids coming to ask for extras for the old aunties and the old people who had sent them to collect food for them. There is a very strong tradition of respect for the elders and it shone through on that day. It was a privilege to see it in action.

Bev's clapping sticks.

The main part of the day was opened up by Bev welcoming us all to her ancestral lands. She explaining what happened at the Bunya gatherings in the past, as told to her by her mother from the stories passed down over thousands of years from mother to child. Then she invited aboriginees from other places throughout Australia to come and introduce themselves to us. While she was talking, she used clapping sticks, and a man next to her played the didjeridu. I wish I could have listened more intently but I was serving food and couldn't hear everything she said.

A box of bunya nuts.

During the rest of the time we were there we saw some artifacts poked into the sand in the dance area, and there were challenges and games. After we left the Gubbi Gubbi dancers performed and there was a corroboree and fire ceremony at sunset, where a canoe brought fire from one side of the water to the other. But we were long gone by then.

The view from the car on the trip home. These are the Glasshouse Mountains.

Hanno and I went home after lunch, totally exhausted. When we got home, we went to sleep on the couch. But it was a fine day, one of the best I've spent in my local area, and we were thankful that we'd been a part of it.

This is where the fire ceremony took place.


  1. sounds like it was a beautiful day. We also visited a local indian-pow wow this past summer with the children and they learned a lot, I did as well.

    The mountain picture is GORGEOUS! I am wishing for some warmth here... But, the sun is shining brightly today so I am not complaining.


  2. Hi Rhonda, did you get some of the nuts yourself? I've been making some FANTASTIC bunya nut pesto, chunky style. They are alot of work to prepare, but its worth the effort. Mine came from the Daybro area, and since i live on the Bay, I have previously taken Prawns when I visit. I like to follow that tradition, of walking the food around.
    Jacky (Jacket)

  3. Hello Ang!

    I had a couple of nuts, Jackie, with wattleseed dressing. I've tried the pesto, it's delicious. I've had the nuts in previous years and I have grown a very small tree from the nuts. It's only two years old but it will be planted by Bev at our new building when we move in later this year. She will also conduct a cleansing ceremony for us at the land our build will go on soon.

  4. Hi Rhonda, Thank you so very much for sharing such a wonderful cultural experience with all of us. I have followed you blog for quite some time now and always absorb the education I am receiving. I share many of your philosphies on gardenening and sustainability, and it was such a joy to discover you wonderful blog.

    Thanks again, felt like I was there!

  5. Its interesting to read this post and learn about a different part of the world.

  6. Oh Rhonda what a wonderful way to spend a day. What a priveledge to be invited to such a special gathering. I don't think I have ever seen a bunya nut, they look remarkably like mbutu(?) nuts that you get at the roadside stalls in Fiji, they are crucnchy and substantial and even when it is hot they are a great snack to keep you going.


  7. Oh how wonderful to have been invited. It must have been a real priviledge to go. you are one special couple arent you!

  8. How very cool! What do bunya nuts taste like??

    Oh, I didn't do to well at the last kitchen table gathering, but I do have something for you over at my blog!

  9. Good morning Rhonda. That was a truly absorbing read, thank you for sharing your day with us.

  10. What a fun day you must have had. I would love to go to that. Great pictures. Hugs, Bobbi Jo

  11. It looks BEAUTIFUL there! Thanks you for sharing these incredible traditions. It is a treat to read about this beautiful thing going on so far away.

  12. Hi Rhonda

    What a fun, rewarding day. It's lovely to be able to share in something like that. Thanks for the pictures, very interesting.

    Cheers - Joolz

  13. Just escaping the Super Bowl here...I've wondered about Australia's aboriginal people since I've started reading your blog, Rhonda. Where they live, how they've merged with those arriving in Australia much later. I've seen an Australian film several years back - something about a rabbit fence but very much a story of the original people as well. What a lovely weekend you must have had.

  14. What an interesting celebration to attend! I love learning about different cultures and traditions!! The photos of the Glasshouse Mountains are lovely. You live in a truly beautiful part of the world!


  15. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for sharing your day. What facinating culture-history and what beautiful setting too.

    Have a great day!

  16. That must have been a wonderful day! I've never heard of things like bunya - great to learn something new!
    My verification word at this comment is "bless"...

  17. Thankyou so much for writing about this and taking such wonderful photographs. It is good to see that the Aboriginal traditions are still being carried on. It sounded a truly great day out, even though it was tiring.

  18. Hi Rhonda,
    What an interesting day you were involved in. I think it is wonderful that the stories & traditions continue on.
    The Glasshouse Mountains are beautiful ( my family have visted that area a couple of times)
    Jenny (Melbourne)

  19. Hi, Rhonda,
    I have put a link in my blog, http://lifewithgeckos.blogspot.com
    Pretty much only my immediate family reads it, but I think the protocol is to let you know?

  20. Your weekend sounded wonderful to me. I have to ask you, do you have links to information regarding Bush Medicine? I would be interested in learning more about it.

  21. Wonderful post--I also like learning about different cultures, and I'll admit, I don't know much about Australian culture at all!

    On a different note, I made your beef stew from the "developing flavour" post the other night. It was WONDERFUL (of course I didn't really follow the recipe at all, but followed the outline of it). I've been looking for a good recipe for ages--and this is just what I wanted. It was also the first time that I had homemade beef stock on hand, so that probably helped...but it was fabulous, so thanks a million for sharing :)


  22. Sounds like a wonderful day. I too am quite shocked about the alcohol, Ireland also has a strong drinking culture. As someone who drinks rarely, it's heartening to hear that non-alcoholic social occasions and gatherings can survive in a drink laden culture.

    p.s. I've no problem with other people drinking, just don't like the expectation that everyone must drink to have a good time

  23. Hey Rhonda
    Next year try and keep enough energy in reserve for dancing Murri way at the end of the day as the boat crosses the dam, the fires are lit, and the sun goes down. It is worth it! Yes, this is the best celebration of the local - both its place and its people that I have the honour to attend. Hope to meet you next time!


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