Bunya festival 2012

13 February 2012
Hanno and I have been unusually social these past couple of days. Last Thursday we went out to lunch at a newly renovated and reopened local restaurant, Daisy's Place. Not very frugal, but Jens and Cathy gave us a gift voucher for lunch there for looking after Koda while they were away. The restaurant has an interesting history behind it and is now a beautiful place to dine while being surrounded by rainforest. Both Hanno and I were really impressed by the service and the food. The wait staff were very friendly and they knew their menu - that's aways a good sign. And the food! We both had fish and salad and it was fresh, delicious and beautifully presented. We went over to the dessert cabinet and while we were making our selection I heard: "Hello Rhonda". I turned around to find Vanessa Rumble - it turned out that she is the manager there. I introduced you to her blog a while back. Vanessa's husband Nathan was best man at Shane and Sarndra's wedding. Vanessa and Nathan are such lovely people. Vanessa told us that Nathan will be head chef there starting next week, so we'll have to go back at some point. We also met the owner, Sue Joseph. It turned out that she had a reservation to dine at Shane's restaurant, Absynthe, on Saturday night! What's that thing about six degrees of separation? It's been such a long time since I've been to a restaurant where everything was good, but that was the case at Daisy's Place. If you live here or visit the Sunshine Coast, you have to go there.

Baroon Pocket Dam 8am Saturday.

This year's message stick contained an invitation as well as a reproduction of the protection order from the Governor in 1842. The order recognised that Aboriginal people gathered to eat the Bunya nuts and stated that the land the Bunya pines grow on must not be settled on nor the trees cut down.

On this past Saturday we had the pleasure of being at the Bunya Festival. If you've been reading here for a while, you'll probably remember my good friend Aunty Beverly Hand. Aunty Bev is an elder of the Kabi Kabi people; the Sunshine Coast is their traditional land.  For thousands of years, Aboriginal people have met when the bunya nuts are abundant to feast on them, for sporting competitions, to talk about justice and politics and to socialise. Aunty Bev started the Bunya Festival in 2007 and the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre, funded by the festival, prepares and serves the food. It's simple fare - roasted bunya nuts, sausages on bread, scones and jam, fruit, tea, coffee and water and it's all provided freely to everyone who comes along. It's an invitation only event - and invitations for family groups arrive by message stick. Hundreds of people come along and enjoy a wonderful alcohol-free family day in the sunshine, on the banks of the Baroon Pocket Dam.

Large pieces of art work were scattered around the picnic ground. This one is a wicker koala.

This was one of my jobs - I coordinated the food workers and prepared the scones for morning tea. I also walked around the crowd and told people to go and help themselves to whatever they wanted to eat. It was all free, which surprised some folk. It is the custom of the local Aboriginal people to share whatever food they have with everyone who comes along. Non-indigenous Australians are surprised by this and I really enjoyed inviting them to accept the hospitality offered by Aunty Bev and the festival organisers.

Local Maleny High School principal, Brian King with our new community development worker Chris, cooking sausages and roasting bunya nuts for lunch.

Fruit was laid out so everyone could help themselves.

Kangaroo and emu being erected beside a screen and stage.

Hanno with some of the workers at the festival who enthusiastically took up the offer of cold watermelon for morning tea on a hot day.

Aunty Beverly Hand.

Aunty Beverly is one of the most interesting people I've ever met and I feel honoured to call her my friend. She is a kind and generous soul and when it comes to native flora and fauna, and the sensible management of our land, she's like a walking encyclopaedia. The festival started with Aunty Bev talking about the history of the Kabi Kabi people, the land and her own family history. Sadly, last year, Aunty Bev's mother died. She was a shining light for everyone who knew her. Like Aunty Bev, she was a gentle activist, a teacher and a good family woman. There was a tribute to her at this year's festival and that gave everyone there a chance to honour and remember a great woman who made an enduring mark on her people, her family and her land.

It was a delightful day full of art, competitions, challenges, feasting and socialising. I have never been to another event that warmly accepts and embraces people in such a wonderful way. It was a pleasure for Hanno and I to be there.

FYI: It is a mark of respect in Aboriginal culture for an elder to be called either Aunty or Uncle. It is a title given to those who work with their people to help strengthen families and communities. It is also a sign of respect for the name of a person who has died not to be spoken or written. It is out of respect and love for my friend Aunty Bev and her family that I uphold and honour these customs.


  1. What a remarkable and beautiful event! Thanks for sharing it with us here.

  2. What a lovely weekend. I'm hoping I will still be around to harvest the bunya trees I've planted. In the meantime, I enjoy making pesto from scavenged nuts. As the mother of an Aboriginal daughter, thanks for sharing some positive stories!

  3. What a fantastic cultural and community event Rhonda...i really enjoyed your photos too.
    Love the wicker koala and so glad you had some lovely weather for your celebration!

  4. Great event and community gathering!

  5. That sounds like a wonderful community day . I love the invitation by message stick idea. I am delighted to go to more and more events locally, where the traditional owners are acknowledged. We are moving in the right direction!

  6. HI Rhonda,

    I was very fortunate to hear Aunty Bev speak to groups of high school students during an Indigenous symposium on the Sunshine Coast a couple of years ago and it was one of the most memorable days of my life. I often think of the stories she told us( she is the BEST storyteller!)and remember her with great fondness. My students were mesmerised and loved it too. I wish all kids could have the benefit of hearing Aunty Bev tell these special stories about the Indigenous peoples and how their lives changed forever with the arrival of the British. She is a gem.

  7. Hi Rhonda,

    Again, what a lovely post, your meal at Daisy's Place and you and Hanno's day at the Bunya Festival sound like a breath of fresh air. It shows that community spirit is flourishing in some places and makes me feel good to read it. Your scones look so nice too! I like to read about Aboriginal customs and this one is very interesting.

    There are times when I read your blog that I feel all is well in the world.

    Have a good day,
    Vicki xx

  8. The restaurant and the Bunya Festival sound wonderful. The site of the festival looks beautiful. Re your FYI - these are also customs in the Mid North coast of NSW where the Dunghutti people live. I'm wondering if it's a nationwide custom as my daughter tells me the Wiradjuri people in the Riverina NSW area also have these customs.

  9. Sounds like a good time was had by all and such great photos Rhonda, especially of Aunty Bev.

    I had to smile when I saw local principal Brian -- any really good principal can be found at the barbie during important school and community events. I can tell that Brian is one of them.

  10. Oh, I would have done just about anything for one of those scones!

    Calling your elders aunt or uncle is a big thing in other cultures too, it makes me wonder why we don't do that.

    I love to hear about festivals such as this, thank you.

  11. Thanks for sharing a bit of Australian culture with us :) :) I've always been fascinated by your country...and learning about the Bunya Festival!!! Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  12. Rhonda,

    thank you for the interesting information and the pictures. This is both educational and inspiring!


  13. What a lovely and wonder-full event! You and Hanno were so lucky to have this opportunity - thank you for sharing your photos and your day :)

  14. Great to read that a Bunya Festival is alive and well. On February 15, Bunya Nuts prompted a mini impromptu festival in Sydney.



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