Githabul elder Sam Bonner says an important piece of cultural heritage in Maryvale needs to be protected but is worried the branches of the old tree may pose a risk to people.
Githabul elder Sam Bonner says an important piece of cultural heritage in Maryvale needs to be protected but is worried the branches of the old tree may pose a risk to people. Marian Faa

Sacred site uncovered with 'for sale' sign nailed to surface

AN ABORIGINAL elder is "torn" about how to protect a sacred piece of cultural heritage, recently brandished with a bright pink "for sale" sign in the middle of Maryvale.

Carved out by Aboriginal ancestors, the prominent "scar" is a surviving link to ancient practices that date back thousands of years, according to Githabul elder Sam Bonner, who identified the site last week.

Mr Bonner said the tree also had spiritual significance to Aboriginal people.

"That's a very important part of our history, not just my history but your history too" Mr Bonner said.

The site was discovered when a resident noticed an usual shape in the tree on a morning stroll.

"I walk past it almost every day," David Bate said.

 

Githabul elder Sam Bonner needs to be protected but is worried the branches of the old tree may pose a risk to people.
Githabul elder Sam Bonner needs to be protected but is worried the branches of the old tree may pose a risk to people. Marian Faa

"But it was just when I saw that real estate sign there I looked closer and I thought wow, that looks like a scarred tree to me."

Side-by-side in stark cultural contrast the huge "scar" stands out against the lurid real estate placard.

"That's definitely something special alright," Mr Bonner said.

Often created to make canoes, shields or containers for carrying items or young children, scarred trees have highly significant cultural and spiritual value, according to Mr Bonner who was asked to identify the tree.

The elder said he thought the large piece of bark had been "wedged out" by traditional owners up to 200 years ago using sharp stone tools.

Mr Bonner and Mr Bate feared what might happen to the tree if the site was sold and developed.

"Them things out the in the properties, like scarred trees, that is history that belongs to this country," Mr Bonner said.

 

Githabul elder Sam Bonner and Maryvale man David Bate inspected the site last week.
Githabul elder Sam Bonner and Maryvale man David Bate inspected the site last week. Marian Faa

"These things they show that we had a history of trade .... we're luck to have something like that."

A spokeswoman from the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnership said a duty of care applied to any activity where Aboriginal cultural heritage is located.

"It is the land user's responsibility to determine whether an assessment of the cultural heritage values of an area is required to manage the potential risk of harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage arising from their activity," she said.

But Mr Bonner said he was worried the tree, now dead and likely to fall down, also posed a risk to people.

"I would like to say that tree wants cleaning up because it is dangerous," he said.

"I worry about risk a lot too, the limbs and that, which could come off there and hurt young people or kids around there."

Cultural heritage expert Associate Professor Annie Ross said dead scarred trees could be preserved by sealing the top of the tree with a plug and securing the base with concrete.

"Once the tree has died the best way to manage it is to try and keep the tree standing up," Prof Ross said.

 

A second scar on that same tree in Maryvale.
A second scar on that same tree in Maryvale. Marian Faa

Mr Bonner also suggested a fence be erected around the site.

He said other scarred trees had been identified around the region and there were caves in the hills of Maryvale that were used by traditional owners.

"It was good country out here, people used to camp out here" he said.

Property Specialists agent Bevan Van Der Wolf said he was unaware of the scar when he put up the pink sign and would remove it promptly.

Mr Van Der Wolf said he had Aboriginal heritage himself and wanted to respect the site.



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