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 piece of history becoming rare and harder to protect

SCARRED trees are becoming rarer and harder to protect according to an Aboriginal cultural heritage expert.

Associate Professor Annie Ross, from the University of Queensland, said scarred trees were very difficult to identify and some naturally-occurring scars could be mistaken for marks made by Aboriginal ancestors.

"A scarred tree that has been scarred by Aboriginal people in the past is usually very regular in shape with a very clear top and bottom,” Prof Ross said.

But the professor said even trees without scars could have spiritual or cultural importance.

"There are many scarred trees that have been scarred naturally, but still have significance to Aboriginal people for other reasons, such as being associated with ancestral beings or extraction of resources.”

Scars created by Aboriginal ancestors have a defined top and bottom.
Scars created by Aboriginal ancestors have a defined top and bottom. Marian Faa

Prof Ross said scarred trees were common, but much harder to protect once the tree died.

As more trees die, pieces of cultural heritage are lost.

"They still need to be protected because an ancient scarred tree is going to eventually die because those trees don't tend to live for more than a few hundred years,” Prof Ross said.

Githabul elder Sam Bonner, who identified a scarred tree on Kates St in Maryvale, said the tree was dead and looked to be more than 100 years old.

Maryvale residents said the block where the tree is located previously belonged to an elderly man who kept the land as a nature reserve.

The site containing the tree is for sale after the death of the land owner.

Mr Bonner feared the lot might be "bulldozed” for development.

But Prof Ross said it was illegal to remove a scarred tree under Queensland cultural heritage legislation.

Maryvale resident David Bate and Githabul elder Sam Bonner inspected the tree last week.
Maryvale resident David Bate and Githabul elder Sam Bonner inspected the tree last week. Marian Faa

Why history matters

Mr Bonner said scarred trees were an important part of history for all Australians.

"We're lucky to have that one there,” he said.

As a record of traditions, culture and lifestyle habits of Aboriginal ancestors who lived in Maryvale and around the Southern Downs, Mr Bonner said scarred trees should be looked after.

"We're just like any other culture, we had long trade routes where they would pass things like canoes and salt and sharp stones,” he said.

Mr Bonner said the scarred tree in Maryvale was most likely created to make a container for carrying goods, or perhaps a small child.

He said another scar on Cullendore Rd south of Warwick was made to create a canoe, which was probably traded with other clans to the south.



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