June 17, 2021
A Brisbane man is inviting volunteers in the South Burnett to accompany the “Star Of Taroom” as it crosses the region on its journey back home to its traditional country.
Johnny Danalis’ father Jim was working as a vet on cattle stations in the early 1970s when a large sandstone rock on a property between Wandoan and Taroom caught his eye.
Johnny takes up the story:
“Jim’s work took him all over the backroads of Queensland, where over the years he picked up the habit of poking around in paddocks and sheds in search of interesting ‘things’ for his collection.
“The property owner wrapped a chain around the 160kg groove stone and in a cloud of diesel smoke pulled it from its resting place with a tractor. The stone was loaded into a ute and taken to Brisbane, where it took pride of place in Jim’s backyard.”
Jim was diagnosed with cancer in 2019.
He talked to Johnny about returning the carved stone back to where it belonged but before he could do so, he succumbed to the cancer.
A year after his father died, Johnny felt it was time, but first he needed to do some reading.
He learned about the 30,000 years of Iman history on the Upper Dawson.
He learned about the darkness that swept over the land in the 1850s and the silence that followed.
And he learned about the recognition of the Iman people’s Native Title in 2016.
“Compared to the bravery, resilience and determination of the Iman, driving the stone back to country now seemed like a pretty soft gesture,” Johnny said.
He decided the stone should be walked back and a special handcart was commissioned for the journey.
The aim of the Star Of Taroom walk is to raise national awareness about the issue of returning cultural property – and ancestral remains – to country from private and institutional collections.
It also salutes the 2021 NAIDOC theme of “Heal Country”.
And, importantly, the walk has been approved by the Traditional Owners.
“Auntie Heather, Uncle Stuart and other members of the Wardingarri Aboriginal Corporation Board have met with the team in Brisbane and on country and have given the journey their blessing,” Johnny said.
“Uncle Stuart said that the stone’s distinctive star is strikingly similar to a boundary stone on country, which was used as evidence to determine Native Title. This makes the upcoming July repatriation even more significant.”
* * *
The Journey Home
After a short ceremony, the walkers will leave Enoggera Reservoir in Brisbane on July 3 with the aim to reach Taroom on July 24 to coincide with the official opening of the Wardingarri Keeping Place.
After following forest trails, the group will cross the Brisbane River on July 5 and head towards Fernvale where they will begin a 10-day trek along the Brisbane Valley and South Burnett rail trails.
They plan to stay stay in Kingaroy before taking a short break to travel by car to Cherbourg where they will be met by Elders.
The backroads section of the walk will begin on July 16.
“For eight days, we’ll be following the remote back roads through Allies Creek, Sujeewong and Cockatoo,” Johnny said.
“Our final night will be at Bundalla Station, the site of the Taroom Aboriginal Settlement, a place of great significance to the Iman people.
“On Saturday, July 24, we’ll be leaving Bundalla Station and walking the final 11km to Taroom, passing the racetrack on the outskirts of town where we’ll be joined by locals and Iman from all over Australia for the final 4km walk into Taroom.
“The Star of Taroom’s arrival at the Taroom Historical Museum will culminate in a special homecoming smoking ceremony, and the official opening of the new Wardingarri Keeping Place.
“Future generations will be able to visit the Star and learn more about Iman history and culture in this very special place.”
* * *
Joining The Walk
Johnny has invited people to join him and his friends daily on the walk.
“Each morning our core group of six people will be meeting between six to eight day walkers,” he said.
“We are only accepting people who have a connection to the country we are walking on, or have personal reasons for wanting to walk with us.
“We are trying to avoid people with a ‘fun-runner’ mentality.
“We hope to meet all sorts of people; to have a 500km-long yarn about country, about life.
“But we’ve got to tread lightly, too, because this is a healing walk and not a circus, and the ancestors – including my Dad – will be watching!”
- To apply to join the Star Of Taroom walk, click here
* * *