Special guest artist at the launch was award-winning singer-songwriter Kev Carmody, pictured with his granddaughter, Layla Carmody, from Toowoomba

April 28, 2022

A “bush university” which aims to teach and share First Nations culture could possibly become the Bunya Mountains’ latest tourist attraction.

The Bonye Bush University is a project put together by the Bunya Aboriginal Peoples Corporation (BPAC) with both Federal and State government assistance.

The group has taken over the former Presbyterian Camp site on the Bunya Mountains and developed a “learning space” in nearby Russell Park.

The cleared area was degraded land which had been overtaken by wattle but included a natural spring which now forms the heart of the new space.

The centrepiece is a dancing ground and rock pool, formed within three coils of a 120 metre-long stone rainbow serpent.

There are sections for both women’s and men’s business.

Solar-powered lights are embedded in the walls which will enable the area to be used at night.

Slightly further up the hill is a Genestreams songlines sculpture, modelled on similar projects elsewhere in Australia.

This features artwork from local First Nations artists on the outside, representing the different clans and language groups which met at the Bunya Mountains in pre-colonial days and still regard the area as sacred today.

Inside the leaves of the sculpted “flower” are depictions of Bunya Mountains flora and fauna from the Cretaceous period through to the modern day.

The baseplate explains the geological time scale which the inner walls depict. The whole sculpture is also lit by solar lights.

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe joined BPAC officials, invited guests and local residents for the opening ceremony of the learning space last Saturday.

Rain fell throughout the event but that didn’t deter the dancers, musicians or speechmakers.

Special guest artist was ARIA Hall of Fame musician Kevin Carmody who began his set with the Murri classic, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”. 

“The Bunya Mountains ‘In Country’ Learning Space is where visitors can experience First Nations culture, lore and customs,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“We know demand for authentic Indigenous tourism experiences like the Bunya Mountains Learning Space is growing.

“New cultural experiences are fundamental to the State’s international tourism relaunch and more regional Queensland jobs.”

Access to the learning space is via a steep track from Fisher’s Lookout.

BPAC vice-president Wayne Fossey … Uncle Wayne said the area was “a cultural place, a spiritual place” to be enjoyed by everyone
Western Downs mayor Paul McVeigh with Lahni MacDonald and Marlon Hill, from Gayndah
The Genestreams songlines sculpture has been designed to withstand the elements, made from stainless steel and a special ceramic material
Jacinda Ibrahim, from Toowoomba, was one of the five artists who prepared panels for the sculpture … the Wulli Wulli woman painted a bush turkey and a black-breasted button quail
South Burnett councillor Kirstie Schumacher and her children Decklan, 12, and Grace, 8, explored the Genestreams sculpture
South Burnett councillor Kathy Duff and Mayor Brett Otto and his wife Ros watched on from the sidelines
Bunya Peoples’ Aboriginal Corporation general manager Paul Dawson compered the day
A downpour didn’t stop Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford from speaking to the assembled crowd
Bunya Nut Ernie (Ian Heard), from Nanango, with Deb Anderson, from Oakey
Toowoomba Regional Council deputy mayor Geoff McDonald with Southern Queensland Country Tourism CEO Peter Homan
Bunya Mountains Community Association members … secretary Carol Weekes, president Ian Harris and Noel Noack
BPAC general manager Paul Dawson, Toowoomba deputy mayor Geoff McDonald and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford … the billabong and dancing ground in the background are formed within the coils of a giant rainbow serpent (Photo: Supplied)

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