«Although efforts has been taken to identify the location of the graves and the names of those buried in the cemetery, this report can offer no definitive answers.
«It is also clear from the records that erosion of Deebing Creek has exposed human remains and has most likely reduced the number of Aboriginal graves within the cemetery.»
Frasers Property has spent the past three years gathering information from Indigenous families about the Deebing Creek Mission at Ripley, on the edge of Ipswich.
The study by Ms Cook was part of their early research after the company in 2015 acquired 115 hectares of the culturally sensitive bushland.
The research also includes speaking with representatives of former Queensland senator Neville Bonner, whose Aboriginal mother, Julia Rebecca Bonner, was born in the mission; speaking with the family of Indigenous Beaudesert woman Julia Ford, whose headstone can be seen in the mission cemetery; and negotiating with the Thompson family linked to «King Billy» Turner, widely known as the King of the Lockyer Valley.
The mission ran from 1887, when authorities decided to remove Aboriginal people from Ipswich’s Queens Park and the township of Purga.
The Deebing Creek Mission eventually included a working farm, school and dwellings on «nine miles of bushland along Deebing Creek» at West Ipswich, where up to 150 people lived.
The mission is on Yuggera/Ugarapul lands, stretching from Pullenvale and Moggill in the east, out to the foot of the Great Dividing Range through the Lockyer Valley and down towards Beaudesert.
The mission closed in 1915 and Aboriginal families were moved to the nearby Purga Mission and cattle station.
Frasers Property begins construction work at the end of February as some Aboriginal people linked to «King Billy» Turner camp on the Deebing Creek site.
Daniel Thompson, a blood descendant of «King Billy», says his family’s elders have still not been directly included in the negotiations.
“King Billy Turner was made chief of Yuggera, mainly because he was engaged to build a trust between Aboriginal people and the ‘invaders’, I suppose,” he said.
“But to be in that position, well, for one he was able to get warriors together to fight for our lands and he had to be a ‘clever man’ to be travelling and be able to talk to different mobs.
“It is in the black and white history that he is the most important significant man in this area, but at this stage — to this day – 230 years since invasion or settlement which ever way you call it – we still do have not have any authority over our home lands.»
Frasers said it began its discussions regarding Deebing Creek in 2015 with Indigenous consultancy group, Jagera Daran Pty Ltd, which has several employees linked to Mr Bonner’s family.
The firm’s director is Madonna Thomson, Mr Bonner’s grand neice. Jagera is a language group of the similar geographic region as the Yuggerah and Ugarapal, but with cultural differences.
Madonna Thomson said her family group was entitled to be part of talks with developers «as traditional owners to Jagera country who have interests in that site».
«We have family members buried in that cemetery,» Ms Thomson said.
She said she believed Fraser’s Property Group intended to show indigenous history of the mission in walks around the residential development.
«I think there is an opportunity for a positive outcome.»
Frasers said in 2017 it then widened its talks with Indigenous families to include representatives from the Yuggera Ugarapul people as they lodged a successful Native Title application.
A series of six meetings with Yuggera Ugarapul members were held from November 2017 to May 2018 to develop a cultural heritage management plan.
Frasers says Yuggera Ugarapul representatives declined to sign this plan and a memorandum of understanding, and were instead seeking a political solution, the developer said.
Mr Thompson disputes this, saying his clan had not been included in talks.
“Comments have never been sought from the people with the truest links to this country,” he said.
“Im not naive about it, that is the way the native title system works and is set up around the country.”
Ms Ford’s family argues the original Deebing Creek cemetery was far bigger than it is today, her great-great-grandson Shaun Davies said.
«Our family has said for years and years that Julia’s headstone is not on the edge of the cemetery,” Mr Davies said.
“Our old aunts used to visit the cemetery when they were at (nearby mission) Purga.
“And they remember walking some distance past Julia’s grave to the edge of the cemetery.
“We think it extends well along the creek line and think there should be a concerted effort to identify, at the very least, who is in the cemetery.”
Frasers Property said it was determined to respect Aboriginal history of the mission and the cemetery, even though Deebing Creek cemetery is state government land and sits just outside its Deebing Heights development footprint.
Frasers has agreed to make these changes to its Deebing Heights application:
- Increase the buffer area to the Deebing Creek Mission cemetery by 30 metres;
- Increase the 40-metre wide buffer area along Deebing Creek to a 120-metre wide buffer; and
- Prevent any residential development in parts of mission site around the culturally significant bunya tree.
- Keep 37 hectares of the site as open space and use information signs around the site to tell the story of the Deebing Creek mission.
The development is part of the Queensland government’s Ripley Valley Priority Development area, designed to cater for south-east Queensland’s population growth.
In 2017 the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships prepared a report into the future of the Deebing Creek Cemetery.
It recommended establishing a «Deebing Creek Aboriginal Cemetery Trust Project Team»
incorporating Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul representatives and other Aboriginal
stakeholders with «traditional, historical or familial links to the Deebing Creek Mission.»
That body would advise the Director-General in relation to key decisions concerning the
future management and use of the Cemetery Reserve.
The deaprtment did not answer questions about this body.
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times