Thursday, August 30, 2012


A tale of a journey between Queanbeyan, with a description of the 1862 'Canberra Plains', and the Village of Micalago (today spelt as Michelago.)

Passing by Mount Tennent a, what would be a fairly fresh observation time wise, of the bushranger known as the 'Terror of Argle' the escaped convict John Tennant after whom the Mountain is named (note different spelling). As is often evident from articles of this era the language is eloquent and an unusual perspective of what today is a bituminous distance of 46 kilometres and a leisurely drive of 35 minutes...

Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser - Thursday 16 October 1862

As yet I can't seem to find the continuation.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Overnight in the Monga National Park

This was my second trip to the Buckenbowra wilderness and the first overnight. I have been interested in the Monga National park on the South Coast since reading a 19th century article called Hunting the Lyrebird (hint a good read). The Monga National Park area seems to fit the desciption. Lyrebirds mostly call in winter at which time they prepare their nest for a female. During the course of yesterday I heard several superb calls and a few of what I presumed to be examples of mimicking. Didn't see any though.

Regardless the trip was actually to try to capture some local wildlife on film. The method used at night is to first identify animals with a heat seeking Flir camera (when I can borrow it) before spotlighting and photographing any confirmed suspects. If it's alive it can't hide from the Flir...

Just on a side note this Flir camera is valued somewhere around $9K

Whenever overnighting I set a trail camera on the off chance of capturing something and did so last night. In the space of 14 hours it captured 2 images... one of me setting up and one of me picking up the camera.

If you never try you will never know and there's always the hope of a spotted quoll. It really is a stab in the dark on an overnight basis as most success is recorded when these cameras are left out several weeks. I also figure it's never going to capture an image packed in a cupboard at home.

Also noticed a few little visitors in camp that are probably a very good reason to have a fully enclosed swag if you intend to sleep on the ground. These scorpions were only about 10 mm long. They were tiny...

All set for the night and I explored a nearby walk-able creek. It was interesting to note what at first looked like concrete rubble strewn intermittently in the creek and on the shore. A strange sight so far from people. I have since been informed from a learned friend it is a 'conglomerate' rock. Apparently quite an ancient geological formation...

Just coming into flower are the native raspberries. There were a few old fruits...

Unfortunately as I cooked a feed the winds started to rise... and continued to rise past dark as the temperature dropped. It was becoming quite uncomfortable and as I didn't want to light a fire decided the better part of valour would be to retire for the night. So an 8pm bedtime. No Telstra 3G to amuse me but I was soon off to sleep. The beautiful thing though was waking to a Lyrebird as my alarm clock...

Well that's the sort of the boring process I use when 'hunting'. Nothing to show for the adventure this time but its the successes that make it worthwhile. I must say although I enjoy the solace from people on trips It was good to rejoin the community with a great early morning coffee at the Braidwood Bakery which by the way has been newly refurbished. Fine then for a drive home to Canberra by 11.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The author of this controversy, Mr W.P Bluett, hailed from Brindabella. He was a prolific letter writer and shared much of his local Canberra knowledge in letters to the editor in several newspapers. I first came across him in an article about the origin of the name Piccadilly Circus, an intersection at the top of Brindabella Mountain.

The discussion below starts with a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald by Bluett titled "Canberra Blacks in early settlement days" where amongst a myriad of information Mr Bluett reports the Aboriginal population of Canberra as numbering 500 when Europeans settlers arrived.

His letter spawned several replies. I had read the five articles below individually before but had never read them in context to each other simultaneously. Combined they make quite an educational read...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 21 May 1927

Enter Mr Slater who asserts there were no Aboriginal People resident in the Canberra Area as reported by the Naturalist John Lhotski on his travels to explore the Australian Alps. Slater suggests the Aboriginal population were probably wiped out by the "catarrbal epidemic" of 1920 which as far as I can ascertain is a type of Influenza...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Tuesday 24 May 1927

And a reply a few days later to Mr Slater from Mr Bluett disagreeing and defending the testimony of local pioneers...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Thursday 2 June 1927

Mr Slater responds with a defence of the goodly Naturalist and goes on to question the suggested orthography of Canberra's name...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 4 June 1927

At the end of the day Mr Samuel Shumack, an old Canberra pioneer enters the debate and supports Mr Bluett. Shumack seems the most reliable in regards this matter. I first came across Shumack in John Gale's work 'Canberra : history of and legends relating to the Federal Capital' where he is quoted in reference to the Aboriginal Woman Queen Nellie Hamilton...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 11 June 1927

Conclusion...  If the Aboriginal population were absent in 1823 it was temporary. I have read in other sources that the population was numbered 500 men not counting women and children. Knowing the layout of the described boundaries and the travelling times of the day even the Western boundary of the Goodradigbee River is more than a 24 hour march over Brindabella Mountain.

Family bands travelling could have been anywhere in the territory for example the high ranges during Summer for the annual Bogong Moth hunt where they feasted for the season or the Southern highland valleys. In fact they could have been anywhere whilst Lhotski was resident at Duntroon and Ginninderra.

Anyway... the more I look into it the more I see a very sad story emerge in the decades after settlement. Whatever number Aboriginal population lived in today's Australian Capital Territory at the time of European settlement decreased at an exponential rate in the following decades. The stories are entwined with the sentiments of Queen Nellie Hamilton reported last full blood Aboriginal and Onyong who was described by settlers as the 'last of the wild blacks'. Both saw first hand the effects of white colonial settlement.


Sunday, August 19, 2012


An old clipping from 1919 that describes an Aboriginal battle between the Piallago tribe from Canberra and the Monaro Tribe from the South in the previous century.

I can only assume that the Piallago Tribe were the forefathers of the modern day Ngambri People and the Monaro Tribe those of the modern day Ngarigu People.

The battle appears to have raged from Sutton, through Piallago, past Cuppacumbalong and off in to the mountains around the Nass in the ACT's South with the Ngambri being the eventual victors.

It is interesting to note from reading both the Ngambri and Ngarigu websites that the tribal boundaries of both Peoples are still  contested today...

Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer - Friday 21 March 1919

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Thursday, August 16, 2012


One for the Canberra fishermen... for others if you travel West from Canberra to Tumut via Brindabella Road you cross the beautiful Goodradigbee River at the bottom of the Brindabella Valley. It really is a pretty and rugged area with the river and tributaries having been stocked with trout for over a century. What caught my eye in this article, apart from the fisherman's tale was the description of the arduous journey from Queanbeyan over Brindabella Mountain, a journey that today in an appropriate car, takes about an hour...

The Age (Queanbeyan) Tuesday 30 January 1906

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Monday, August 13, 2012


An excellent video showing one of Canberra's most important wildlife reserves for local and migratory water birds. Nestled at the head of Lake Burley Griffin and in close proximity to Kingston and Fyshwick the ACT Government is calling for input in developing a master plan for the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve...

Tamsactgov's youtube channel

"Discover the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve, an urban wetland located on the eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin in close proximity to the Parliamentary Triangle."

The public exhibition period will extend over 8 weeks closing at 5pm Friday 28th September 2012. There will be two public information sessions before that...

Saturday 18th August 2-4pm Jerrabomberra Wetlands offices, 2 Dairy Road, Fyshwick.
Monday 3rd September 7-8.30pm Eastlake Football Club, Griffith.

feedback forms will be available from:, any ACT Library, Canberra Connect Shopfronts or by emailing

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Monday, August 6, 2012


Canberra owns the Southern Hemisphere's oldest operational Cork Oak plantation. Apparently when Walter Burley Griffin planned Canberra he allowed for a cork plantation. In fact he imported seeds that were nurtured by Thomas Weston at the Government nursery that were supposed to become the foundations for a cork industry in a self supporting capital...

Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer - Friday 8 August 1919


It seems by 1935 they would have been around 3 feet tall... (1 metre)

The Sydney Morning Herald - Friday 18 January 1935

It was first harvested in 1948 but had many years to develop before becoming a viable commercial plantation...

The Canberra Times - Tuesday 28 December 1948

-For the full history up to present and photographs I have a post here

Apparently also the ACT National Trust has declared the plantation at risk in its 2012 @risk Release. I find it disturbing the government may want to cut a road through it in their development of the new National Arboretum...


Make of that what you will. What may slip from a communities grasp forever is an intact living representation of Walter Burley Griffin's vision. Removing young (they live 500 years) 90 year old Cork Oaks would alter the integrity of a resource that both makes money, could go on for 500 years, is historically important for a city's heritage, and was an ideal of the National Capital's designers.

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History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...