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Indigenous History

Deebing Creek & Purga Missions 1892-1948

Production of the Deebing Creek and Purga Mission booklet was carried out with the assistance of funds made available by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Queensland Community Cultural Heritage Incentive Program.

Prepared by Daniel Habermann and produced by the Ipswich City Council this booklet was launched on Friday, 11 July 2003 at Ipswich Art Gallery.

Introduction (PDF, 8 kb)

Deebing Creek Aboriginal Home

How It Came To Be (PDF, 9 kb)

Getting Started (PDF, 6 kb)

Early Mission Life (PDF, 7 kb)

Back To Deebing Creek (PDF, 7 kb)


Colonisation (PDF, 83 kb)

Boundaries and Origins of Indigenous Lands and Languages

At the outset, Deebing Creek Aboriginal Home was intended as a retreat for "scattered remnants of tribes within a 30 to 40 mile radius".

Owing to the dislocation of local customary law' indigenous history and culture, there is contention regarding the boundaries and origins of indigenous lands and language. One suggested history is that the area was situated within the geographical area in which the "Yuggera" language was spoken. The word Jaggera was another English interpretation on the same word. The name Yackera is another interpretation, referred to in the archival material.

The tribal name Yuggerabul or Yuggerapul is also mentioned. The suffix 'bul' or 'pul' means "a group or subdivision of" and hence the name Yuggerabul or Yuggerapul can be interpreted as "a group or subdivision of the Yuggera or Jaggera tribe".

According to Willie Mackenzie, an Aboriginal man born in Kilcoy in 1875, there were three tribal subdivisions, which frequented the Ipswich area. The tribes resided in locality groups, each group occupying a portion of the tribal territory that was recognised as its peculiar right. One of the groups occupied the area from Ipswich to Oxley. Another group known as "Cateebil" occupied the area from Ipswich to Gatton, Laidley, Grantham and Helidon and another group from the south also occupied the area. No material can be found as to the derivation of this word. Also it would seem that the Yuggera territory extended down as far as Teviot Brook in the Fassifern Valley.

The territory to the south excluding the area around Teviot Brook but otherwise comprising the catchment area of the Logan and Albert River systems was Yugumbir territory. The name "Yugumbir" derived from their common word for the negative expression, which was "Yugum". The Yugumbir tribes themselves were said to be a subdivision of the "Bundjalung" group which occupied a large area of north eastern New South Wales, into the southern most part of present day South East Queensland.

Yuggera territory, being the geographical area in which the language was spoken corresponded with the basins of the Brisbane and Caboolture Rivers. It was said that Esk was about the northern boundary, the foot of the Great Dividing Range the western boundary and the Fassifern Valley the southern most. Teviot Brook was in Yuggera territory with the Teviot Range marking the approximate eastern boundary with Yugumbir territory.

The tribal name Yuggera derives from the name Yugar which means "no, nowhere, nothing", the negative expression in the particular language group. The word for the negative expression varied between the various tribes, for example wocca and kabi and the different negative expression formed the basis for distinction between various tribal and therefore language groups. The various major language groups had a common 'yes' word, "yauai". Hence the Yuggera tribal area was the geographical location in which a language in which 'yugar' meant 'no' was spoken. This included the Ipswich area originally known as Tulmur or Doolmoor to local Aborigines.

A Yugarabul vocabulary recorded in FJ Watson's book "Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes in South East Queensland" was recorded in the southern most part of Yugarabul territory and it is acknowledged by him that in this location there was a mix of Yugara and Yugumbir words spoken as a result of the fact that these two (2) groups lived in close proximity to each other.

It would appear that there were no strictly defined boundaries between the territory. There was a certain overlapping, a grey area where one tribal group faded out and another gradually panned in. Fence lines and state boundaries were of course a European invention.

F.J. Watson (1946) has quoted the Rev. W. Ridley's assessment of the Yugarabul and Kabi languages as having "... remarkable regularity and of the exactness with which they express shades of thought. The inflections of verbs and nouns, the derivation and composition of words, the arrangement of sentences and the method of imparting emphasis indicate an accuracy of thought and a force of expression surpassing all that is commonly supposed to be attainable by a savage."

There is no clear information about how these people came to be at Deebing Creek other than being induced to go there by Reverend Fuller. As stated there were people there from the Gatton and Laidley districts but again we have no way of knowing how they came to be there other than the possibility that they were among those camped in Queens Park with the others.

Reverend Fuller's Letters

Between 1893 and 1898 Reverend Fuller wrote a number of letters, these letters provide a valuable insight into life at Deebing Creek.

Fullers Letters (PDF, 135 kb)

The Events of 1901

Events of 1901 (PDF, 33 kb)

People at the Mission

1906 1908 (PDF, 49 kb)

Jackie Becket (PDF, 9 kb)

Harry Thompson (PDF, 33 kb)

Relocation to Purga Mission

By 1910, all youngsters had been placed into employment situations and it was said that the adults had become accustomed to the idea of compulsory work on the mission. Their earnings were spent on clothing, watches, chains and rings as well as guns for possum shooting and also bicycles. A small portion of the wages was diverted to a general maintenance fund for the mission and the pupils at the school were said to be cheerful and happier.

In 1912 the government withdrew funding for the provision of the Superintendent and matron of the school on the basis that the school numbers had dropped to only 6.

It was around this time that the committee decided to move the main mission to another location. Initially it was intended to construct the residences on the Nine Mile Reserve. However, a 60 acre property, the one currently owned by the Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation was acquired. Part of the reason for pushing to move the site from Deebing Creek to Purga was to further remove the residents from the temptations of Ipswich and to enable closer access by the farm labourers to the agricultural holding at the Nine Mile Reserve. Meston had discussed the necessity for this in the course of his report to the government in 1896.

Relocation to Purga (PDF, 9 kb)

Request for more buildings (PDF, 12 kb)

Back to Purga (PDF, 14 kb)

Purga Photos (PDF, 204 kb)

Enter the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army had indirect involvement much earlier through Miss Fuller the schoolteacher at Deebing Creek and also Superintendent and Matron Ivins. The Salvation Army was very keen at the prospect of bringing their principles into practice amongst the "nomadic half-caste Aborigines", and the church had very set views about exactly what needed to be done to bring these people to salvation.

The fundamental principle was to continue to Christianise them and to uplift them and to disconnect them from any semblance of Aboriginal spirituality and culture and eventually to assimilate them into white society. There can be no doubt that the intentions were benevolent and in keeping with the highest principles during that period. The fact remains that the controls over every aspect of Aboriginal life persisted and perhaps became even more regimented.

Salvation Army (PDF, 57 kb)

The Mining lease at Hampstead

From 1924 to about 1930 there was a small mining lease granted on the 35 acre allotment at Hampstead. There were some legal disputes about a number of matters including the leasees leaving the gates open for the mission's cattle to escape and also the cutting of the trees outside of the 5 acres of the mining lease.

There is no indication given whether any royalties were derived from this operation or whether the mission administration or residents received any of the benefits of any such royalties. It appears to have only been a very small private concern with one shaft and as at the time of writing of this history there is no evidence that any mining operations ever took place.

General Matters (PDF, 10 kb)

Some Of The Characters (PDF, 9 kb)

Other Insights (PDF, 6 kb)

Aboriginal Preservation And Protection Act 1939 (PDF, 5 kb)

Epilogue (PDF, 17 kb)

Appendix (PDF, 21 kb)