The Kalkadoon and the
27, 1994 14:06
16:42 Alice Springs, Northern Territory :: 27 OCT 94
Some time ago near Mt. Isa in Queensland, I picked up the following brochure
at a roadside historic site. Been meaning to get around to it. Couldn't
find it when I was writing THE OUTBACK EXPERIENCE post which would have
been the obvious point to bring it up.
This is perhaps a little long, but stick with it to the end. Besides,
how often are my posts short, anyway?
The Kalkadoon and Mitakoodi Memorial
Corella River, Mount Isa-Cloncurry Highway
The Australian Aborigines (Boories or Koories) came to Australia in
successive waves from South India during the last Ice Age, some 40,000
years ago. In 1788, they numbered abut 300,000 people in 600 tribes
with many different languages or dialects and concentrating along the
tropical northern fringes of the continent. For instances, little Mornington
Island has three tribes and the whole of Tasmania had only four.
They traded such things as axe heads with their neighbours and had
joint corroborees but were never a nation with a central organization
in the modern sense. They had no dwellings, cultivations or food producing
animals or birds. The wheel was unknown to them and they normally went
Nevertheless they had a well-organized culture with totem symbols and
their rock art was superior to that of stone age cultures elsewhere
in the world. Two of these tribes were the Kalkadoon inhabiting the
range of hills running in an arc from Selwyn to Mount Isa to Kajabbi
and the Mitakoodi who lived the Cloncurry River basin and their languages
were as different as French and English.
THE COMING OF THE EUROPEAN
It's obvious that this age old situation could not continue into the
modern world and occupation by others was inevitable. When Dampier in
the seventeenth century and Cook in the eighteenth came to Australia,
they saw no buildings, no cultivations, no beasts of burden, none of
the trappings of civilization, only a few wild and naked men wandering
about: they considered the land Terra Nulla or No man's land and informed
the British Government accordingly.
The aborigine must not blame the European for this. Simply, the latter
was lacking in imagination: he could not conceive that men like his
own ancestors who went through the similar Neolithic stone age were
there busy in their own simple way as his own forefathers had been.
The Aborigine was as it turned out fortunate that the occupation was
not by several different countries with different languages and cultures
but by the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh, the British mix who are
with al their faults the most enterprising, energetic law abiding and
tolerant combination history who built up the Commonwealth of Nations,
the United States of America whose speech is destined to become the
universal language of mankind. He could not know that in time, he would
join them as an equal member.
It was this formidable combination reinforced in the Twentieth Century
by the Germans, Italians and Chines who confronted the stone age aborigine
armed only with spear, nulla nulla and boomerang.
He saw these thrusting newcomers parcel out his land between themselves
filling it with their sheep and cattle, effectively cutting off his
means of sustenance and separating him from his sacred sites and traditional
Should not our hearts go out to this poor man who unhappy and bewildered
was reduced to begging for salt, tea and flour on the outskirts of European's
In general the loss of language and culture followed detribalisation
and was not the invaders' deliberate policy and apart from some instances
of killings, poisoning and massacre the European treated the "blackfellow"
humanely even kindly but he left no doubt as to who was boss.
Few aboriginal tribes struck back, notable exceptions being the Palmer
River tribe and the Kalkadoons who in 1884 charged down Battle Mountain
near Kajabbi against the invader. What chance had spear and boomerang
against Urquhart's mounted troops with carbines? They were killed almost
to a man, a terrible reprisal for the spearing of cattle and the killing
and eating of a few Europeans and Chinese.
The Kalkadoon was a broken man and his numbers and those of the Mitakoodi
were further reduced by the European's diseases such as measles leading
Australia-wide the Aborigine's numbers declined to about 60,000 and
some Europeans considered them a dying race. But Adam in ochre is made
of sterner stuff and in recent times his numbers have doubled to around
120,000. This has been due to a slow and steady improvement in their
position from the low point in the 1800s to the provision of schools,
hospitals, housing, supermarkets etc. a process far from complete but
proceeding at an ever faster pace as the European's conscience asserts
Brown Adam has lost his Stone Age Garden of Eden but his children have
been accepted as free, equal and valued members of modern Australian
society, continuing to make their own distinctive contribution.
For every one thing he lost, they have gained a hundred.
THE ABORIGINAL HIMSELF
The Aborigine at his best is a fine man, soft spoken with a twinkle
in his brown eyes, loving his home and his children and having a fine
sense of mateship. He has been described as "Nature's Gentleman".
His wife is a motherly person full of human kindness. He is somewhat
shy and can be hurt like anyone else by the insults of the arrogant
and the ignorant.
He has had to leap from the Stone Age in the short space of two hundred
years making a profound change and emotional adjustment, a process which
took the European 50,000 years.
Small wonder then that some had fallen by the wayside prompting certain
Europeans to stigmatise the whole race as "dirty, drunken and diseased".
These remarks in fact only apply to a very small percentage of Aborigines
and in dealing with these, we should follow the teachings of Jesus of
Nazareth, the greatest man who ever lived.
- Is he dirty? Shower him.
- Is he drunk? Counsel him.
- Is he sick? Treat him.
- Is he unemployed? Give him a job.
- Is he ignorant? Teach him.
- Does he despair and take his own life in prison? Pray for his soul
- Does he do well? Praise him.
Jesus taught that we are all children of God and therefore spiritually
brothers. Science reinforces this by telling us that if we go back some
four million years we are all descended from common stock and so physically
related to every other human being on earth and therefore physically
brothers by extension.
There is no answer to racial problems but this principle of brotherhood.
No man regards his own brother as an inferior being.
What if scientists claim that the Aborigine is not the intellectual
equal of the European? That is neither here nor there.
Robert Burns said "A man's a man for a 'that and a 'that".
The European who patronises or condescends toward the Aborigine should
reflect that the latter is his equal before God.
Always, always therefore treat him not only as a man but as a brother.
If I were asked to give him a word of advice, it would be this, "Hold
your head high and be as proud of your race as I am of mine."
Remember, the best is yet to come.
These consist of a wall along the tribal boundary between the Kalkadoon
and Mitakoodi. On the eastern side as you face Mount Isa are depicted
a spear and a boomerang both broken, an etching in brass of the head
of a Kalkadoon warrior and a central plaque stating,
- YOU WHO PASS BY
- ARE NOW ENTERING THE ANCIENT
- TRIBAL LANDS OF THE KALKADOON
- DISPOSSESSED BY THE EUROPEAN
- HONOUR THEIR NAME
- BE BROTHER AND SISTER TO
- THEIR DESCENDANTS
and three plaques bearing poems. From left to right the first depicts
the ascendancy of Brown Adam over all natural things.
- Up this track that's now a road
- spear in hand, brown Adam strode
- his was everything
- Bare the back that knew no load,
- naked but a king!
the second the fight at Battle Mountain near Kajabbi
- Spear can never conquer gun,
- man no more the horse outrun.
- By the gunblast tossed
- still in death lies every one
- and the battle's lost
and the third the cry of anguish of the Kalkadoon as he imagines all
is lost forever,
- River and rockface and tree
- taken and cut off from me
- in heartache and fear;
- scattered the wild and the free
- and broken the spear.
An acknowledgment plaque and an Aboriginal flag background complete
On the western side as you face Cloncurry are depicted a spear and
stone axe both broken, an etching in brass of the head of a Mitakoodi
warrior and a central plaque stating,
- YOU WHO PASS BY
- ARE NOW ENTERING THE ANCIENT
- TRIBAL LANDS OF THE MITAKOODI
- DISPOSSESSED BY THE EUROPEAN
- HONOUR THEIR NAME
- BE BROTHER AND SISTER TO
- THEIR DESCENDANTS
and three plaques bearing poems. From left to right the first depicts
the Aborigine's timeless existence in the bushland,
- Earth and the sun and the sky
- knowing not wherefore or why
- they each saw me roam,
- happy to live and die
- the bushland my home
the second, his disappearance from the bushland,
- Bounds the kangaroo they stalked
- cattle graze where the wild men walked
- and their camps have been.
- Silent bush where they laughed and talked
- and their slate's wiped clean
and the third his great leap forward to the modern age and as he confronts
his problems here, he weeps for the loss of his former idealised existence,
- Age upon age, slow time crept
- swift to the space age I leapt
- at the hours decree:
- back to the past turned and wept
- for that timeless me
An acknowledgment plaque and the Aboriginal flag complete the picture.
The Australian flag on one side of the monument symbolises the Aborigine's
membership of our nation: on the other side is the Aboriginal identity
flag, the black symbolising the people, red the earth and the yellow
circle the sun.
The two flags are not in opposition, rather does one complement the
other. The poems are Japanese Tanka of thirty-one syllables each but
unlike the original, metered and rhymed to please the Anglo-Celtic ear.
Wow! I'm not certain who or what this is really a monument to. Imagine,
a memorial to a conquered and destroyed culture, expressed through a second
culture's artistic form, and rearranged in style and execution to "please
the ear" of the conquering culture. It's often said that funerals
are events staged for the benefit of the survivors; this monument appears
of that tradition.
Let's first set about diffusing some inaccuracies, omissions and misleading
There is no conclusive evidence in the anthropological record pinpointing
the origin of Aboriginal colonists to Australia or the date at which colonisation
began. The earliest evidence of an Aboriginal presence was unearthed in
this decade and was dated to be in excess of 60,000 years old so they've
been here at least that long. Indonesia, New Guinea and a few other SE
Asian locations are listed as possible points of Aboriginal origin, but
these are the speculation of a scientific community that assumes man originated
in Africa. If you ask an Aboriginal they're likely to tell you they originated
in Australia [an opinion reinforced for me just last night by a Native
American woman-pmj 11/11/94].
The figure of 300,000 Aborigines in 1788 is another outdated estimate.
Recent research indicates that as many as 1 million Aborigines inhabited
Australia at that date, and perhaps more.
Aboriginal trade items included stone and wooden implements, ochre and
foodstuffs and other goods. The trade network extended for thousands of
kilometers beyond neighbours. Even today Aborigines perceive themselves
to be made up of distinct peoples; in 1788 they spoke in excess of 200
languages so why should we expect that they would have formed a single
"nation" with a centralised government? On the other hand, their
sophisticated and continent wide organisational network appears
to have operated quite effectively for thousands of years without significant
In all regions of Australia, Aborigines built shelters, some temporary,
others erected as permanent structures but used cyclically as they moved
about their territory, and in some areas of Australia where the Aborigines
were not nomadic these were constructed as permanent dwellings.
Where weather patterns were temperate year-round they wore no unnecessary
clothing. In Tasmania, Victoria and generally in the cooler southern climes
they wore clothes. I don't see that this defines the Northerners as any
more 'savage' or 'primitive' simply because they "normally went naked"
as this brochure appears to imply.
THE COMING OF THE EUROPEAN
I'm tempted to just reword this whole section...
Given the imperialistic nature of Europe's colonial period, it was
inevitable that the indigenous peoples of Australia would, like all
other such peoples in the world, be displaced, murdered and the survivors
eventually detribalize. When Dampier and Cook came they confused technologically
simple with simply animal and informed the British Government that nothing
with a soul inhabited Australia.
The Aborigine should not blame present day Europeans for the ignorance
of their ancestors and thus should expect neither conciliation nor compensation
for past deeds. After all, Europeans were once 'primitive,' 'simple'
and 'wild' but are much better now, thank-you, and are willing to help
the Aboriginal out of their pitifully primitive state.
Aborigines should consider themselves lucky that those dirty Dutch,
Portuguese, Spanish and French didn't get to them. Those peoples would
have done much worse than detribalize, rend families apart, massacre
entire tribes and then treat the survivors as persona-non-grata right
up until the present day. The Dutch, for instance, would never have
given them the right to vote in the 1960s, less than 200 years after
occupation, like the British. And "illegally" killing an Aboriginal
in the 19th century wouldn't even have cost a police officer his promotion
like it did in the Australia occupied by the "British mix".
He could not know that in time, he would join them as an equal member,
the promise he is continually given by politicians, even today. Of course,
it's not the fault of Australians now if the Aborigine did not then
and does not now care to join them, as an equal member or otherwise.
You can't stop progress and all peoples of the world are better off
once they join in Western Civilization.
Yes, it could have been much, much worse.
13:03 Whistler, BC-Canada :: 27 NOV 94
A month later and this brochure still brings me to a boil. I take exception
to just about every line in it, but this one's perhaps the worst:
- For every one thing he lost, they have gained a hundred.
I need to find an accountant with this spin on positive gains.
What have they lost? Demoralizing poverty in a 'land of plenty'; often
spotty medical treatment for imported disease; embarrassing infant mortality
and teen suicide rates; mothers separated from children; the right to
compete for low pay jobs or, when the government 'misguidedly' legislates
equal pay for equal work, the right to apply for unemployment or welfare;
their land pilfered; the practice of their culture criminalized.
But what have they gained?
Some of the pilfered land is being returned. Mind you, only untenanted
land (read, inhospitable or unprofitable) is eligible.
- Brown Adam has lost his Stone Age Garden of Eden
- but his children have been accepted as free,
- equal and valued members of modern Australian society...
This flies in the face of reality. His children have been legislated
to be free and equal within Australian law, true. But accepted
as equal and valued members of Australian society? Not in practice.
Not even close.
It's important to recognize that, other than the return of their land,
Aborigines did not seek any of Australian society's gains. In fact, they
resisted them. They went to the missionaries not to find food or shelter,
Jesus or Capitalism but to seek refuge from murderous pastoralists and
police. Even then, the brochure in question adequately describes the image
of Aborigines in the mind of Australia Fair:
- There is no answer to racial problems but
- [the] principle of brotherhood. No man regards
- his own brother as an inferior being.
- What if scientists claim that the Aborigine is not
- the intellectual equal of the European? That is
- neither here nor there.
Not inferior in their worthiness before god, just in intellectual capacity
-- Responses Sought --
- I believe in the immense skill of white surgeons.
- But how can I not believe in the evil abilities of the
- Medicine-Men and the sorcerers?
- I have the evidence of my own eyes to persuade me.
- I have the memory of my own harrowing experience.
- I have my tribal traditions.
- I am confused, but not disillusioned.
- Say, if you like, that I'm just a superstitious Aboriginal.
||Waipuldanya of the Alawa (Phillip Roberts)
From "I, the Aboriginal"
with Douglas Lockwood
10 May 2009, 12:55
A number of years ago I received a report that this monument was entirely
destroyed. Can anyone confirm?
07 Jul 2010, 20:11
The monument was destroyed by dynamite, but rebuilt by David ("Dr Harv").
He was a rare and wonderful man and his life one of quiet achievement and
unfailing committment. David was the doctor at Nagasaki (Major Harvey
Sutton)after WWII and perhaps imfamous of running his troops up and down
mountains - a life long believer and embodiment of fitness. He was the
doctor at Cloncurry for perhaps 60 years - in 55 years never once missing a
Monday night rotary meeting. He was also a Canon in the anglican church.
In his 'spare' time he mowed lawns for pensioners or numerous other duties,
when he should long have been retired. He flew around remote areas and
established his own flying medical corps to service place not covered by
the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It's an almost unimaginable life of
service and committment today. He also self published 4 volumes of poetry.
His childhood was one of priviledge, growing up in Rose Bay beside the
Golf Course, his father a famous surgeon. But he eschewed society's lights
and lushness and never seemed to regret it. Childhood documents are held
by the Mitchell Library in Sydney. He was often a contraversial figure,
but I find his heart, soul and intentions, let alone achievements, a
continuing inspiration and I'm very lucky to have know and loved him. A
difficult man, perhaps. A wonderful man, certainly.
norma-wrae bakker (nee finlay)
03 Aug 2010, 01:31
hi iam a descent of the mitakoodi aboriginal corporation. im try to find
out more bout the mitakoodi people and there totems as i dont know much
thanks u can email me back on email@example.com. thanks norma-wrae bakker
14 Dec 2010, 22:45
I'm sorry that i can't help you with any of that information, because, i
have just begun my own search back in history for my family from Mitakoodi
My mothers mother was 'Bessie', born about 1887 or so. Her mother was
called 'Maggie', she hooked up with a white bloke with the last name
'Morris'. I don't know if they legally maried but that white man died
before 1907, leaving Maggie in Cloncurry (Mitakoodi country) with one
daughter (her name is not known to me, possibly last name Morris also?)and
her other daughter Bessie, (who was under the government policy) and was
sent to work for white folks in Brisbane as a domestic. My mothers mother
Bessie never heard from her mother or sister again (there may have been
other children too, it's very probable?) Great grandmother couldn't write
so all contact was lost. If there is anyone who you have met through your
own search that may have any information that could help, that would be
great. The records from Cloncurry council for that period of time were
destroyed by fire, but i know without a doubt my great grandmother Bessie
and her mother Maggie were from Mitakoodi country.I would like to find
descendants from that line for my mother before she passes. She is 75 now,
still strong. My mothers mother called her son, Gordon 'Finlay' Morris, so
i thought i would take a stab in the dark. Best wishes Brett Crealy.
15 Dec 2010, 18:06
Hi Brett - your's is a heartbreakingly frequent story and your devotion to
discovering more is very moving. I wish you every success and hope, if you
haven't been able to do so yet, that one day you'll find your way to
magical, mystical Cloncurry.
Jimmy Taylor (a Kalkadoon man, I think) and Delmae Barton (a mittakoodi
woman, opera singer and mother of William Barton, the acclaimed didgeridoo
player) used to run the murri center in Mt Isa. Delmae still works from
Griffiths Uni - http://www.griffith.edu.au and I would try contacting her
if you are short of contacts. She's a very precious woman.
Good luck - go well, stay well. Clare
22 Dec 2010, 08:12
Thanks again Clare.
Best wishes and Kind regards.
04 Mar 2011, 22:25
Dear any Indigenous Australian
I am sorry for the horrible things that happend to your people. My people
had no right to do that, i'm so sorry and on behalf of my family we say
sorry. Everyone should be treted fairly and your people were not and
sometimes are still not treted fairly. I know their is still a gap between
our people and i know it may remain forever and i hope it does not.
13 Jul 2011, 05:07
My name is Jen & I was raised in Mt Isa, Cloncurry & Townsville way. We are
Kalkadoon descendant. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic
Council may be able to help you find the answers youre looking for. Ah Sam
is the last name of some Mitakoodi elders if you wanted to try that, Good
Luck Brother. Peace.
AICC Mt isa
P O Box 854
Mount isa Q 4825
Phone: 4743 0343
17 Jan 2012, 06:57
I was born in Cloncurry. Know a little bit of it's history and the local
people. I am gathering data to do an Ethnography of Mitakoodi people from
my family including narratives recollections, any digital data including
photos I, I am collecting it all. I have added a certain amount of
information to my base of historical references for our history into a
family tree program around this area. If anyone care to help me achieve my
goals please email me. I may be able to help you also. Sincere regards
OUR HISTORY THROUGH OUR EYES
12 Feb 2012, 21:13
I would very much like to know the totem for the Kalkadoon tribe. No-one
seems to know what it is. Some say it is the Crane Foot, but not entirely
Janet Lenz nee Saunders
13 Feb 2012, 18:55
Australian Aboriginal societies are a little different in how they organise
totems and kinship. In particular, they don't organize 'tribal' totems in
quite the way we're accustomed to in the Americas.
For a bit of insight, see http://austhrutime.com/aboriginal_totemism.htm
Hope that helps,
15 Jan 2013, 20:45
My mother is Frances Condren but married my dad Darryl Mayers (dec)I would
like to be able to get hold of any historical information about my family
who are descendants of the Kalkadoon.
03 Apr 2013, 14:28
Thanks heaps! I only just checked this space again.. I'll give that a go!
I grew up on Kalkadoon Country! What a place! Beautiful!
I remember the kindness of an old Auntie in the river one day. She didn't
know us from adam.. but she kindly fed me and my brothers with the small
trumpeter fishes that she had just caught for a feed for herself. I'll
never forget that day.. we must have looked pretty hungry.. and we were
Thanks again Sis!
20 Oct 2013, 19:12
The author appears to be the late Dr Harvey-Sutton. If my childhood memory
serves me he was considered a bit "kooky" by the white "locals" for his
sympathy for the Indigenous population...which makes the whole thing way
scarier! This is what they thought publicly....imagine what they were
teaching us kids in private!
23 Jan 2014, 05:18
To Janet lenz nee Saunders
I'm just wrighting and asking were your name nee Saunders is from? That is
the same as my great, grandmother and she was born with no birth ceticicate
and no nothing about her..
Be great if you can contact me... 0415392571...
20 Mar 2014, 21:39
Mitakoodi was originally called Mayi-Thakurti
15 May 2014, 07:01
I will never forgive the white man for breeding the black out of me I am
an inbetweem who belong em to know one, but I am a kalkdoon I will never
give up searching for my own people ,even when they turn their backs on me
because of my pale skin i will fight to the end hoping i find my family my
nana told me never to forget kajabi can any one tell me what this means any
why she told me never to forget this
27 May 2014, 07:08
Kajabbi is a little place 100kms or so north west of Cloncurry. Not far
from Kajabbi which had a pub called the Kalkadoon hotel, was a place called
Battle Mountain where certain whites massacred a huge mob of Kalkadoon
people. Kajabbi is Northern Kalkadoon country. If your Nana told you never
to forget Kajabbi, it must have been her country or your family's country,
or why else would she make reference to it? There is a poem call proud to
be Aborigine, my mother reads it at most gatherings she speaks at. Her Ma
was stolen generation and my Ma is the fairest of her siblings. The last
line of the poem is the message I will leave with you, 'I am proud to be a
fair skinned Aborigine'. Its seems that all you need do now is embace who
you are, and forgive those who don't understand yet! Big hug Sister! Peace
to your heart! Brett.
22 Aug 2014, 21:57
My family passed by this monument in 2001.
I still have the information brochure.
After visiting the outback in SA WA NT on our round Australia trip - we
were feeling connected with the land and the dreaming sites and the
This memorial I found very moving.
I felt their pain on the loss of their lands.
I am so sorry that someone destoyed the monument - but relieved that a good
person restored it.
This is part of our history. A pity more don't know about these stories.
I hope those who are seeking information about their ancestors find peace