Colleen Wall

Protocol dictates that I must ‘place’ myself properly so other Aboriginal people can identify me and my knowledge base. I am Colleen Ma’run Wall, a Dauwa-Kabi woman from the Mt Bauple-Gympie-Kilkivan area. I am Ma’run - Sand Goanna and the daughter of Herb Geiszler and Alfa Beezley and granddaughter of Bert Beezley and Mary Minniecon. I give thanks to my Ancestors and Elders for guiding my thoughts and actions.

Aboriginal Law says Dha’gan (this Land) is ‘our Mother’ and that she gives us everything we need, including our life. As Dha’gan’s children we have moved freely across her ‘skin’ for many thousands of years by using the Pathways set down by the Creator Ancestors as they moved about pushing up mountains and gouging out rivers and lakes.

At this time Dha’gan set down Laws that governed the use of her resources and my family recognise these as Mother Earth’s or Grandmother’s Law. Dha’gan’s beautiful brown, blue and green ‘skin’ is made up of trees, soil and water and these valuable resources.  

The Spiritual or Totemic Being that governs our Kabi Lands is Kab’bvai the Light Bee.  Kab’bvai is the namesake of our Language Nation but is now recognised as ‘Kabi’Kab’bvai is pivotal to all our resources as it pollinates our flowers giving us fruit and nectar; timber for shelter and warmth, as well as spears and fibre for tools such as nets and bags. A man without a spear or net cannot hunt and a woman without a digging stick and basket cannot gather.

As Dauwa (Stringy-Bark) Tree Clan of the Tiaro, Gympie and Kilkivan area our responsibility is to maintain particular trees and their ecosystems. The connecting pathways allow us to travel the story-strings and ‘sing-up’ the Ancestors such as Tree and Water Spirits to replenish Dha’gan’s resources and in turn strengthen the Land Law. This is known generally as ‘looking after country’. Like hymns or prayers, these songs link-up individual story-strings and interlink all resources across Dha’gan’s skin and most importantly distribute our Land Laws. When we ‘sing’ these we show respect of our land, and the Elders who uphold that Law but most importantly, through the Ancestor Spirits, we are reiterating the governing Land Law as dictated by Dha’gan

Our family Totemic connections within the Dauwa Clan as ‘tree’ people cover everything that lives in and around or needs trees in our country. This includes lizards, birds, butterflies, moths and lava (as well as the most delicious witchety grub). My first Grand-daughter is a Pale-headed Rosella and my second is a Dulong - Gecko; my Mother is a King Parrot; I am a goanna; my brothers are: Dalla - Lung Fish, dingo and Dippi - dragon fly; my sister is Gwala - koala; my daughter is Bri’nunal - long necked turtle; and my son is Karbul - carpet snake. Each of these needs a system of trees - to live in, to draw up water and provide food and shelter. 

By protecting trees we are protecting our bio-network and ensure our survival. My Father (instructed by the Wakka Elders) taught us as children that trees and water are connected – the mature tree stands bring rain. This rain fills the waterholes and underground water systems. They are linked for without sufficient water the system dies. The long tap roots of large trees draw up the water from far below, uses some and expels the excess into the air to form clouds, dew and rain. This is why ‘rain’ forests of tall mature trees are important to us.

The Totemic system is linked to the bio-network. This interdependent system of flora and fauna of our region can be interlinked across the nation and the world and the inter-related responsibilities ‘keep the balance of nature’. These Balance Laws protect all living things including the water and air and are linked by Law Pathways or Song-lines. This is how we keep Dha’gan (Our Mother) in good health.

A most important Law-Story place for us is Muruba’Kgula the Mary River. The Muruba’Kgula Creation Story tells of how she was formed and also how the Dalla (Lung Fish) was created and responsibilities to the seven individual tributaries of the River. Our family's sacred place along the Mary River is Bpau’bval’dha (Bauple’s Place or Bauple Mountain).  Mt Bauple is the creation place of Bar’room (Macadamia Nut) or Bauple’s Nut. This Law Story is about responsibility to siblings and teaches sharing, caring and healthy living. It tells what happens to you if you disobey the Law or disrespect your Elders and that punishment is meted out by a higher level than our parents.

A most senior and revered Law Man is Mowaljarlai. His published works have influenced me significantly and his hand drawn map (published in David Mowaljarlai and Jutta Malnic: Yorro Yorro = everything standing up alive: spirit of the Kimberley by Magabala Books in 1993) is an exceptional visual record of the breadth of Aboriginal Law and its inter-connected pathways.  This map clearly indicates the story-strings and the many ceremonial and significant pathways that cover the land and the sea area of Australia.  Mowaljarlai drew the ‘body’ of what is now known as Australia, divided it into sections and drew the pattern but most importantly gave several points outside of the current coastline indicating the story paths that were known before the coast was inundated by the rising sea levels many thousands of years ago. These sections of Dha’gan’s ‘body’ are recognised and are part of many peoples’ Law Songs and are part of the body paint worn by the Mornington Island dancers in Queensland when dancing the Two Dog Story. This story coincidently comes into the bottom of Australia south of Perth and travels all over. This pattern is painted from the dancer’s right foot up over the shoulder, around the body and down the left leg – depicting the body of Dha’gan exactly as Mowaljarlai tells it many thousands of kilometres away in the west.


Kabi have a responsibility to keep Dha’gan’s Laws alive on our country so she will continue to provide us with nourishment and shelter. Reciprocity Law dictates that we must give back what we take so as to maintain the ‘balance’. Teaching our children and their children to keep and abide by this Law ensures the survival of the bio-networks and ecosystems of each region. This helps maintain Dha’gan’s ‘skin’ and allows her to continue to provide for us. A tree without bees does not produce; a land without Protection Laws will wither and die.

To me the most important Law Story String that runs through our Kabi Land today is Freshwater Creation Story. This travels throughout Australia maintaining ceremony for calling plentiful rain. This Law forbids swimming in Mundagurri (the Freshwater Spirit) waterholes particularly for women at certain times and baby girls. We must always keep Mundagurri happy. If we disturb this ‘keeper of waterholes’ in any way he will move and the land will dry up. The example is Ban Ban Springs (Wakka Country) where Mundagurri is now moving.  This Law is important to know when we are travelling through other’s country.

Pathways and movement

As we move around our Kab’bvai Nation’s pathways we connect with the Melaleuca, Stringy Bark and our most sacred and valuable protein resource Bar’room (Bauple’s Nut) story-strings. Bar’room relies exclusively on Kab’bvai and his cousin Kgi’lla the dark bee as pollinators.  We as Dauwa people have responsibility to our ‘relations’ Kgi’lla as well as the Witchety Grub and the Rainbow Lorikeet as they are pollinators too and part of our bio-network. 

The word Dauwa (Clan totem) has several meanings in our language. While it is the name for the Stringy Bark Tree it is also the Aboriginal descriptor name for Tiaro and its surrounding region. Since the settlers moved in Dauwa has become known as ‘the place of the chopping sound’ describing grey withered wood or dead trees.

When settlers set up homesteads on places like Gigoomgan they chose spots on our well used pathways to build. Most of these were our seasonal campsites which were situated along reliable water resources. Settlers fenced off access to our sacred water holes and the related food sources and added to that were the loggers who moved in and started taking trees that were needed by them for building towns and related necessities like barrels and ships. These loggers did not know they were ‘killing’ our sacred trees and breaking our Protection Laws. When these few were ‘punished’ by our Elders the rest retaliated by killing many of our people.  These misunderstandings of Law caused friction and much death on both sides. To survive our Clan had to move so they followed the pathways further north through Biggenden and settled in more remote regions along the sacred pathway which was neutral ground and allowed us to camp in ‘open or free’ zones.  

Finally my Grandmother’s Grandmother and her family settled at Kolonga and later her Daughter was employed on Moolboolaman. Like the Archer Brothers of Durundur (and later Eidsvold and Gracemere Stations) these families were sympathetic to our beliefs, friendly, and later employed our people.

Around 1924 my Grandfather Bert Beezley met my Grandmother Mary Minniecon on Cotherstone Station west of Rockhampton. After being married they became drovers and again travelled the pathways when working around Taunton, Lowmead, Warro and Rosedale and over to Eidsvold. They went as far north as Springsure and Gracemere and south to Ipswich during the war years when they were contracted to drive cattle for the war effort.  My Mother and her siblings work alongside them until old enough to go out and work for themselves.  After Mum (Alfa) and Dad (Herb) married, Dad became a drover too and we as children travelled the old pathways west and south of Eidsvold as far as the Dawson River and south to Texas. We travelled through many different countries but mostly Wakka. These pathways by now were well worn stock routes and old men like Uncle Manny Chapman who travelled with Dad in my earlier years still carried out the Law of Entry as they travelled through boundaries or gateways.

My family has walked along our Trade routes for many thousands of years trading produce such as honey/wax, nuts (macadamia and bunya), tools (baskets and knives), and ceremonies with neighbours. Songs were sung in custodial parts along the pathways and caused seasonal changes. I have travelled along these pathways all my life as my Mother and my Grandmother did before me. I got married and went back to my country and since then have been ‘talking up’ and travelling the ‘Proppa’ Pathway every chance I get.  Everyday I ‘talk up Spirits’ to keep our culture strong. We Kabi also visited other lands for seasonal celebrations like the mullet run at Stradbroke Island always following the Land Law. Kabi reciprocated with the Bunya Festival in the Blackall Range with a major camp ground being at Baroon Pocket.

Our family now trade valuable knowledge with the likes of the Queensland Museum, the Desert Knowledge Centre and the Macadamia Society about pathways and the Land Law.  In working with the Yarluyandi/Southern Lower Arrernte Wangkangurru families of Birdsville I have learned that our Kuti or Swan Song-line travels out to a network of soaks north of Lake Eyre and in that same area are Bee and Melaleuca sites. The Pathways are still singing our responsibilities to us.

The maps I have drawn are based on the maps that Dad drew for Mum when we were droving. They would be on bits of paper, envelopes or brown paper depending on what was available. We used them and the stock route map. He and my sister and brothers would move the mob out early in the morning and Mum and I would pack up the camp into the ‘Rover’ and move to the dinner camp and then onto the next night camp. We only went when he used the Rover. If he took the pack horses we couldn’t go as my little brother and I were too young to be with the mob all day. These maps taught me how to read country and follow bush signs left by my father for Mum. This was the beginning of my obsession with pathways, mapping and geography.

References and Further reading (Note)

F.J. Watson, ‘Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes of South East Queensland’, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland), 1944

References and Further reading (Note)

Dale Kerwin, IDHS- Historical Papers and History Notes 2002-2003, ‘Aboriginal Dreaming tracks or Trading Paths: the common ways’. Brisbane Queensland