Indigenous Law Bulletin
by Timothy Bottoms
Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1999
Reviewed by Joan Staples
Recording the true history of Australia has become a continuing ‘work in progress’ across a huge tapestry. For non-indigenous Australians, the weaving into familiar landscapes of the details of local indigenous history is an important stage towards the true recognition of a legacy that affects us all.
Djabugay Country gives us a small part of that tapestry: the part which relates to the Djabugay people whose country lies to the west and north of Cairns in Far North Queensland. This rainforest people are now overcoming the repression and disempowerment that has faced Aboriginal people throughout Australia. Their story is one of increasing success which has culminated in the opening of the nationally- recognised Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns.
Timothy Bottoms takes us from the pre-colonial period to the present and includes a generous photographic record. The numerous photos taken in the 1890s are a great treasure. There are strong, handsome faces of confident initiated men and photos of well-known tourist destinations such as Barron Gorge with Aboriginal figures actively using the landscape. These images tell clearly the book's story of the continuity of Djabugay association to land, and their renewed pride in that association.
Djabugay Country weaves a multi-textured story of this small part of Australia for general and specialist readers. Among its readers should be the many tourists who visit Cairns, its rainforests and its hinterland every year. It is an important reminder to authorities managing these rainforests of the need for better involvement of the indigenous owners, and the book should also give cause for thought to authorities in Cairns who want to take still more Djabugai land for dams and water storage.
Joan Staples is Executive Director of the Diplomacy Training Programme at the University of New South Wales. She has worked for the Cape York Land Council and Apunipima Cape York Health Council.