Bundaberg, even by name, has a long proud history of reconciliation and connectedness.
As Taribelang Bunda traditional cultural leader Byron Broome tells it, the town got its name as a show of thanks to the local Aboriginal tribe. “In the late 1800s there was a man named Harold Russell who had come here from Europe,” Byron said. “His wife became very ill and the local Aboriginal women took her out bush for some healing. When they came back a week later, his wife was walking and the colour had returned to her face. Russell understood we were a resilient people and, no matter the cruelty and massacres, we were still there to help the white people clean their house, plant their fields, pick tobacco and cut cane.”
Byron said it was Harold Russell who insisted Aboriginal people be recognised in the naming of the town. “They took the name Bunda from the true black Bunda people, and berg was the German word meaning town or hill – so it was the peoples’ town, bringing the traditional owners and other cultures together,” he said. “At the time there were lots of Germans, living around the Hummock, squatting in the dunes at Bargara, and there were Italians and Chinese too.”
It’s clear from how passionately he speaks that Byron is a proud man. “When I see signs that say Bundaberg clothing store or Bundaberg ambulance – that’s the name of my people proudly on show. I’m teaching my children and people to be proud of where they live, because when people are proud they respect their land and country and take care of it. We are all as one.”
Byron’s 14-year-old daughter Nikiya Broome-Tiger has recently started performing blessing ceremonies alongside her father. It’s a responsibility the Kepnock State High School student takes very seriously. “The dance symbolises healing ourselves and our country, reconnecting with our ancestors and calling on them to bless the land and the people who gather on it. I’m very proud of my culture and what I’m doing. I hope my eight-year-old sister, Nikkayla, will join me in leading our next generation, to make our family and ancestors proud.”
Did you know?
The Bundaberg Region has been the traditional land of the Taribelang Bunda, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Bailai peoples for thousands of years.