Protestors have set up camp at the old Deebing Creek Aboriginal Mission, near Ipswich in south-east Queensland, in a bid to block a major housing development at the site which they say is “very dear” to the local Aboriginal community.
“It was one of the biggest missions in South East Queensland,” Yuggera Traditional Owner Samantha Carr told NITV News. “It’s dear to my heart because my mum used to live here.”
Hundreds of Indigenous people lived at the mission from around 1890 to 1915 – many forcibly relocated from their ancestral lands under Queensland’s Aborigines Protection Act, which controlled the movements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people until the 1970s.
Frasers Property this month intends to commence work on a section of the site as part of a new development comprising 925 new homes, sporting fields and a school.
Proposed development at Deebing Creek mission site would ‘destroy our people’ Fraser’s Property proposed development on the site has caused widespread concern and community leaders fear another piece of Indigenous history could be lost.
The developer says it has taken a “very thorough and patient approach” to consultation with Indigenous stakeholders at a series of meetings since 2015.
“We believe that the masterplan, based on an extensive community consultation process, represents a considered and respectful future for this important site,” a Frasers Property spokesperson told NITV News in a statement.
The developer claims no residential development will take place within the state heritage area, with buffer zones around significant sites such as Deebing Creek and the mission cemetery.
Plans include a revitalisation of the mission’s former cricket oval and heritage trails explaining the history of the mission.
However, Ms Carr said Traditional Owners had ruled out any development from the beginning.
“We’ve told them from day one – we will talk to you about any other piece of land, but not Deebing Creek,” she said.
“We will go down with a fight, because this is our history. So they’ve consulted, but they’re not listening, they’re not listening to us about the cultural significance of this area.
“Nothing needs to be built here unless it’s a cultural centre.”
Ms Carr said the community also held concerns for artefacts and sacred sites in the area, with several spear heads and scar trees uncovered by campers in recent weeks.
A spokesperson for the the developer said Frasers Property would welcome guidance on cultural heritage from Yuggera Ugarapul Traditional Owners.
“In the absence of an agreement to work together with the Yuggera Ugarapul People on a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP), under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, we must take the necessary steps to manage our duty of care for Aboriginal cultural heritage ourselves,” they said.
“We have communicated to the Yuggera Ugarapul People that we welcome the opportunity to engage at any point should they wish to work together.
“While their most recent advice is that they are not willing to participate in this capacity, we would prefer the conservation work to be a partnership with the Yuggera Ugarapul People rather than simply carried out by us and our expert consultants.”