GATHERING PLACE - Burbang Mah
- 6 panels







Gudjam Nah - Bush Food
The Widjabal Nation is steeped in the history of the Ngathang Garr – ancient ancestral beings – whose movements, journeys, travels and events are etched in the landscape and rivers of this ancient land. The Widjabal people know Lismore as Dundarimba – a place of boggy/swampy ground with an abundance of bush tucker. The surrounding Country and countryside is known as Ghoorahngbil – the place of the Hoop Pine. The relationship and understanding between People and Country has evolved over a very long time, and understanding this relationship is central to the development of knowledge about the availability of seasonal bush foods and plants. The people view the River as an old friend, always there in times of need with sources of nourishment, feeding and looking after the People. Through this relationship, the River is seen as an important Gathering Place where shared learning takes place.



A Dynamic Landscape
The landscape we see consists not only of the rocks, soil and vegetation, but also what is in our heads and hearts - and two people looking at the same landscape won’t always see the same thing. For one person, the green rolling hills and orchards of the Alstonville Plateau is a pleasing landscape of productive land. For another it is a sad reminder of the lost subtropical rainforests and a history of environmental damage. So what we see of the physical world is put through our own human filter, influenced by our time in history, our background, our culture, our politics and our philosophies on life. And that is always influenced by the natural world in which we live.



An Industrious Place
Through its early years, before the town was developed, this area was a busy gathering place. Widjabul people gathered here, as they always had, and watched the newcomers build their town on the flats. Many of the industries that supported the fledgling township also gathered in this area – O’Flynn’s Foundry, Knowles Sawmill, Lauren’s Boatshed, a blacksmiths, the saleyards and the markets – which many people still remember. When Fawcett’s Bridge was opened in 1884, there were 21 river steamers and two passenger boats regularly docking at the wharves. They brought people in and took away the timber, sugarcane, cream and other produce. It’s often quiet now - but imagine how it would have sounded then with the hustle and bustle of the riverbank, the clanking of the foundry and mill, the lowing of cattle at the saleyards, the clip clopping of horses and carts, the hooting of boats, the clamour of voices.



Closer Settlement: Growing Cows
In the early 1890s NSW premier George Reid told the farmers of the Northern Rivers to ‘grow cows instead of sugar cane’, setting a trend for future farming in the region. The dense subtropical rainforest of the ‘Big Scrub’, some 75,000 hectares between Lismore and Ballina, had all but vanished by 1910 through the ‘rush to clear for cows’. As the dairy industry waned, the dairy farms of the surrounding valleys have largely been replaced by cattle, macadamia nuts, commercial tea tree and tropical fruits. It also enabled the establishment of alternative lifestyle communities.



Festivals and Processions... Celebration!
The Lantern Parade follows a proud tradition of festivals and pageantry in our region. In the mid 1800s colonists witnessed some of the great rituals between the Bundjalung and their neighbours on the eastern banks of the river. As the settlement grew into a town, flowers became a visual highlight of the festivals. The Floral Carnival held between 1955 and 1966 is remembered with delight by many. But it is music that has linked Lismore’s history of festivals. It was a band that led the opening parade over the first bridge and the first Lismore Music Festival held in 1908 attracted a huge crowd for its day – around 10,000 people. Lismore’s tradition of music continued with the annual Irish Folk Festivals begun in the interwar years, the counter-culture Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in 1973, and the ongoing influence of nationally acclaimed music programs from Southern Cross University and its predecessors.


On the Riverbank: Same Place, Different Views
By the 1920s one of the sure signs that Lismore was emerging as a regional hub for the Northern Rivers were the two public and numerous private hospitals. Not all patients were welcome however. Lismore’s townspeople demanded that the government fund additional hospital wards in 1927 to segregate Aboriginal people seeking health services. The early township had spread along the river banks, but the buildings of the town centre had their backs turned to the hustle and bustle of industrial life on the river. After flood mitigation in the years following the record ‘Queen’s Flood’ of 1954, it was thought the river waters would never again reach so high. But twenty years later the March 1974 floods pushed even higher up the banks. Since then Council, supported by government funds, has assisted with the relocation of residents and the building of levee banks.