The interviews (on 4 discs) are an important and fascinating part of the Archive, an oral history showing the close relationship of the people to the land. Click to read some of their stories.
Hi, I’m Lucy. I’ve lived here almost all my life and I like the mountain because it’s always green and has lots of rainforest and birds and wildlife. It’s very easy to grow a garden because it’s got really good soil.
Nature plays a very important part of daily life for me. I always listen to the kookaburra calls and I play by whistling back to them and pretending I’m a kookaburra myself.
The Lost Tree
I remember there was this big tree and it was a very good tree in the middle of a huge driveway, a very nice tree to play under and sit under and read books under it. Then one day they decided to cut it down. That was really sad because it was a huge tree.
Stings and Bites
I’ve been bitten by bees six times and five of them were on the mountain all at once! We had a beehive and I got a stick and was banging the beehive and then the bees came out and stung me five times across the forehead… So Mummy and Daddy rushed me to the doctor in an ambulance vehicle. I’ve also been bitten by ticks, many ticks, and none of them made me feel ill! I think I’m very lucky ’cause of that. And I was bitten by a spider around the back, out there…
Glynn is a life-long resident and member of one of the original settler families
I remember when I was a girl saying to my father, ‘What are those little birds?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know their names, darling. Hilda would know.’ This was Hilda Geissmann Curtis, an aunt, and she knew because she was an extremely knowledgeable lady, an excellent photographer and well-known in naturalist fields. So I would ask her.
My father was a busy farmer, knew the the birds, loved them, didn’t know their names. There were no bird books around. But a friend gave us some money as a wedding gift and that was the thing we bought – a bird book. We were always interested.
THE HOMING PYTHON
He came into the laundry via a big old lemon tree. He was there for a couple of months . . . Not a problem. He’d crawl out on top of the fibre-glass roof and sun himself. He was very big, at least eight and a half foot, maybe nine feet. A carpet python.
Once, when John went away for a week, the snake came out on top of the cistern and lay there looking at me. He was really only about three feet away from my elbows as I did the washing, which was a bit unnerving. If he’d been up in the rafters I’d have been fine but he just lay there watching me with his head on the edge of the tank.
There were a number of days when John was away and I said. ‘Well alright you can have it. I’ll do the washing tomorrow.’
So one morning I came out to do the washing and he was smiling at me. He was definitely smiling. It was totally unnerving; because a snake isn’t meant to smile at you.
Then I saw that one little tweak of scale at one corner of his mouth was twisted up and I realised he was shedding his skin. So he shed it and it peeled back over his head like a glove and on and on and on until he got rid of his skin. Then he had a change of personality. He became . . . not aggressive . . . But really quite assertive! He’d lie there watching me but move more frequently and more readily and his colour changed.
I rang the museum and talked to them about it. They said that for a week or maybe two before the skin is cast there‘s a build-up of fluid between the new skin and the old and this makes them quite sluggish and they don’t see well because there’s fluid in front of the eye. Then the old skin peels off backwards and the fluid is absorbed and they’re there in their splendid new skin.
I was really feeling quite nervous by now because the snake was much more active. I was nervous for our little dog and when I was out doing the shopping I would shut him in the house. I didn’t want any confrontation while I was away up in the village.
Well, when John came home we decided the snake had to go. I didn’t want him harmed but I didn’t want him in my laundry either – taking over the joint!
So we decided to get the National Parks people, to see if they would help, and they came and hooked him out from behind the tank and put him in a bag and carried him away. They took him off and released him down Cameron’s Fall, down the track.
And my brother said, ‘Hmm . . . Good luck!’ – Because we knew about carpet snakes coming home, you know. Ten days later he was back.
He simply came back and settled down again behind the tank. And this time he brought a friend. One day I looked up and there were two of them. I could see through the fibre-glass, not very clearly but certainly well enough to see the two huge bodies there.
John got up on a ladder and had a look. The second snake was vast. Never seen anything like it.
What they were doing up there I don’t know. It was August, spring-time. I guess I got the idea there was something going on. I don’t know whether they were actually mating, or whether there is a courtship period when they’re feeling amorous. But anyway we got the Park’s men again.
This time they took them both. It was quite a struggle. It took two men to handle the big one. I remember watching through the glass from the kitchen. The snake was lapping around one of them and suddenly he let out a yell. ‘Hey Bruce! Come on, I really need help here.’
What he would have done alone, I don’t know. He was pulling with all his strength, a young strong man, on one coil of snake to keep it from lapping any further. And then it was perfectly easy for the other man to unwind the snake. They bagged it and took both snakes away.
They took them right down below the Beacon. We thought we might be sitting pretty. But he came home again, didn’t he? The original snake came back. It took him twenty three days I think – but then he was home again.
My name is Ysola Best. I’ve only been living on Tamborine Mountain for twenty years. I live in-between my mother’s country and my father’s country. My mother’s country is to the east, to the sea, and the name of my mother’s family group was Kombumerri. My father’s family group was the Mununjali, when they lived over Beaudesert way.
I came to live on the mountain with my husband and two sons and we came here to get away from the hectic development occurring on the Gold Coast. We lived on acreage at Mudgeeraba. But the city was fast encroaching on that particular area so we thought we would like to live up here. We think it was a very good decision because it’s still relatively peaceful. We’re not bothered by neighbours and we manage to keep ourselves surrounded by beautiful trees, and hardly see a fence, and we like that.
THE ABORIGINAL PAST
Ysola has been doing a lot of historical research…
Some families who’ve lived here on Tamborine for many, many years have it in their history books that Aboriginal people didn’t use the mountain. I have to disagree with that. The mountain is really significant as far as my family history goes.
My husband is a builder and has worked on jobs all over the mountain and he and my son have found evidence and stone axes that have been worked. We talk to various people who have lived here for a long, long time, about Aboriginal issues, and they reveal that they’ve found lots and lots of evidence themselves that Aboriginal people used the mountain to a great extent. So much so that they’ve left their food-gathering instruments on the mountain.
The mountain’s significance to Aboriginal people was its incredible resources. These are still evident today, which is quite surprising if you think about all the changes to the mountain with development. You can just imagine how many wonderful resources there were here, prior to Europeans moving onto the mountain and rearranging the landscape, so to speak.
Most of the evidence of Aboriginal occupation and use of the land has been collected in very recent years. The stone material, in the form of axes and modified scraping tools, was used for thousands and thousands of years by Aboriginal people. Quite obviously the axes were left in place, which is the habit of the people. They have sites they come back to on a regular basis, to either live in or use. They leave all their cooking implements there, and stone materials for cutting trees and plants.
These materials can be dated back thousands of years. They were used for harvesting plants such as macrozamia and lepidozamia. There’s a very big seed that grows out of this incredibly ancient plant and the seed was cut out with a heavy axe and it went through several processes before it was converted into a flour-like substance to be made into bread.
So there was occupation prior to Europeans coming into the area. I’m not quite sure when the earliest farmers came. The wood-choppers preceded them, in the late 1820s. It would have taken quite a long time to cut the timbers off Tamborine. But it was done. And that in fact began the altering of the landscape.
The thing I remember about these lovely trees, even more than the grandness of their size, is the seedlings . . . Winged seeds that come down in great showers in November. They come twirling down, spiralling down with the sun glinting on them through the tops of the trees. A wonderful sight. I remember my father used to bring them home. Perhaps he was cutting scrub and he’d bring them home for us, the seed on the end of a little wing, and he’d throw it up to the ceiling and down it would come, spiralling down to the floor, and we would try to catch it. Wonderful, and somehow it was like laughter.
There’s some good ones in Palm Grove National Park. It’s mainly those I remember, in that area; that’s where I grew up and therefore I know it. But there are not so many there, and they are not so big, as in the Knoll National Park – simply because Palm Grove was accessible to the early cedar-getters who got cedar and beech from there, back in the 1860s probably, before anybody lived on the mountain.
In fact there’s a wonderful old beech-butt left there from those days, just slowly rotting away. But in the way of beech it’s a dry rot and there’s still solid wood, from 130 years ago. It lasts so wonderfully; it’s a glorious timber. Mostly all gone now. A rare timber.
Over the forty-odd years I’ve known it, there’s been a tremendous change on the mountain. It was a farming community when I first knew it. Everyone farmed, unless they had a boarding house or a shop. But as the years have gone by more and more farming land has been sub-divided for houses and many people commute. They work down the coast or in Brisbane. Now when they move here, often they think this is going to be good; this will be very easy, driving down each day to work. But so often after a year or eighteen months they just find it’s too hard. They either need two cars or the wife is left at home. And there are children to get to school. The driving becomes tiring and expensive. Again and again they sell and move away.
THE KOOKABURRA’S DINNER
Nearly forty years ago, we came home from Brisbane one afternoon – it was pouring with rain – and there were two kookaburras just near the front gate, with a baby kookaburra on the ground.
The baby was injured; its wing broken in two places. We took him inside and put him in a cage in the laundry. The rain continued very heavily and we kept him there for several days. All the time he was in the laundry we were feeding him, with his parents watching through the window.
When the rain stopped we put the cage out into the garden and straight away his parents and another kookaburra, probably a sibling from the year before, began to feed him. After a few days we let him out of the cage so that he was free to roam around the garden.
The three birds continued to feed him – all day, every day. They fed him small snakes, a frog, some lizards, crickets and bats, just about anything. He was stuffed absolutely full. I remember one time he had a small snake coming out of each side of his mouth while his mother and father were trying to get him to take a mouse. He kept turning his back on them. And they kept hopping round trying to get him to take it.
Those three older kookaburras must have been quite well fed themselves – before they fed the young bird. They brought him a snake each a day, and probably more. And they would have had one each, at least, every day. So for months there they must have been killing a great many snakes, as well as all the other creatures.
The young bird didn’t ever learn to fly. He had the run of the garden and he’d tuck himself away at night in a little hollow base and the others fed him for exactly 12 months.
He died suddenly. We found him dead one morning – we think it was a snake – and immediately the parents started to build another nest. They’d postponed their nesting that season because they were still feeding the baby. Immediately they built a nest and reared another young kookaburra.
One day the mother came with food to the house, as if to feed the first baby, the little injured one. Then she looked around and realised and flew off to the nest. She didn’t come back again.
Ranger In Charge of National Parks
Currently our streams contain over six native species and two introduced species. People releasing exotic fish into our streams is something we’ll have to watch closely in the future, along with the issue of introduced plants and animals, like hares and feral pigs, and the impacts they have on the bush.
We are very fortunate at Tamborine to have some very healthy snake populations and the National Park staff do an incredible amount of snake relocation from private residences, particularly Carpet Pythons. Eighty per cent of our calls are for relocation of carpet snakes. Along with them you get a smattering of the venomous species, the Brown, the Red-bellied Black; a lot of Marsh Snakes, Small-eyed Snakes, Yellow-face Whips and even the odd Death Adder. So the snake populations are reasonably healthy; and this is due to two reasons.
First, the non-venomous species do well due to human habitation, housing and orchards, and the habitat this creates – living spaces and food sources, such as mice.
Second, is the fact that the cane toad hasn’t established itself to an extent where it is significantly affecting snake populations. Because of the altitude, Tamborine gets cold enough every year to significantly knock back the cane toad population. We find that in the open forests and on the escarpment, there is quite a large cane toad population. But on the plateau itself and in the rainforests the cane toad population is much reduced.
So we’ve got a very good and diverse snake population on the mountain.
SPOIL AND PILLAGE
The collection of plants from the bush is a big issue here at Tamborine. There is a lot of small-scale theft going on, which adds up to a large amount of things such as native orchids, staghorns, birdsnest ferns, small palm trees. . .
And there’s the stealing of animals. Probably the most alarming is theft of reptiles. We know that there’s some small-scale venomous snake collection. It is happening up here regularly during the summer months.
It’s a very hard issue to police. It comes back to relying on the community to give you the necessary information you need to try and apprehend the people involved in these activities.
Leader, State Emergency Service
The SES provides a very necessary service to the community, often working in tricky situations to save lives.
RESCUE AND ESCAPE
About five years ago we had an activation to an incident in Singsby Road, Mount Tamborine, where a landowner heard somebody calling for help over the side of the escarpment.
We arrived there about 7.30 in the evening and did a night search, down over the escarpment, for approximately five hours. Then it was called off.
Next morning we came back and searched again. This went on for about two days.
During the evening the team I was with could hear the gentleman we were looking for, calling for help. But every time we tried to call him, he would shut up. While we were talking we could hear him. When we weren’t talking we couldn’t hear him.
It turned out that this gentleman had a police record. He didn’t want to be found by us – thinking we were the police, and not the SES!
After three days our search was called off.
After four days the gentleman was found by an army officer, down in the Coomera Gorge, pretty close to ‘had it’.
I remember the road down to Canungra – we called it the ‘goat track’– a really hair-raising dirt road off the mountain. At one of the worst bends was a sign on the tree saying, ‘Prepare to meet thy maker.’ And it was very appropriate. The sign has gone now but the road’s still not all that safe.
CHANGES FOR GOOD AND ILL
The mountain has changed. There are far more people, more houses, but also far more vegetation; because, when we first came here, although the rainforests [on the escarpment] were the same, on the top it was mostly bare. At one stage the people on Tamborine were proud that you could see from one end [of the plateau] to the other and there wasn’t a tree in sight. There were a lot of dairy farms on the top and now a lot of that land is greener. That’s the upside of people building houses and making gardens; there are a lot more trees now.
Like everything else, it’s not what it used to be. It’s getting really busy. It’s not the little hideaway that it was.
The wonderful biodiversity we have on the mountain – or still have, at the moment – is threatened by over-development; by not treating waste water properly, by weeds and by people. The whole environment is changing and things that are susceptible to the change are going… Animals, plants, insects, frogs; all those things that make up a whole ecosystem.
Maybe these days children are learning more about the environment at school. Hopefully they’re getting more interested and will look after things better. That’s something you can only hope for and do your best to help along. You probably won’t be able to tell until three hundred years into the future…
But whatever we do now we have to consider what effect it will have three hundred years from now. I hope we can convince enough people to do just that.
Darryl Jones is an ecologist and Associate Professor at Griffith University in Brisbane.
You would not have to spend very much time on Tamborine Mountain before you encountered a Brush Turkey. In fact my first visit to the Mountain was looking for a site where I could study the species. I ended up spending a very large amount of time there, studying them and it was the first study of this species conducted anywhere, and basically everything that I found out was new, to the extent that some people did not believe what I found. I started studying these things when people were absolutely convinced that the group they belonged to, the megapodes, were all thoroughly monogamous.
I did a tiny study when I was an undergraduate and I thought there is a chance that these things really aren’t monogamous. They just don’t look like they are and that was based on the fact that I saw one male mate with three different females over a period of about half and hour, and I thought here is something that really needs to be studied at length. I discovered that megapodes in general, and Brush Turkeys in particular, are a really remarkable group of birds, especially how they incubate their eggs. Unlike every other type of bird, they don’t use their body heat to incubate their eggs. They construct what is effectively a compost heap where the heat generated by micro-organisms breaking down organic matter inside that big mound of sticks, leaves and dirt, (containing up to 4 tons of material) produces the required heat and all the female has to do is dig a hole in the mound and deposit her egg and leave it there. The male’s job in life is to build a compost heap that will attract as many females as possible. He requires any female that wants to lay her eggs in his compost heap to mate with him and a really successful male will mate with up to twelve different females over a period of time. Once laid, the eggs of megapodes are abandoned by the females and the male, maintaining the mound, has nothing further to do with the eggs.
The eggs are very large. They have among the largest yolk content of any bird species and that is because the chicks that are going to hatch are so well developed, so advanced at the time that they hatch. In fact, we make the claim that megapodes, exemplified by Brush Turkeys, are the most precocial of all chicks of any bird. No other bird, at the time of hatching, has fully developed flight feathers. The rest of their bodies are still covered in down, but they have fully developed flight feathers, so that they can fly on their first day of hatching. Every Brush Turkey will spend its first night sitting in a tree somewhere having flown there. No other species is that advanced, so we call this species superprecocial.
The chicks hatch about a metre below the surface and the first thing they have to do is dig their way to the surface. It’s absolutely remarkable. Other birds might be hatched in a warm, feather-lined nest with attentive parents waiting to help them through life. A baby Brush Turkey hatches at the bottom of a pile of sticks and dirt and leaves, has to dig its way to the surface and should it get to the surface (98% of them succeed), and if it met one of its parents, the parent wouldn’t even recognise it. The chick then runs off alone into the rainforest, where it has to fend for itself, find food, evade predators, find a place to roost for the night. Everything alone. Scrub turkeys are the only vertebrate with no parental care of any sort. Truly remarkable. And so we have been studying these birds now for a very long period of time, looking at as many of these aspects as we can and it all started on Tamborine Mountain.
Peter Kuttner interviewed Darryl Jones on 3 July 2008, after the completion of ’Archive Part Six – The Interviews’.