Stereotyped images of nomads moving in dry, hot desert landscapes, living in basic shelters and eating kangaroo cooked on an open fire are often associated with Aboriginal cultures today.
But the Jirrbal people do not fit this mould.
In Tropical North Queensland, where it rains for weeks, and rivers and creeks surge and swell, they thrived under the dense canopy of the region’s lush rainforest.
Living in semi-permanent villages in dome-shaped houses, the Jirrbal people used ground ovens and smoking racks to produce meals of baked fish and smoked eel and ate ‘porridge’ processed from toxic nuts. They owned shields and swords for ritual dispute settling and developed a major ‘road’ system to link settlement sites.
This fascinating traditional Aboriginal lifestyle is showcased in a $350,000 interpretive centre, built in the Far North Queensland town of Ravenshoe, as part of the Queensland Heritage Trails Network.
Named Nganyaji by Jirrbal Elders, which means ‘all of us together’, it will present Jirrbal lifestyle as something unique yet normal, rather than exotic and disassociated from everyday life.
The centre displays the Jirrbal’s traditional lifestyle, their rainforest base-camp villages, hunting and gathering practices, food processing, rainforest cuisine, community life and contact history.
Contemporary art and craft is also featured.