By Red Said Fred
This author pays his respects to the Yugambeh people upon whose lands he writes this article. The land was stolen from them and their sovereignty was never ceded.
CW: This story contains references to First Nations people who are now deceased.
For 230 years and counting, First Nations people have spilt blood, sweat and tears, defending their country from British imperialism and its modern expression through the Australian state. In the 21st century, despite the victories that First Nations people have won over two centuries of struggle, the entire continent remains in the hands of a settler-colonial state that refuses to concede an inch of ground to the First Nations, who were here continuously for 60,000 years before European sailors arrived upon “Terra Australis”.
Today, Yuggera, Jagera & Ugarapul people continue to engage in direct struggle against the state and rampant expansion of settlers upon their traditional homelands, at an established camp on the former Deebing Creek Mission site, near Tulmur (so-called Ipswich).
Deebing Creek Mission was one of the first missions established in Queensland, as a dumping ground for local First Nations people who had been camping at Queens Park, the surrounding lands having been stolen by British settlers. Gazetted in 1892, it became a concentration camp following the passage of the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897. First Nations people from across the state were ripped from their homes and forced onto the mission — most of the prisoners were forced to work without any pay, and their lives were completely controlled by the Queensland colonial government. Rumour had it that a massacre had happened at the camp; subsequent findings of multiple unmarked graves suggest that a massacre did occur. In 1915, the remaining people were moved to Purga Mission.
Following the reassignment of the land to freehold owners after the mission’s closing, fights with the subsequent non-Aboriginal owners and the state government from 1967 onwards centred around Deebing Creek survivor Les Davidson, trying to protect the cemeteries at Deebing Creek. Only one headstone for Ms Julia Ford is present, despite ground-penetrating radar finding hundreds of buried bones surrounding the headstone. As a result, only 1% of the old mission land was compulsorily resumed and gazetted as a cemetery.
Illegal mining and further ground-penetrating radar scans of the old mission lands have found buried bones outside the gazetted area — the Queensland state government has refused to do anything to protect those areas from development. The first sit-in on the mission site attempting to protect the mission lands from development in 1985, led by Uncle Budger Davidson and Doreen Thompson, was dispersed after the local Moreton Council attempted to evict the blockaders in 1986.
In 2015, Frasers Property were sold the rights to develop most of the mission lands under the Ripley Valley Development Scheme, a state government-devised plan to meet housing needs for expected population growth in so-called Queensland. Current development plans will see 900 houses built on Deebing Creek, as well as AV Jennings planning more development north of the current protected land. Further plans include shops and a school.
Despite the clear right to the land of the Yuggera, Jagera and Ugarapul people as traditional custodians of the area, the Australian nation and the state of so-called Queensland have refused to recognise their right to country — not even their own wishes about how the land should be used have been heard.
Since 2019, there has been a camp established at Deebing Creek to prevent Frasers Property and AV Jennings, from beginning their desecration of the lands which once housed the prisoners and refugees of the Australian Frontier Wars. Allies and union members leapt to the defence of the blockaders when police attempted to evict them once again, with IWW and CFMEU members joining others in standing against the oppression of First Nations people by the state of so-called Queensland.
The camp is still there today, in a desperate attempt to win protections for the lands of their people, sacred land that is the resting place of potentially hundreds of inhabitants that were contained upon Deebing Creek Mission. Resisting and winning against the inexorable march of an uncaring and rapacious capitalist so-called Australian state, is the first step in winning back the sovereignty of First Nations people in this country; the history of the First Nations people and the horrors promulgated upon them should be remembered and wielded against those who would prefer to ignore it, for want of 900 houses.
To get in touch with people at the camp, or to follow what is happening there, find the Justice for Deebing Creek – Toolmoor Truth and Healing Embassy page.