Mapleton Community saves its Bunya Tree

Outdoor Education Queensland

Mapleton Community saves its Bunya Tree

The Bunya Tree has a special place in the history of the Blackall Range.  They’re a symbol of abundance and were the catalyst for the tri-annual Bunya Festival – a relational corroboree where stories and skills were exchanged, conflicts resolved and stories told.  Explorer Tom Petrie wrote in the early 1800s about the importance of the Bunya Tree to aboriginal life, documenting how the women would congregate around trees felled by “settlers” and mourn each tree for weeks.

Petrie was so moved by the love the Aboriginal people had for their Bunya trees that he prevailed on the government of the day to declare a large swathe of land north of Brisbane a protectorate, arguably the first attempt at a nature reserve in the world.  Sadly one of the first acts of Parliament for the new Colony of Queensland was to reverse this legislation and allow felling to re-commence.  However, majestic examples of the Bunya tree still remained, none more so than the twin Bunya peaks in the grounds of Mapleton State School.  Sadly one of these was lost to a lightning strike a few years ago.

Once again demands of modern life collided with ancient nature when the remaining Bunya tree, altered by power-line management methods, was found to be a public liability concern.  In the summer the bountiful Bunya nuts might reach a public footpath and pedestrian crossing.  The quote for removal of these nuts was prohibitive for the school’s maintenance budget.  Enter the Mapleton community and the spirit of the Bunya to arrive at a community-based solution.

Outdoor Education QueenslandA combined working group made up of representatives from the Mapleton State School and Steve Irwin Way Forest Group reached out to several community organisations for ideas and resourcing and an answer was quickly found.  Just metres up the road is Queensland’s busiest Outdoor Education Centre, Queensland Baptists’ QCCC Mapleton.  Working at heights and caring for the environment is what their staff specialise in, and QCCC Mapleton has generously offered their time to harvest the nuts at the appropriate time, before they become a fall hazard.

The Mapleton and District Community Association (MADCA) install the community Christmas lights in late-November, the ideal time to harvest the nuts.  Their job is made easier by the donation of a cherry-picker from JC Hire.  This is also to optimum time to harvest nuts, so while the cherry-picker is in town it will be used by QCCC staff to eliminate any risk by harvesting the nuts.

This combination of community-mindedness and generosity means the tree will stand for many years to come, a constant reminder of what we humans can achieve when we work together to find solutions for the care of all things.  In the words of the leadership programs run out of QCCC Mapleton – “whatever the problems we face, community is the answer”.