From The Archives: Boulia

From The Archives: Boulia

The town of Boulia was founded in 1879 near a waterhole on the Burke River. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Boulia gradually acquired stores, hotels, blacksmiths, a sawmill, a cordial factory, a post office, and a telegraph link to Cloncurry. In 1887, the local government Division of Boulia was founded, with the Shire of Boulia following in 1902. After blocks from local pastoral stations were made available for selection in 1915, a significant number of settlers moved to the area, outlasting harsh weather and the predatory actions of large pastoral companies to establish an enduring presence. The former proved especially challenging. Boulia is prone to both droughts and floods, having only recently been affected by the widespread flooding across northern Queensland earlier this year. Today, Boulia is most famous for its annual camel races and for sightings of the Min Min light – a mysterious and controversial form of light phenomena reported in the Australian outback. It is described as a floating ball of light, which can take different colours, (generally blue, yellow, or white). According to witness accounts and local folklore, it hovers over the horizon and can stalk individuals, keep pace with cars, or cause travellers to become disorientated. There have been numerous explanations for the Min Min light. According to an Indigenous tradition from the Kimberley Region of Western Australia, they are the spirits of ancestors. Proposed scientific explanations include that they are a mirage caused by natural gases or the collision of hot and cold air or that they are bioluminescent birds or insects. They have a long-standing association with the town of Boulia, taking their name from a settlement between Boulia and Winton where a mysterious light was apparently observed by a stockman in 1918. Boulia has made the most of this association.  The first Min Min light festival was held in 1976, establishing tourism as providing a potential future for Boulia. In 2000, the town opened The Min Min Encounter Centre, which includes an audio-visual experience in which visitors can learn about both the Min Min light and outback Queensland.

 

See:

  1. Howard Pearce, Kay Cohen, and Margaret Cook, Heritage Trails of the Queensland Outback: An Illustrated Heritage Guide to Western Queensland (Brisbane: State of Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2002).
  2. Molly Hunt, “Min Min Lights: Is There a Scientific Explanation for the Mysterious Phenomenon?” ABC News 30th, 2018 (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-30/min-min-lights-seen-in-outback/10317058).
From The Archives: Torres Strait Island Drummer

From The Archives: Torres Strait Island Drummer

Traditional Torres Strait Islander art and craftsmanship have been passed down from generation to generation, and remain a key part of today’s cultural practices. These skills continue to be taught, and processes and tools are adapting to suit the changing social  environment. The drum plays an important part in social, cultural and political events in Torres Strait Islander life.

There were two types of drums – one, like this, which could be played while being carried; the other which was placed and played on the ground. The wooden drum being carried and played by this Torres Strait Islander has an animal carving (of an eel or a barracuda) which is probably his totem. Each clan’s totem was protected and never hunted by its members – a way of ensuring survival of the species. Torres Strait Islander drums were decorated with shells which rattled when the drum was being beaten.