Life in the camps - FOOD & WATER
Quandong fruit picking
Rabbit shooting and fishing – for yellowbelly and carp - were valuable sources of food, but flour was the most reliable and important source. Quandong fruit were also ground up to make a kind of flour used for damper and cakes. A stand of old quandong trees used by the people in the camp can be seen just off the Carnarvon Highway on the western side of town. Across the highway are wild lime trees, bearing beautiful fragrant flowers in spring and then small fruit that continue to provide food for the Aboriginal people in St George today. The bumble tree, with a fruit like passionfruit, was another source of delicious food.
Quandong tree outside St George
Bumble tree at old Hollywood campsite, St George
In the Aboriginal camps, water for bathing and drinking as carried from the Balonne River, and charcoal from fires was placed in the bottom of 44 gallon drums to purify the water overnight. Charcoal was used instead of toothpaste, and the root of the leopard tree was used for toothache. To keep kitchen utensils clean, nails hammered into tree trunks were used to hang saucepans, and a box on a table was used as a cupboard. Kerosene fridges, charcoal fridges (cooled by running water) and gauze were used to keep food safe. Water that had been purified with charcoal was kept cool in a hanging bag. Candles were made from animal fat packed into old powdered milk tins, with a scrap of hessian as a wick.
Children were bathed in river water, sheets washed with some added ‘blue’ to keep them white and sprinkled with starch, and clothes ironed with an iron heated on the fire. One woman who lived in the camps as a child remembers using flour and water to whiten her sports shoes so she would not look different from the other children at school.
Balonne River, St George