Life on the Yumba
Nalingu in Gunggari language means ‘yours and mine and everybody’s’ or ‘belongs to big mob’, and it is the Nalingu Aboriginal Corporation that has redeveloped the Yumba and established the Yumba Interpretive Trail. Gunggari, Bidgara, Kooma, Kamilaroi and Mandandanji people all lived harmoniously on the Yumba until they were forcibly removed in 1968.
Until then, the Yumba included several buildings, houses and a camping ground. There were area names and street names that made this not just a camp, but a town or suburb. On approach to the Yumba are a line of white timber name plates, paying respect to the families who lived here, and visitors can see also a replica of one of the original humpies. The sports ground, church and streets are marked on an old map to remember the place that was destroyed when a change of policy saw Aboriginal families again uprooted and moved into town or forced to move elsewhere.
However the Yumba is, in spite of the history of segregation and removal, a place of many positive memories. While it was hard work to meet basic needs like fresh water and sanitation, it was a place where children were healthy and the Aboriginal community was unified. Many men and women worked far away on stations, as domestics and stockmen, only returning to the Yumba every few weeks. The children on the other hand remember running to the river as soon as meals or school were over and swimming, fishing or playing marbles with the small spherical fruit of the local cypress pine.
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Signs to remember the families lived on the Yumba, Mitchell
Yumba replica humpy, Mitchell
When the old Aboriginal school building was relocated to the state school in the town of Mitchell in 1948, the children walked into town to go to school, sometimes hitching a ride on the water truck that came to the camp in the morning and filled each family’s 44 gallon drum for five shillings. As one Elder notes, being splashed by overflowing water all the way to school was great in summer but not so good in winter. At the state school, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students were taught together, but for some time Aboriginal children were not allowed to swim in the local swimming pool. However this changed when returned Aboriginal army veterans demanded access to the pool for their families.
In 1968, the Council decided that it would be too expensive to extend the sanitation system to the Yumba, and the houses and campsites there were bulldozed to the ground. There was insufficient housing in town, and some families were moved into houses that had already been condemned. Many families were forced to leave the area and seek housing in surrounding towns, such as Charleville and Roma. However people who lived on the Yumba, and the descendants of those who lived here, still make the journey home periodically to reconnect with their culture and land.
Map of the main Yumba (Bottom Yumba) - from display at Booringa Heritage Museum