Walkabout Park and Mandandanji Interpretation Centre
At the eastern approach to Roma adjacent to the highway is a parkland area which celebrates the ancient and continuing cultures of the Mandandanji people. The red kangaroo depicted in the large artwork seen by visitors arriving in town is a Mandandanji totem. Sites such as Walkabout Park are of particular importance to Aboriginal people because many sites are now on private land, inaccessible to both Aboriginal people and visitors, and often destroyed by landholders in the process of developing farmland or mining. As one Elder pointed out, stock routes are one of the few areas left where Aboriginal people can work on preserving their country. It is important that this work be done, because “there are still a lot of us around!”
Walkabout Park and the area around it are situated beside Bungil Creek, and form part of an ancient Aboriginal burial ground. At a distance from the picnic shelter is a large grassed yarning area, and on the lower edge of the river is a special area that is a place for fishing and contemplation. Mandandanji people continue to camp there occasionally today to reconnect with their landscape and ancestors. Maintenance of the park is done by local Aboriginal people on a volunteer basis, and grandparents and grandchildren enjoy mowing the park on the rider mower. Many of the materials and much of the labour that went into the park’s facilities were provided by local organisations and businesses. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous locals are proud of the park and ensure that there is very little vandalism. The three Aboriginal leaders who have managed the process of clearing, developing and maintaining the park are depicted on a plaque in the picnic area.
Mandandanji sign at Walkabout Park
A central feature of Walkabout Park is a large boomerang shaped interpretation centre. The Boomerang, as it is known by locals, is a free-standing structure in the park that visitors can walk around to look at examples of scarred trees, stone tools, ritual items and other significant material culture. There are photographs of archaeological excavations overseen by Mandandanji that establish the age of Aboriginal occupation in the region and provide insight into ancient ways of life.
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Mandandanji ‘Boomerang’ Interpretation Centre
Visitors will also see photographs of traditional foods such as porcupine, bush limes, bush oranges and bush bananas, and of old Aboriginal shelters captured by the camera before they were demolished. Displays of materials include the different kinds of ochre (purple and yellow) used by men for ceremonial purposes, emu eggs (the seven layers comprising each egg shell are of different colours), the hammer stones and core stones used to make the fragments that are sharp blades, and boomerangs and a throwing stick. The latter has a kangaroo tooth bound to the end with glue derived from grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea) that grow in the region, and twine made from local brigalow stringy bark. Also on display are artefacts, such as those made of bluestone, that come from far away and found their way to Roma via old Aboriginal trading routes. This form of cultural exchange is also how the didgeridoo, an instrument of the north, came to be played by Aboriginal people in South-West Queensland.