Dirranbandi is about 100 kilometres south of St George, with an Aboriginal population of around 110 of a total population of 450. The town used to be a source of workers – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal - on neighbouring large cotton farms; however as farmers increasingly use contract labour from out of town, Dirranbandi has suffered economically.
Many of the Aboriginal people in Dirranbandi were originally from Angledool, a small town over the NSW border. People today remember that educated Aboriginal people were seen as ‘troublemakers’ and not allowed to live on the camp, but forced to live in the bush. In the 1930s, people were forcibly removed from the Angledool mission, and many were taken far away to other towns such as Brewarrina in NSW, which meant they were separated from their wider family group at a time when transport made it difficult to travel between towns and maintain contact. Some of the families however came to Dirranbandi. They still visit Angledool today, where their ancestors are buried and which remains a special place for many people.
Although a few Aboriginal families in Dirranbandi had houses, until the 1970s most lived in the Old Camp several kilometres out of town. When people were eventually relocated to houses in Dirranbandi, the families found that they were no longer living near each other.
Aboriginal people eventually regained ownership of their land around the Comale lagoon – which is actually a string of lagoons alongside the Balonne River that runs through Dirranbandi. The lagoons are surrounded by tall sand hills and up to 47 scarred trees of historical significance. This area was the place of a creation story about how the rivers and lakes came into being, not only around Dirranbandi but in a huge area that extends to Narrow Lakes in NSW. Dirranbandi Aboriginal people are proud of the fact that they have been able to continue to use their language and stories.
Visitors can drive to the Comale lagoons and walk around the area which has interpretive signage about the area’s significance for Aboriginal people.