John Oxley recorded that the Brisbane Aborigines were friendly; in the early days, they even rounded up and returned runaways from the settlement. In his orders to Oxley on how to deal with the indigenous peoples, Governor Brisbane admitted, though in a roundabout way, that the land belonged to them: “All uncivilized people have wants … when treated justly they acquire many comforts by their union with the more civilized. This justifies our occupation of their lands.”
But future governors were not so liberal, and things had soured long before the first squatters moved into the Brisbane area and began leaving out “gifts” of poisoned flour and calling in the Native Mounted Police to disperse local Aborigines – a euphemism for exterminating them. In the later part of the nineteenth century, survivors from these early days were dispossessed by the Protection Act (in force until the 1970s), which saw them rounded up and relocated onto special reserves away from traditional lands.
A trace of Brisbane’s Aboriginal past is found at the Nudgee Bora Ring about 12km north of the centre at Nudgee Waterhole Reserve, at the junction of Nudgee and Childs roads. Last used in 1860, two low mounds where boys were initiated form little more than an icon today, and you’ll probably feel that it’s not worth the trip. More rewarding are the several Aboriginal walking trails at Mount Coot-tha; the City Hall information desk has leaflets on these which explain traditional uses of the area.