Interpreting and assessing culturally scarred trees

During 2016, Jabree was engaged by Frasers Property Australia to undertake a Preliminary Cultural Heritage Assessment for the proposed ‘Brookhaven’ master planned community, near Beenleigh.

Inspections of Eagleby scarred tree

The assessment involved two stages, which involved a detailed assessment of a Scarred Ironbark Tree identified in the Project area. A preliminary assessment of the scar was inconclusive, with markings consistent both with a cultural and a natural scarring event.

In January 2017, Jabree with Frasers Property Australia engaged an Aborist and scarred tree specialist Danny Draper to assess the tree and to share his technical expertise and findings with the field team.

The day included some training around techniques used to measure scars and estimate the age of trees, which can help determine the likely origin of the scar. The Ironbark Tree on the Frasers Property was estimated between 250 and 300 years old, and the scar was determined to be the result of a lightning strike, consistent with the scarring of other trees in the area.

In a special turn of events, the Jabree team asked the Aborist to inspect a second scarred tree that had been identified separately in the Eagleby Wetlands. This Forest Red Gum Tree, located in the wetlands, was estimated between 300 and 350 years old. The scarring was confirmed as of Aboriginal cultural origin and approximately 100 to 125 years old.

The estimated age of this scar suggests the tree was used by someone on the Gold Coast in the late 1800s or early 1900s. This is a particularly significant finding, as the activity would have taken place around the same time as the introduction of the Aboriginal Protection and Restrictions of the Sale of Opium Act 1897, which removed local Aboriginal people from the land and placed them in missions and reserves.

It is important to know that through what was an extremely treacherous time, Aboriginal cultural practice on the Gold Coast was still taking place. This culturally scarred forest red gum has now been lodged for registration on the Queensland Government’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Database.

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