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The Grand Section (An architectural study trip; Bobbie & Owen)

+ Mandandanji Mob + Gunyahs = This Booklet 2

Hey Bobbie and Owen, welcome to Mandandanji country et ill g ome w s yI sta w you ture u o o c If y to sh chite r e a l Unc eadly d

Are we Gunyah do it?

Hey Uncle, can you show this mob the way of the Gunyah?


The layers of AUS. Rivers Fences

Aboriginal Language Maps

White man Boundaries

More Fences

Map of Australia with White and Black fella boundaries: Indigenous language group map shown dotted across the center of the country. Seems to be a lot of activity for a place with “nothing out there�. Especially jarring when shown with the English state and territory borders, the difference in geometry shows a completely different approach to inhabitation. As we build up layers of mapping we begin to see patterns and conflicts appear, telling a chequered history.


Australia’s Original Mob Indigenous Australians have inhabited this country for up to 60,000 years. Before white fellas got here there were approximately 300,000 people across the continent, 200 languages as well as numerous dialects spoken within a complex system of ecology, culture and fantastic structures. Misunderstood as relentlessly wandering nomads aboriginals often had a number of “deadly� hunting grounds under complex burning and caring regime to make sure they get good tucker. Generally the mobs inland moved further than the coastal mobs. Camps could be set up for a couple of days to several seasons with the architecture varying with climates, seasons + weather. When hunting, bigger mobs would break down into smaller parties. Occasionally tribes from all around would gather for a big feast such as the Bunya nut feasts near Toowoomba.


The layers of roma Indigenous Grain Belt


The Great Artesian Basin The Bowen Basin The current wheat belt

A Map of layers comprising the area Roma sits on. It clearly is naturally rich in resources. The map also illustrates Australia’s white and indigenous grain belts; eg, Yams, (check out Norman Tindale) The large phallic shaped mark is the Indigenous grain belt of Australia. Interestingly this goes through what is thought to be some impossible farming land today.


mandandanji Mob The Mandandanji people are the traditional owners of the land around Roma and the Maranoa, with some of the oldest dated sites about 9,000 years old. Mandandanji country covers some 40,000km2. Mandandanji (also, Mandandayi) were known as “fishing net people�. This is in reference to their mad net skills for fish, game and the like. The Kangaroo (or Narragoo) is the Mandandanji totem. The Mandandanji people defended their land during the white invasion, the original white occupation at Mt Abundance was fought off over a number of years by the local tribe. Perhaps as a result of this the 2nd Native Police barracks was built and run in between modern day Roma and Surat. The Mandandanji people have a strong connection to place with many stories of Dreamtime, stories about the land and ancestors. A great grandmother of particular note was Nellie Edwards (Dungali) who was a midwife, medicine woman and respected elder within the region. If you get a chance to hear some of her incredibly brave stories you will not be disappointed. Today the Mandandanji peoples are a vibrant and driven community that are claiming back sacred sites, burial sites and native title! The future is bright!! Call into the active shop front on Arthur Street in Roma to see whats happening with the Mandandanji Mob.


what is a gunyah? Since this a Gunyah souvenir book we better explain what one is! Also known as Wurlies, Gunyahs (or Gunya) are traditional shelters used by Indigenous Australians and take a variety of forms depending on the weather conditions, materials available and length of stay. Gunyahs were made out of, and to suit their environments. Certain structures were used Australia wide, such as windbreaks and a warming fire, these would be made from made from whatever was available, stopping cool breezes so you could sleep easy. Enclosed structures were also used nation wide for wet weather, however these would change depending on the region. Generally in colder and wetter areas, well built domes were made to provide habitable space inside. Many lean-to style Gunyah’s were about 1.2 – 1.5 m high for lying and sitting. Some mob had 7-8 different structure types that were used for different environmental conditions which would be built as needed. The example across the page is from the Top End where weather can change dramatically. Gunyah placement was a result of lots of bush tucker available rather than favorable weather conditions. A large 15m diameter dome was found on North Stradbroke Island near a seasonal mullet netting channel, signifying the importance of bountiful food sources. These food sources would dictate the path of indigenous groups, many camps’ structure were left standing and, where bark was used it would be layed down and weighted to stop warping and blowing away for when they return.


Windbreak for sleeping out in nice weather

Lean-to Gunyah to stop dew, light rain or wind

Vault supported with ridge pole for hairy weather

Pandanas matt shelter for those camp outs you didn’t plan for Sitting, sleeping and storage platform for when there are too many bloody mozies, fire beneath keeps the stings away Dome form for wet weather

Vaulted sleeping platforms for flooding or baking hot sand.

Cubic shelter for the deceased


Steps to gunyah

Step #1

Step #2

Step #3

Step #4

Step #6

Step #7 10

Step #5

Step #8

Step #9

How do you make a gunyah? #1 - Get an expert guide, In this case, Kunggari Man, Donald (Duck) to look for some Box Gum. #2 - Make sure the sap is “running”, should be wet under the bark. #3 - Use the not-quite-traditional method of “chainsaw“to cut out the outline of the bark needed. Being aware not to take bark the whole way around the tree (ring bark) to ensure that the sexy tree survives. #4 - Heat bark over fire. #5 - Bend and flatten bark with weights. Repeat if required. #6 - Make tripod with fork taking load from bark. Hanging off tripod optional. #7 - Dig in tripod feet. #8 - Dig in supports + tie to tripod if required. Dig spoon drain around. #9 - Place bark and use dirt from drain to pack along the bottom of the bark.


lean-to gunyah near dalby

Lean-to on the Jimbour Creek near Dalby. Big ol sheets of bark used to wrap around a couple of poles. Note the large capping bark used to waterproof this bad boy.


case study locations


Gunyah #1 - shady dome Sometimes called a “Wilpi”, this beauty was mainly used for shade. Created by using young leafy branches implanted into a circular floor plan which are bent to meet in the middle, creating a thick and shady roof. These bad boys was used in the Western desert, Alice Springs, Lake Eyre and elsewhere for shade but also provides numerous other benefits such as filtering flies whilst allowing breezes. The relative dark under this shelter allowed the mob using it to see out from it easier as it takes the glare off the ol’ eye balls. So next time you are hot on the beach and want to see the surf clearly, this one is for you!


shady dome - construction

Step #1

Step #2


Gunyah #2 - tripod This puppy was most prominent in the Morten Bay (Brisbane) area and Caboolture district . The conical form allowed extra bark sheets to be rearranged around the structure if gusty winds and rain decides to put up a fight. This was constructed by bending/cracking a sapling and implanting both ends in the ground. This was then supported by a forked stick that took the load to the front. Additional sticks were slanted against the sapling and tied if necessary. Against this tea-tree bark was leant a piece of bark along the ridge for water proofing. A ditch was dug around the Gunyah for drainage. Excess dirt was then piled at the base of the bark to secure it into place. Ferns or grasses were used for bedding inside. So even when its spitting rain you can sleep like a baby.


tripod - construction

Step #1 + #2

Step #3 + #4

Plan View


Gunyah #3 - pointed dome Look at this magnificent beast! Made by the Meriam people of the Torres Straight Islands. These big beasties were a result of the heavy rains. Each dome accommodated a family (either nuclear or extended family) and traditionally had an interior radius of 2.85m and an interior height of 3.75m. Bloody luxury! Built of bamboo in a series of traverse arcs with a centre pole. The structure was then clad in blady grass that was tied to the frame with split bamboo lathes. Openings were small to stop water getting in as well as easily blocking it for mosquitoes. Use this Gunyah if you are going to be in a wet patch for a while. Why not build one as your new back shed?


pointed dome - construction


Gunyah #4 - vaulted sleeping Oh Golly, that’s not a Gunyah I hear you say...Oh but it is!! These cheeky sods were used in the Top End and Arnhem Land at the top of the Northern Territory. Up in this country it’s bloody hot and bloody wet at times so this structure allows it’s mob to get up (about 2m) off the hot ground (late October) into some shade, as well as pick up some cool breezes up higher or get off the ground if it’s flooding. These raised platforms were also used for storage. Keeping things away from dogs and children. Fires could be lit underneath them to keep mozzies away too!! These were made with a series of boughs tied together with a stringy bark roof for protection. A diagonal pole was used as a ladder. It was noted that these were not particularly stable, being so tall. So if the Gunyah is wobbling... don’t go a dobbing.


vaulted sleeping - construction Used as hand hold when climbing

Stringy bark roof to protect from sun or rain


d ad


Fire to stop mozzies and for warmth


Hey Uncle, that was great! I wonder if one day we will be able to design a house..houses? That allow completely sustainable construction, only using what we need?


Th i s i nfo r m a t i ve b o o kle t w a s lo v i n g l y made by Owe n an d B o b b i e f o r t h e G r a n d Se c tion . W e w o u ld li ke t o t h an k ; The Roma and District Family and History Society for fiLling us with so much knowledge we exploded and for offering such an incredible community service. Mandandanji Mob for making us family and for having the drive and passion to push for the things that matter. Paul Memmott whose quick response and book is invaluable and if you are at all interested get a copy; Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley - The aboriginal Architecture of Australia Bruce Pascoe for sowing the seeds of inspiration for more info on the grand section’s 10 month bike ride please visit; 23

Profile for The Grand Section

How to Gunyah Zine  

A souvenir booklet illustrating the way of The Gunyah. You've inconspicuously stumbled upon it on the WWW. The zine uses crappy jokes,...

How to Gunyah Zine  

A souvenir booklet illustrating the way of The Gunyah. You've inconspicuously stumbled upon it on the WWW. The zine uses crappy jokes,...