History of the Bunya Festival
IMAGE: ABC News
The ‘Araucaria bidwillii,’ more commonly known as the Bunya pine, is a large evergreen coniferous tree in the Araucariaceae plant family. The prehistoric tree has been known to exist from about 200 million years ago, with many of its relatives from that era now extinct.
The tree is iconic to South East Queensland, and grows spiky, football-sized fruit known as Bunyi/Bonyi in the local Kabi Kabi language.
Bonyee (the Kabi Kabi word for Bunya) pines can weigh a hefty 10kgs, with Bunyi able to live up to 600 years and grow 50 metres tall.
The pines also have great nutritional benefits and contain about 50 to 80 kernels each which are high in protein and rich in oils and carbohydrates. Tasting similar to chestnuts or potatoes, they can be eaten raw or roasted and ground into flour.
A valuable food source relied on by Kabi Kabi peoples, Bunyi is sacred to their people and are regarded as prized possessions by members of their tribes. Abundantly growing to this day in the Moreton Bay region on the grounds surrounding Kinma Valley, Bunyi would produce enough food for the gatherings which would attract upwards of 700 people.
For thousands of years, Kabi Kabi people and the neighbouring Wakka Wakka people would host a ‘Bonyee Festival’, in recognition of the spiritual significance of the pines.
First Nations people on the east coast of Australia would gather to celebrate the harvest of the cones from Bunyi which occurred once every three years between December and March. These gatherings would bring huge groups of people and different clans from as far as Victoria and Western Queensland to join the festivities.
First Nations people, including those in the Kabi tribes, shared Bunya for countless generations through these festivities and engaged in numerous social activities, including:
- sharing and trading items, food, information, and new knowledge
- conducting corroborees
- swapping songs, stories, and dances between groups to be taken home to their own people
- ·organising future events
- arranging and observing of cultural, social, and kinship obligations
- resolving law issues, disputes, and complaints
With these gatherings and the events that took place, culture routes were established across the nation.
The last known traditional Gathering is believed to have been held in 1902, after the practice ended with white settlement and the displacement of Aboriginal populations caused by the introduction of government settlements put a stop to the event.
Although the earlier form of the Bunya Gathering has ceased, First Nations peoples continue the cycles of trade in other ways and have found ways to keep continuity of culture – stories have been passed down, as have the traditional methods of gathering and preparing Bunya nuts for eating.
Lendlease is proud to work with representatives of the Kabi Kabi people on the co-creation of the Kinma Valley masterplan, which places great importance on the protection and enhancement of local fauna and flora while retaining culturally significant aspects of the land.
Also incorporating the Kabi Kabi First Nation Peoples language, the name ‘Kinma’, which translates to ‘awake,’ represents the spirit of the Kabi Kabi people and the Kinma Valley community.
You can find out more about our green surroundings and sustainable innovations at Kinma Valley here.
Lendlease acknowledge the First Peoples who are the Traditional Owners of the lands where we live and work. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water, and community and pay respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.