Traditional owners raise concerns over bypass

Jagera Daran cultural team examining surface finds from the silcrete deposit (from left) James Bonner (Jagera Daran project manager), Bob Elder (JD site manager) and Ken Bonner (Jagera Elder). Photo: Jagera Daran.
Jagera Daran cultural team examining surface finds from the silcrete deposit (from left) James Bonner (Jagera Daran project manager), Bob Elder (JD site manager) and Ken Bonner (Jagera Elder). Photo: Jagera Daran.

AN Aboriginal heritage consultancy group has raised concerns that an area of cultural significance could be damaged by the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.

A signalling station in the Helidon Hills area is of cultural significance and lies in the proposed path of the crossing.

Aboriginal and Cultural Heritage consultancy group Jagera Daran has been commissioned by the Queensland Government to study the area where the crossing will pass.

Project manager James Bonner is a member of the Jagera people and is calling for the government to adjust the route of the crossing the protect the site.

He said its importance to indigenous people and the history of Australia was incalculable.

Mr Bonner said with a price tag of $1.6 billion the project, and savings made by the design including a cutting rather than a tunnel, the government should be able to fund a change to the project.

He likened any damage to the site to cultural vandalism.

"It's like us wanting to go into Toowoomba and knock down the first building ever built, or running over people's graves," he said.

Aboriginal and Cultural Heritage consultancy group Jagera Daran has been commissioned by the Queensland Government to study the area where the crossing will pass. Photo: Jagera Daran.
Aboriginal and Cultural Heritage consultancy group Jagera Daran has been commissioned by the Queensland Government to study the area where the crossing will pass. Photo: Jagera Daran.

He said the best solution was for the land to be avoided.

"I want them to leave it alone, they've got $1.6 billion to build the road surely they can allocate a few dollars to move it around," he said.

The site was traditionally used as a signalling station and was used during wars between indigenous Australians and the first European settlers.

Archaeological works have uncovered artefacts.

Mr Bonner said new techniques were allowing researches to uncover the history of the area.

"That will be important for coming generations," he said.

"If there's a highway there'll be nothing to look at."

Mr Bonner said there was a dispute about who had rights to the land, with the Jagera people and the Western Wakka Wakka people both claiming it.

He asserted the area, on the Toowoomba Range escarpment up to Spring Bluff, was the heartland of the Jagera people.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads told ABC that survey and mitigation works were being undertaken in preparation for the crossing.

"As part of this, we are working with traditional owners that have an interest in the (crossing) corridor - the Western Wakka Wakka people and the Jagera people," the statement read.

"Our consultation process has involved working with traditional owners and professional archaeologists to ensure in-depth investigations of the sites take place, allowing us to conduct excavations, stone artefact analyses and historical studies of the area.

"Artefacts identified during the current detailed investigations with the Western Wakka Wakka people are assessed and analysed by the traditional owners and archaeologists, and are then stored on-site.

"These findings, including their locations, are used to detail the extent of cultural heritage in the TSRC corridor. When the report is finished, the artefacts will be relocated to places nominated by the traditional owners - usually 'back on country'."

The Chronicle has contacted the department about whether it is considering change the route of the crossing.



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