Saturday, 19 August 2006

Online Conversion website

I recent weeks I've been doing quite a bit of research around having a water bore drilled on Ochre Arch.

It has proven necessary to convert some of the old measures like feet and gallons into metric and vice-versa, and I've found the following Online Conversion website particularly useful for this purpose.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Reducing direct marketing approaches

If you have got to the stage of being sick and tired of being direct marketed (telephone and mail) to you can place your telephone number and / or address on the Australian Direct Marketing Association "Do Not Contact" service register. Visit the ADMA website at and following the link that appears at the top of the screen headed DO NOT CONTACT SERVICE.
Taking this action will not eliminate all contacts ... but should reduce some of the contact traffic.

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Grasses used by Aboriginal People

Sue Hudson kindly provided me with a list of various species of grasses and the use/s that Aborigines had for each one. Here they are!

1. Slender rats tail (Sporobolus creber) Seeds - flour

2. Pappas grass (Enneapogon nigrans) Seeds – flour

3. Plume grass (Dichelachne micrantha) Seeds – flour

4. Hedgehog grass (Echinopogon ovatus) Seeds – flour

5. Wallaby grass (Danthonia sp) Seeds – flour

6. Swamp foxtail (Pennisetum alopecuoides) Stem/head – broom, weaving

7. Barbwire grass (Cymbopogon refractus) Seeds – flour, root/stem insect repellent

8. Kangaroo grass (Themeda australis) Seeds – flour

9. Weeping rice grass (Microlaenia stipoides) Seeds – flour

10. Wheat grass (Elamus scaber) Seeds – flour

11. Corkscrew grass (Stipa scabra) Broom/paintbrush

12. Slender bamboo grass (S. verticillata) Broom/mats/weaving

13. Blown grass (Agrotis avenacea) Seeds – flour

14. Lovegrass (Eragrostis leptostachya) Seeds – flour

15. Poa (Poa sp) Seeds – flour

16 .Wild sorghum (Sorghum leiocladum) Seeds – flour

17. Glycine (Glycine sp) Pea-vegetable

18 .Ferns - Root -vegetable but only when young and in drought

19. Rushes (Juncus/other sp) Seeds – flour, stems/leaves –weaving/mats/nets etc

20. Dock (Rumex sp) Medicinal

21. Tarvine (Berhavia sp) Root/Yam roasted, sap used to trap small birds, animals

22. Cenna Tea (Centauium) Steeped in water – tea, Roots/leaves – poultice

23. Mint bush (Prostnthera sp) Insect repellent/perfume

24. Muckram (Melichrus sp) Fruit

25. Cyprus (Callitris) Glue/sap, bark/woomera

26. Native cherry - Sap for snake bite

27. Daisy yam (Microseris lanceolata) - Tubers/yam, Leaves/salad

28. Banksia (Banksia sp) Cones used as fire stick, flowers infused as sweet drink, flowers licked as lolly

29 .T-tree (Leptospermum) Pegs for skins, clothes, leaves for insect repellent, bark for chewing for tooth ache

30. Mistletoe - Berrys eaten as fruit, leaves for fever

31. Blady grass (Imperata cylindrica) Leaves/stems - weaving

32. Grevillea (Grevillea) Nectar and gum

33. Honeysuckle - Nectar & Gum

34. Native fushsia ARATJA (Eremophila Latrobe) Fumigation or smoking ceremony, flower sucked as sweet

35. Pigweed WAKATI (Portulacca) Seeds winnowed, ground to paste for cakes

36. Wild tobacco UKIRI (Nicotiana excelsior) Mixed with ashes – smoked

37. Quondong (Santalum acuminatum) Stone used as a linament, wood used for carving totemic images, leaves used as sandpaper (fruit etc used as food)

38. Matspurge (Euphoria drummondii) Protect children from the sun/hat

39. Turpentine (Eremophila sp) Smoke used for coughs and general aches and pains

40. Parakeelya (Calandrinia balonensis) Baked in hot ashes, leaves eaten, water source/leaves sucked

41. Emu poison bush (Dubosia sp) Poisonous leaves crushed and put in waterholes to stupefy emus and fish

42. Hopbush (Dodonea sp) Placed in pit, smoke used for relief of pain

43. Bush tomato (Solanum cleistogamun) Fruit

44. Mulga (Acacia sp) Seeds most important for flour/damper, sap as sweet, wood for spears, woomeras, boomerangs and womens digging sticks

45. Native truffle (Choiromyces sp) Cooked in ashes

Thanks Sue, for passing on the information.

For those who do not know Sue is Aboriginal and one of Australia's leading archaeologists. If you would like further information you can contact Sue on mobile: 0412 649 580 email:

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Noisy Minor with obsessive behaviour

For close on 12 months now at a couple of our neighbours and our own family homes in Melbourne we have all endured what could be described as something equating to ‘Chinese water torture’ at the hands (beak) of a Noisy Minor (Manorina melanocephala) with obsessive behaviour. This individual bird has developed the habit of pecking on every window in our collective houses … in its own mind attacking another bird which is in fact its own reflection.

At first we thought the bird’s behaviour had something to do with its breeding cycle so decided not to act … hoping that in time it would ‘get over it’.

After 3 months or so we tried different strategies designed to reduce the reflection clarity in the windows, such as smearing Ajax on the windows and also covering them with newspaper. All of this activity has been to no avail.

In the past week or so our family decided that ‘enough was enough’ … and I was the lucky one given the task of putting in place a permanent solution.

I contacted the RSPCA ( for guidance and was informed that they do not deal with these types of issues as the bird is not in duress. They did, however, refer me to Nigel’s Animal Rescue … who is one of their preferred contacts.

I called the Nigel’s Animal Rescue ( mobile number 0427533083 and spoke to Nigel. His own family has had similar experience to what we are going through with a Noisy Minor. They, it seems, were more fortunate in that the offending bird was only obsessing on one particular window and after a while ceased attacking it after they covered it with newspaper. In light of our situation Nigel offered to trap, relocate and release our feathered friend. Give that the bird goes to a great number of different windows it could take quite a while for the capture to occur as the bird needs to be attracted to the place where a trap is located and become accustomed to both the feeding routine and the presence of the set trap.

Noisy Minors will eat bread. Nigel suggested he would use an ‘Ecotrap Urban’ multipurpose trap manufactured in Australia by Ecotrap. These cost approximately $400 but are both durable and humane, and can be used to trap anything from small birds through to wallabies. The Ecotrap website ( has some excellent footage of how their traps work.

I have decided the first step is to get our Noisy Minor accustomed to eating bread … and will see what unfolds from there!

Monday, 7 August 2006

Telecommunications in the bush

We recently brought Ochre Arch into the 1970s by having the ‘phone connected. Telstra was the provider we selected given that the farm is 25 km from the nearest town (Grenfell) and they are the only telecommunications company that still has real people / staff living in and working from the smaller towns and thus have the ability to respond to faults and difficulties when and if things happen to go wrong. Telstra also happens to have a competitive range of services on offer.

I decided to write a post about our overall experience mainly to give the city folk some insight into what telecommunications really is like in the bush.

Our family is a reasonably heavy user of telephone, and particularly internet services. In all we now have services from 3 different providers:
Telstra: For the farm phone
Optus: Land line and cable internet to the home in Melbourne. We started using Optus whilst at Wollongong in the mid 1990’s – at a time when their rates were extremely competitive and they were in their ‘innovative customer-focused’ phase.
Three: 3 X 3G technology mobile ‘phones, recently upgraded from Orange. Our decision to go with Orange some years ago was because at that stage they had an awesome offer where calls to landlines within about a 2 km radius of the house were at local call rates AND for calls outside the Orange coverage area (basically Melbourne and Sydney metropolitan areas) Orange used the Telstra CDMA network. We switched to the 3G phones in response to an advice from Orange stating that they were going to shut down the CDMA phones at the end of August and had a “too good to refuse” offer on the table to cover the purchase of new mobiles.

A telephone service was first connected to Ochre Arch some time during the 1950’s when the Causers’ owned and lived on the place. At that time the connection was via overhead wiring and a ‘party line’ system operated.

In the 1970’s when the Hamptons’ owned the place but lived on their main property not far away, Telstra (or the PMG as it was then known) up-graded the wiring to an underground automatic exchange system. A 4-wire cable was installed from near the front gate to the edge of the house. No actual phone was ever connected to this cable as the Hamptons’ had no need for it.

The existence of the phone cable to the house came to light a couple of years ago when our neighbour was installing the new septic system for us. When digging the trench for the pipes to the septic tank the digger went through the cable. Our neighbour was able to repair the cable for us.

Arranging an appointment for the phone to be connected was as simple as calling 132200 and following the prompts. The lady who took my call had an amazing knowledge of Telstra’s systems and processes in respect of rural installations.

One of the first steps during this conversation was for her to allocate a telephone number to us. When she told me what the number was to be I commented that it seemed out of sequence with other numbers in the immediate vicinity. It turned out she had allocated a number appropriate to the Grenfell exchange rather than the Driftway exchange. This was corrected reasonably quickly and involved her speaking with a fellow who I gathered was based at Cowra.

The next step was to explain the exact location of the property. The national road mail box numbering system is particularly helpful here … and we were in some ways lucky that Australia Post (or whoever it was who oversaw the farm gate numbering system rollout) had allocated a road number at our front gate. I provided this address to the lady at Telstra. She also asked for the farm's Lot and Deposited Plan (DP) numbers.

We also discussed and agreed the type of plan we’d have access to and the services. Given we are not always at the farm I selected the HomeLine Budget plan and asked that ISD access not be made available. I also opted to pay the $3 / month additional fee to have a Telstra phone installed (rather than buying our own phone outright). By so doing it enables us to obtain replacements at no additional charge if something goes wrong … and also avoids the slim possibility that if we bought a handset it might not be compatible with Telstra’s systems. Given that Telstra offers its '101' message service at no charge this was included in the package of services.

The last step was to agree an appointment date and time. Telstra works on 4 hour windows for appointments … so we agreed one Monday 4th July at somewhere between 8.00 am and 12.00 pm.

No paperwork was required from me in setting up the telephone agreement. I did have to provide credit card and some other details, but none of the questions were overly onerous or intrusive. I was informed that the cost of the installation would be $299 (GST inclusive) which was quite reasonable in the circumstances.

A couple of days before the agreed installation date Telstra sent me an SMS on my mobile … just in case our situation had changed and the appointment had to be altered.

By nature I am somewhat cautious and do like to plan things. Whilst I had every confidence that the neighbour had repaired the cable properly when installing the septic system a couple of years ago I wanted to be able to take the technician to the exact spot if necessary. Thus I dug down to the point were the cable had been cut as had been detailed on the sewerage plan prepared and lodged with the Council. In so doing … you guessed it … I was a little too aggressive with my digging and managed to slice through the casing on the cable … meaning this would need to be fixed.

It was also not clear exactly where the cable met the edge of the house so I decided to dig a trench near the north-west corner of the house to see if I could locate the thing … without success. This then led to the decision to dig from the point where I’d sliced the cable casing right the way to the house … a distance of approximately 20 metres. You guessed it … in the process I managed to damage the cable in a couple more spots, but did manage to find the place I was looking for.

When we purchased the farm in 2003 we tidied up some of the rubbish that had accumulated during the previous 20 or so years. One part of this was the removal from the house of the ¾” galvanized water pipes that were at the back of the laundry and kitchen. I’d left these in the yard but felt they ‘just might come in handy’ as conduit for the telephone cable. Jan and I worked together and had the pipe in individual sections and joiners before the Telstra technician arrived.

Chris Handcock from Telstra, who happens to live in Grenfell, arrived at our place a little after 9.00 am … comfortably within the agreed 4 hour window. After exchanging the appropriate courtesies work on the project was underway.

Chris set off to identify a suitable ‘pair’ of wires from the Driftway exchange to the connection point near the front gate of our farm, and Jan and I set to work running some replacement cable (that Chris fortunately had in his work van) and assembling the ¾” galvanized pipe to act as conduit … from the edge of the house to the point where the old cable had been previously cut when the septic system was installed.

After what was probably a couple of hours Chris returned to the house, having located and tested a suitable pair of wires from the Driftway exchange. This process was far from simple as the cable that runs to the exchange is now old and has many joining boxes along it. From what we could gather this main line has regular problems and is really in need of replacement. Given the small number of people who use the line an upgrade is a long way off. Chris then checked that the cable from the house to the main cable at the front gate was intact. These investigations revealed that the old cable was damaged approximately 60 metres from the gate and had also been completely severed 116 metres from the gate – where it crossed the creek. The bad news was that the old cable on our place had to be totally replaced. Chris checked with his supervisor to see whether Telstra was responsible for covering the cost of replacement. It transpired that as the phone had never actually been connected the work effort was to be treated as a new connection rather than an installation … and we were thus responsible for digging a new trench to take the new cable. There was some good news, however. The roll of cable that Chris had in his truck looked like it just might be long enough to go from the house to the front gate, and Chris was willing to allow us to run the cable along the top of the ground then and there … on the understanding that we would separately arrange for a 450 mm (minimum) trench to be dug in the short term and for the cable to be laid in it and covered.

Jan and I proceeded to roll out the new cable from the house and were somewhat relieved that it was long enough. Chris then connected the cable to the main cable … and we moved on to the house to do the actual phone installation. This part of the process involved several steps. We agreed where the phone would be placed on the wall in the hallway and that we'd set up a second access point on the covered verandah. I removed some wall paneling and drilled a couple of holes where the white telephone wire was to go; and also ran the wire along the top of the ground under the house from where the black cable reached the house to where the phone was to go as well as another piece from the back of where the phone was to go to where the second outlet was to be. Chris installed a small grey junction box on one of the wooden stumps out the front of the house. He then discovered that he did not have a wall plate for the phone in his vehicle and headed back to Grenfell to get one. When he returned in an hour or so he connected the phone to the white wires and also installed the second connection plug.

It was then time for Chris to test the phone (yes, it worked) and to complete some brief paperwork – some of which was making notations in the junction box including date of installation, the fact that as we were not on mains power he could not connect to the ‘earth’ at that point, and that the junction box had been installed where it had because of our plans to renovate the house in the near term.

The whole process took very close to a full day, and we were very pleased with Chris’s efforts.

During the course of our discussions with Chris during the day we learned the following.

Chris is advised of each new ‘job’, in some cases via email, at the conclusion of the preceding one. In our case, he read the email telling him what he would be doing on 4/7/2006 at around 8.30 am.

A week of so before the 4/7/2006 Chris’s usual vehicle had broken down and it was in Orange being repaired. He was using a substitute vehicle and did not have ready access to some of his normal equipment and spares (such as wall installation plates for new phones).

The customer service team in the Telstra Call Centre who set up appointments with clients is not aware of events like the fact that Chris did not have his usual vehicle. Consequently he is not always able to complete all allocated duties on the first call.

The customer service team is based at the Gold Coast. Some of the members have a limited idea of the distances involved in rural work and think that neighbouring towns are like neighbouring suburbs in the cities … only a few minutes traveling between each one.

Due to the way jobs are assigned there have been occasions where technicians are sent to one town in the morning, then another town in mid morning, and then back to the first town later in the day. This creates wastage in terms of wages, time and transport costs … not to mention delays in customer services. There is a plus here, though … the technicians are able to focus on the job at hand and are not embroiled in handling customer service queues and such like.

There can also be wastage where technicians are assigned jobs in neighbouring towns at the same time e.g. the Cowra based technician can be working on a job at Grenfell while the Grenfell based technician is on a job at Cowra.

The take-up of broadband internet in rural areas has far exceeded estimated demand. The township of Grenfell (population approximately 2000) was allocated just over 200 ‘ports’ for broadband and all of these were taken up in just a few months. Telstra is now in the process of planning the provision of additional infrastructure to cater for 500 or so more ports.

The old cable was not termite-proof. This could explain why there was the break across the creek, but I doubt it!

We don’t have mains power on the house, and as a consequence cannot use a hands-free handset.

To assist Chris find our farm he was provided a map (file connected to the email he was sent by the customer service team) showing the DP number of our farm. Given that this Lot is some 403 acres in size this was not particularly helpful! All he really needed was the farm road address.

Our Internet Service Provider is Optus, and I pay an additional $5 per month for dial-up access when away from the cable connection at home. I tried to use the farm phone line for dial-up but found it to be obscenely inadequate, with the connection dropping out about every 20 seconds. And it needs to be remembered that each connection call is STD.

Telstra does have a very flexible way that users can operate their phone plans. It is possible to change the plan instantly by calling the 132200 number. At the time I made the Installation appointment it was possible to change the plan free on-line via the internet but this was recently withdrawn.

Our place is in an unofficial area within the Weddin Shire near Grenfell known as Pinnacle. When our details were input into the Telstra database the location was recorded as Pinnacle. This meant that when the information was transported into the White Pages the Grenfell postcode of 2810 defaulted to 2800, being the postcode of Orange which has an official region known as Pinnacle. I contacted Telstra who has the wheels in motion to correct the records in the White Pages, including showing the property name.

It is also possible to place a ‘bar’ the phone such that it has various ranges of access. When we are not on the farm we have the access set so that anyone who enters the house can only call ‘000’, the Telstra 13 prefix numbers and the free 1800 help lines.

Telstra also has an excellent internet capability where customers can check calls made since last bill; however the detail does not include individual numbers dialed.

Last week I participated in a teleconference to the USA. My intention was to up-grade my phone plan to Home Line Plus before making the call but for several reasons was unable to do so. This meant that I was charged full ISD rates rather than the lesser amount under the Telstra Half Hour option (accessed by dialing 0018 rather than 0011 to get an international line). Telstra has subsequently adjusted the amount to what I felt the charge should have been, and I will be more aware of what to do next time. Details of Telstra’s ISD rates can be found at the following web address:

The 132200 number can only be accessed between 7.00 AM and 6.00 PM during the standard 5 working days per week.

When calling to change the plan that I’m on the revised plan rates apply from after midnight on the morning the call is made to change the plan i.e. if I have made calls earlier today and then ring to change my plan then the rates charged for the earlier calls will be at the rates applicable to the plan I’ve changed to today.

There is still an option to be able to alter the phone plan via the internet but this involves paying an additional monthly fee.

The day after the phone was connected I had a decision to make regarding digging a trench for the cable. Given I had the time, needed some exercise, and that we’d had some good recent rains making the soil very easy to dig I elected to dig the trench manually i.e. by shovel and foot! The digging project took about 5 days on and off, and I was very fortunate that Jan was willing and able to help with the trench filling.

For those that are into trivia, we moved about 25.8 cubic metres of soil – twice; given a final trench length of 287 metres, at a depth of 450 mm, and width of 200 mm.

A picture of our trench digging work in progress is attached. The 3 trees (without leaves) that can (just) be seen on the edge of the creek are fig trees … that have been growing there merrily for over 100 years.

When we had the Orange CDMA mobile telephones we were able to receive calls from a small area on the front step on the west of the house and make and receive calls on the highest point on the farm which we call Lookout Rock. Now that we have changed to 3G technology we can no longer receive calls at the house; although access is still available from Lookout Rock (about 1.5 km from the house). Telstra is still in the process of up-grading to 3G technology and hopefully our farm access issue will be resolved by the change-over deadline of 2008. The following article provides a little more information on Telstra’s intentions:

I happen to be a regular user of the ‘nab’ internet banking service. This has an outstanding feature where customers can set things up so that a password is sent to a mobile phone with payments and transfers to accounts other than the customer’s own accounts. To explain further, if I wanted to send a payment to, for example, a suppliers transactional account at their bank I would input the transaction details into my nab Internet Banking thingy via my PC. When I press ‘send’ button a transaction password is sent via SMS to my mobile phone. I input this password into the PC and the transaction is then actually sent off. This nab offers this feature free of charge and it provides me with comfort knowing that in order for someone to fraudulently extract money from my account using internet banking they will need to know my user ID and sign-in password and also have access to my mobile phone. The nab recently announced that they have taken steps such that those customers who do not have this SMS password transaction feature will have a much lower daily funds transfer limit. The fact that I am now unable to receive SMS calls at the house on the farm means that my ability to transact via the internet is reduced. Of course as I’ve already pointed out my ability to access the internet from the farm is pretty much non-existent anyway, but that’s not the point.

I am unable to access Telstra broadband from the farm as the Driftway exchange does not have this capability. The Telstra staff I have spoken to have encouraged me to log a request for broadband access via the internet, and to speak to our neighbours and ask them to do the same. I have not done this yet.

Obviously I am not able to access the internet via my mobile telephone whilst on the farm and from what I have read this would be far too expensive in any case.

So this leaves us with arranging satellite access, but to do this I will need to be on mains power (or solar). The cost of getting mains power to the farm is in the order of $50,000 ($35,000 per km) plus cost of wiring etc. Not simple!

One thing that shines out for me from my recent dealings with Telstra has been the outstanding quality of their staff. Clearly Telstra has an excellent staff recruitment process, invests heavily in training and skills development, and has a strong staff support and customer focus ethos. Impressive, really!

Sunday, 6 August 2006

Aboriginal Land Use In The Armidale NSW Area

Since April last year I have had the pleasure of being in regular contact with Sue Hudson. For those you are not aware, Sue is Aboriginal and one of Australias leading archaelogists. In September 2005 she visited Ochre Arch and discovered that the natural arch in one of our creeks had been used by local Aborigines as a site for mining ochre ... and it was from this discovery that Jan and I made the decision to rename our farm to what it is today.

Anyway ... getting to the point ... I recently invited Sue to prepare and send me an article for publishing on my blogsite ... and I'm delighted that she has accepted my invitation to contribute. What follows is an illuminating article that Sue wrote in 2004 that will give readers an insight into Aboriginal land use in the Armidale region of New South Wales. Several of Sue's own photographs have also been included as well. Oh ... whilst the article has been provided to me without charge please remember that Sue is the author and holds the copyright to the content.

If you have any questions about the article below or want to get in touch with Sue her contact details are:
Mobile: +61 (0) 412 649 580

SUZANNE HUDSON, BA (HONS), Dip AF&CC, JP Archaeologist

During 2003 a study of pre-European land use by Aboriginal people – the Anaiwan group of the Armidale area was undertaken. This study involved the movement of Aboriginal people across the environment using stone tools to mark the routes they used to forage, hunt, camp and manufacture both stone and wooden tools.

Places of human habitation, tool procurement sites, scarred and marked trees and places of significance to the inhabitants were used to ‘map’ the area to give an idea of how these people lived in the local environment.

This focuses on the Country of the Anaiwan people, who lived in the area before European arrival. The area forms part of the New England Ranges encompassing eastern and western river systems. Walker (1977:11) describes the region as being dominated by undulating uplands, extending as a tableland belt of varying width, with gently rolling country with shallow valleys terminating in the eastern escarpment east of Walcha.

Photo: Stone tool manufacturing site

The geology of the area consists of granites and associated volcanics (greywacke, rhyolite, basalt, diorite). Harrington (1977:31) describes the region as being a difficult communication area as the Peel Fault at Tamworth provides a barrier to easy travel into the area from the south and the escarpment and gorges from the east.

Climate is the basic element of ecology that affects the study area. Hobbs & Jackson (1977:77) state that the climatic features of the New England area are the result of the effects of distance from the coast and eastern scarp, relief, altitude and latitude which create greater temperature ranges (maximum and minimum), rainfall amounts, and wind patterns.

Some previous researchers (McBryde 1974, Belshaw 1977) state that Aboriginal populations on the Tablelands moved to warmer climates (eastern coastal and western slopes) during the cold winter months, but local research has indicated that there is adequate plant food available during the winter months – for example rusty fig trees (Ficus rubignosa) are in fruit during winter. Experience from living in the study area indicates that cold is relative and if you are accustomed to living in a cold climate, the body adjusts to it.

Vegetation of the Armidale area falls into three categories:
1. Open woodlands or parkland (as described by the early settlers)
2. Marsh and/or swamplands
3. Grasslands, devoid of tree cover

The survey area can be described as all three categories that of open woodlands or parkland, marshy areas and grasslands. Grasses are predominately native species however introduced species are now covering much of the area, especially since the application of superphosphate fertiliser in the 1960’s. Trees are predominately native species with some new plantings of native species planned for the future.

Sutton (1989:7-8) writes that Aboriginal people of the area used the trees to trap macropods using nets strung between the trees, used the swamps to catch crayfish and dig for yams, roots and hunt water birds and grasslands were maintained by burning to attract large game into the area for hunting.

Photo: Aboriginal stone axe

The last 25 years have seen spectacular changes in our knowledge of the area Aboriginal past. White (1976:71) states that changes in dating methods have come about because of regionally oriented research programs and the most durable methods of dating the past, come flakes of stone and stone tools types as they change over time.

By distinguishing certain features of stone tools that are common to all sites, dating can be achieved within a rough estimate. The heavy core and flake scrapers (50,000-10,000 years ago) of the “Australian Core Tool and Scraper Tradition” have been associated with making wooden tools such as boomerangs, spears, clubs and throwing sticks. Tools of the newer industries (10,000-5,000 years ago) are relatively small in size and are defined by shape as points, adzes and backed (blunted) blades and are known as the “Small Tool and Scraper Tradition”. These smaller tools are found in conjunction with chisels and axes. The oldest examples of these stone tools come from the New England region (Binns & McBryde 1969, 1972, McBryde 1974 and McCarthy 1979). There was a further change in technology (1,000-400 years ago) with a loss of some items from the range (backed blades and finely retouched [resharpened] blades) were replaced with simple flakes, bipolar pieces and ground edge axes and a greater use of shell, bone and glass for toolmaking (White 1976:76).

Tindale (1974:115) gives a definition of the Australian Aboriginal tribes, which have five markers:
1. they inhabit and claim a definite area of country
2. use a dialect or language peculiar to themselves
3. possess a distinctive name
4. have customs and laws differing in some measure from those practiced by their neighbours
5. possess beliefs and ceremonies differing from those held or performed by others.

Hoddinott (1977:52-55) classifies the language as Nganyaywana. He states that this language is now extinct but was formerly spoken in an area from Moonbi in the south to Guyra in the north. The language is unique to the area and has little or no relationship to other Australian Aboriginal languages. From some of the words that have been recorded by researchers, the language has roots that relate to neighbouring areas populated by Daingatti people but that the language diverged many thousands of years ago. Hudson 1996:39, Godwin 1990:381 state that the Anaiwan group living in the Tablelands had ancestors in common with the eastern Daingatti people, but at some stage they broke with the Daingatti and all other neighbouring groups so totally that their language diverged. At some later time they re-established a close social interrelationship with their western neighbours, the Gamilaroi sharing aspects of social organisation and during this contact, the language changed to reflect aspects of the Gamilaroi dialect.

Compared to the surrounding tribal groups:
Gamilaroi – 75,400 sq km – one of the largest in the state
Daingatti - 9,100 sq km
Anaiwan - 8,300 sq km
Weraerai - 4,100 sq km
Bundjalung - 2,300 sq km
Banbai - 2,300 sq km
Ngarabal - 1,000 sq km
Average size in the Tablelands – 5,420 sq km, which relates to climatic and environmental restraints and isolation/altitude for sustainable living areas.

Photo: Burial site

The New England area was investigated in 1818 when Surveyor-General John Oxley explored the area. Alan Cunningham passed through the area in 1825, Charles Sturt in 1828 and Thomas Mitchell in 1831. The first of the settlers who arrived in the Armidale area of New England was Henry Dangar in 1833, whilst working for The Australian Agricultural Company to develop the wool and coal industries (Hudson 2004:4).

In 1832, Hamilton Sempill settled on the Apsley River and named his holding “Wolka” (now Walcha) and Edward Cory settled east of Uralla in 1833 on Salisbury Waters calling his run “Gostwyck”. In 1835 Henry Dangar bought him out, when word of the New England’s productivity for wool growing had spread, and the area was then settled by Henry Dumaresq in 1834, William Dumaresq in 1835 and other settlers who selected land across the New England. These settlers included McDougall, Campbell, Macintyre, Clerk, King, the Everett brothers, Duval, Innes and others who are remembered by present-day places such as Mt Duval, “Clerkness”, Macintyre River, Glen Innes, Land of the Beardies (from Duval and Everett), Beardy Street and River (Hudson 2004:4).

In 1845 Commissioner George Macdonald reported that numbers of Aboriginal people in the New England numbered about 600 men, women and children but stated that because of their “wandering, disunited and unsettled habits, it is impossible to estimate their numbers with any truth”. He also reported that there was a decrease in numbers since 1840 due to disease, their means of subsistence had diminished to a considerable extent because of the arrival of 500,000 sheep onto the Tablelands which had reduced the numbers of macropods – their staple food.

The Aboriginal people were seen as unwanted nuisances standing in the way of European development and economic progress (Macdonald 1845).
In 1851, Commissioner Massie reported that
“… a reserve for use by Aborigines of 350 acres had been put aside, which contained good cultivation ground, good water and every essential requisite for the permanent location of the Aborigines, should they feel disposed to forget their migratory habits” (Massie 1851).

Campbell (1978:6) states that in 1842 there was a cessation of the violence between Aborigines and settlers in the New England. He states that this was due to the change in white population numbers due to the termination of transportation and the assignment system of convicts working for the bushman-managers of the pastoral runs. The usual bushman-manager was being replaced by the wealthier educated squatter, and the census figures confirm this, with a total white population of 2,231 and about 1/3 were convicts and by 1851, this group had dropped to 1/6 of the population.

Walker (1963:141) states that in 1839 Commissioner Macdonald set up his camp on an extensive open plain, well watered and sheltered and situated contiguously to the squatters on Salisbury Court (Uralla), Gostwyck (Uralla), Saumarez (Armidale) and Tilbuster (Armidale). Macdonald named his campsite “Armidale” after his English estate.

Armidale had always been the largest settlement in the Tablelands, which received the first post office in 1843, court of petty session in 1846 and chief constable in 1847 and was the first town to be incorporated as a municipality in 1863 (Walker 1963:141).

Gardner (1852:78) describes country unfit for sheep farming. These places are referred to as the hilly country where box trees are found growing on the slopes and tops of hills. The riverine flats were chosen by settlers to build their homes and sheds. Hudson et al (2003:23) states that the remains of buildings from the first European settlement of the area may reflect British layout and style. Housing began with pitching a tent, followed by wattle and daub, pisé, and simple slab, bark and shingle dwellings or log cabins. With the arrival of sheets of iron and glass, more elaborate structures using brick or stone were constructed. Fittings and fixtures give indications of sophistication of plumbing (baths, indoor toilets, laundries [chip heaters, coppers], early hand operated washing machines, light fittings [carbide gas, generators, 32v electricity]).

After people of European extraction had settled the area, the white population jealously guarded the area from other ethnic groups. The Armidale Express of 29th August 1857 reported on the mass migration of Chinese people (called Chinamen) during the gold rush period. Claiming that between 40,000 and 50,000 Chinese people were present in Victoria alone and reported again (16th September 1857) that about 60 Chinese people had arrived at the Rocky River goldfields from Victoria. The reporter stated:
“Squatters may not be able to do without pig-tailed cooks and shepherds, or storekeepers without the custom of a legion of Celestials, without dwelling upon the vices they introduce to the colony – leprosy. I would protest against their race, having low mental and bodily powers and half-savage habits, utterly unfit for assimilating with a nation of such a boasted degree of civilisation as our own”.

Smailes and Molyneux (1963:206) report on the state of settlement by 1900 having been broken up from the early pastoral runs by the Robertson Land Act of 1861. This Act brought about a confused pattern of free selection, rapid sales, land dummying and quick turnover of land blocks allowed a new crop of larger holdings owned by wealthier men than the average selector.

Land once deemed to be unfit for pastoral use was now taken up by selectors and areas within town boundaries that had once been designated Aboriginal reserve had been reclaimed for urban development and the incumbent Indigenous inhabitants were again relocated onto less usable or remote areas.

Photo: Stone Axes, knife and flakes

McBryde (1978:1) states that the only ethnographic source material available for this area are the records, diaries and letters of the early settlers. The information on Aboriginal life and culture is often fragmentary and contradictory and requires much critical sifting, often revealing more about the thoughts of nineteenth century Europeans than of Aboriginal culture. McBryde refers to literature describing the use of stone axes to catch possums and Wyndham (1889:37) recalls a ceremonial gathering on the western fall of the Tablelands where four tribes were present.

Mathews (1896:135) states that ceremonies were of great importance, providing a connection between groups – Daingatti Keeparra (sic) and Gamilaroi Bora (sic) ceremonies. Wyndham (1889:37) states that the last Boora (sic), an initiation of young men, was held on the western fall of New England. Both men and women attended the ceremony but each had their own special areas after the initial meeting of the groups.

Hudson’s (1976) research of this area has located an initiation site near Uralla. This site consists of a stone structure (one side has collapsed), a single stone tool grinding (sharpening) groove and a rock enclosure where the start of the initiation ceremony took place. This site indicates that it was used by both men and women, but as the ceremony progressed, the men left the site and walked approximately 7 km to the bora ground she located west of the initiation site.
Photo: Stone Axe Grinding site

The surviving relics associated with Aboriginal campsites include seed grinding and axes sharpening grooves in rock slabs, cooking areas, and scatters containing various stone artefacts. Stone artefacts may be found as grave goods, especially axes, knives, seed grinders and other specialised tools. Stones were sometimes used to cover graves and traces of ochre may be found on the stones, which served as grave markers. In the New England area, stones maybe found as stone arrangements. They vary in form ranging from simple cairns to complex groupings of stone circles, single lines, corridors or other designs. They are sometimes found close to water or ochre sources. There is not a lot known about stone arrangements, possibly because Aboriginal people are reluctant to reveal their meaning. Tree falls can cause groups of rocks to resemble circles and stone arrangements made by non-Aboriginal people as survey or boundary markers can be confused with Aboriginal arrangements (James & Conyers 1995:53).

Stone is very durable and stone tools have the capacity to remain in sites long after wood, charcoal, bone and plant remains have disappeared (Wilson 1995). Modified stone is identified as an artefact if it has at least three of the following attributes:
1. positive or negative ringcrack
2. positive or negative bulb of applied force
3. eraillure scar in position beneath the platform
4. definite remnants of flake scars (dorsal scars and ridges)
5. fracture marks such as lines, concentric undulations and point of force (PFA) scarring

Artefacts found in sites are usually flakes, cores, retouched (resharpened) tools, flaked pieces (amorphous pieces that do not have the attributes of a flakes but are found in conjunction with them) and debitage (pieces that break off during the reduction process).

Flaked tools are made from isotropic raw materials, that is they have the same breaking properties in all directions. These materials include chert (flint and jasper), chalcedony (agate and opal), quartz, quartzite, petrified wood, silcrete, mudstone, tuff, argillite and hornfels. These materials are all high in silica. Stone tools made of anisotropic materials, those that do not flake well but fracture along bedding planes, were used for making axes, chisels, wedges and grindstones. These materials include tuff, shale, andesite, slate, granite, adamellite, amphibolite, sandstone, greywacke and some basalts (Wilson 1994).

Photo: Art site in rock Overhang

Armidale Express. Publications 29th August and 16th September 1857.

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