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Curatorial field trip to Ingham

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Curatorial field trip to Ingham

20 Aug 2014

A woven cane basket.
One of two lawyer cane baskets from Muralambeen station, Ingham, and now part of the National Museum’s collection. Photo: George Serras.

By Lee Burgess

National Museum curators Andy Greenslade and Lee Burgess travelled to Ingham, north Queensland to meet with members of two prominent family groups earlier this year.

The Bosworth and the Cassady families have strong historical connections with two beautiful cane baskets in the Museum's National Historical Collection. The baskets were acquired in 2006 and came from a pastoral property called Muralambeen station, just outside Ingham. The baskets are made of lawyer cane, a type of climbing palm.

Muralambeen and Mungalla stations

Muralambeen was established in 1882 by Irish immigrant Christopher Allingham, who ventured north from New South Wales, in search of good grazing lands to fatten his cattle. Today, descendants of Christopher Allingham still live on and manage the property, caring for the old homestead and managing the family business – growing sugar cane. The cane baskets were collected by the family from workers on the property, probably in the early 1900s. 

Nearby is Mungalla station, which Irish immigrant James Cassady established in 1882. He was buried on Mungalla in 1902. Back in their day, both pastoral properties stocked cattle and employed Aboriginal people and Pacific Island people to clear the land and tend to the animals. The workers lived in huts provided by the white settlers but also built their own shelters made from plant materials sourced from the local bush. Signs of the old camps can still be found on both properties in the form of middens, stone tools, old fireplaces, gravesites and even groves of mango trees now more than 80 or 90 years old.

Mungalla to Canberra

Today, Mungalla station is owned and operated by local Nywaigi peoples – the traditional peoples of the Ingham district. Nywaigi manager Jacob Cassady is also a descendant of Irish immigrant James Cassady. Earlier this year, Jacob and his family travelled to Canberra to visit the National Museum. They were 'blown away' by what they saw at the Museum. Not only did they see the lawyer cane baskets, they saw other significant cultural artefacts such as boomerangs, shields and clubs from their traditional country. I hope that one day more members of the Ingham community can visit the National Museum and see these incredible and beautiful objects from their district.

Two men standing outside a building.
Nywaigi men Jacob Cassady (left) and his son Buddy Cassady at the Mungalla homestead, which is next door to the Muralambeen property. Photo: Lee Burgess.
A man and women stands in front of display shelves stacked with shields and boomerangs.
Jacob Cassady and wife Joanne in the Open Collections area of the First Australians gallery at the National Museum in Canberra. The display includes shields and boomerangs from their traditional country around Ingham. Photo: Lee Burgess.
A close up of a hand holding four round dark pieces of fruit.
Fruit from the Burdekin plum tree (Pleiogynium timorense). These trees are dotted about Mungalla station. Photo: Lee Burgess.
A hand holding a round green coloured piece of fruit.
Black sapote, or chocolate pudding fruit (Diospyros nigra), one of several tropical fruits introduced to Mungalla. Photo: Lee Burgess.
A large leafy tree.
Seeds from this pandanus tree are being used to revegetate Mungalla station. Both the Burdekin plum and pandanus trees are being propagated in a plant nursery on the property. Photo: Lee Burgess.
Two cows standing on a road.
A calf and its mother calmly watch us approach in our car. The calf barely moved off the road! Photo: Lee Burgess.

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