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Encounters. Indigenous contact and culture: a classroom resource

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi country

Birdsville, Queensland

Aboriginal communities operated complex trading systems. Wirrarri [Birdsville] in Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi country, for example, was an important centre for trading pituri, a stimulant obtained from a local plant. Explore how the Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi peoples reflect on these traditions today.

  • Map of Australia showing location of Birdsville, Queensland.
    Birdsville, Queensland
  • Birdsville, Queensland
    Setting the scene
  • A semicircular shaped woven bag of wool and twine, with patterns of red and blue.
    Bag with pituri
  • A bag woven from human hair, for the purpose of carrying pituri.
    Bag woven from human hair
  • Painting of five women kneeling on the ground in a desert landscape.
    Nanna’s Ready for Dancing


Can you match the text to the pictures?

What do you know about Birdsville?

More activities

Museums and collections 

Activity: Have a class discussion about the impact of museum collections and removing cultural objects from their place of origin, inspired by this quote from Wangkangurru man Robert Butler: 

I think pituri bags should not have been taken from this country … but we Aboriginal people had no rights in those days … The police here in Birdsville were terrible from what my grandmother told me. But we would not have these things at all if they didn’t take them, because we don’t make them anymore.

Nanna's Ready for Dancing painting

Activity: Take a look at the painting above and consider this quote by artist and Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi woman Joyce Crombie:

This is the story of my family and our lives in our country. Both my grandmothers were medicine women. They came out of the desert. They taught us about country and how to live on it and look after one another. Today, I work as a health officer looking after my people.

What do you think might be some of the similarities and differences between what Joyce does today and what her grandmothers did?

Aboriginal trade routes and campsites

Activity: Consider why the location of European roads and buildings mirrored the location of Aboriginal trade routes and campsites, reflecting on this quote by Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi man Don Rowlands:

When the whitefellas came they followed our trade routes. This is where the first roads were built, on these trade routes. And every time they built a homestead or a stockyard it’d be on an Aboriginal campsite.

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