Beginnings

The meeting place of two rivers was known by the local indigenous population as Quinbean, which is the name of our Historical Journal.

The traditional owners, the Ngambri, in ancestral times:

Before white man’s arrival there were a thousand or more Ngambri and Ngurnal people living in family groups across their traditional lands. They were described as a fine, sturdy and athletic race, men and women well proportioned and finely finished…

Their life was nomadic as the daily work of producing food took them across their lands according to the season and the weather. They sheltered for brief times under temporary gunyahs and for longer periods in more substantial bark and timber huts and in the sheltered areas provided by huge rock formations.

To hunt and fight a Ngambri man prepared an arsenal of equipment. He generally owned spears of hard wood, boomerangs, a parrying shield, a nulla and a woomera to throw his spears. Tools that the Ngambri used included stone scrapers, cutting blades, axes and grindstones.

Nets were woven from the flax extracted from the pimelia bush. Rugs and cloaks were sewn from the tanned skins of kangaroos and possums using fine animal sinews as thread.

The Ngambri diet was high in protein from animal and reptile meat and fish. Carbohydrates came from tuberous plants including the yam daisy (microseris lanceolata), bulrush (typha orientalis) and convolvulus. The fruits of the native raspberry (rubus parvifolius) the apple berry (billardiera scandens) and the native cherry (exocarpos cupressiform) were high in fibre and sweet. Honey was a sweet treat.

Each year the arrival of the bogong moth in caves in the mountains gave the Ngambri a feast and cause for celebration. Neighbouring clans would gather with the Ngambri in the mountains to gather the moths. The Yuriarra moth cooking stone was the base camp for the annual ceremonial gathering and eating of the highly nutritious bogong. The ceremony brought together groups of Aboriginal people to hunt and gather, and to renew their relationships. Friends and foes alike would put aside their differences. As the traditional custodians of the Bogong Mountains, the Ngambri and their kin group, the Ngurmal, hosted the ceremony. Women always took charge of the base camp and prepared the moths. (Matilda House)

Marriages could be arranged between members of friendly clans, or by the theft of a woman from a less friendly group. A marriage was generally arranged by parents and a child could be promised at a very early age. Girls were often promised to older men, with the advantage of protecting the girl from young men and providing for the man in his old age. Sometimes a man would take two wives but their families were generally only two or three children.

Tidbinbilla was a site for initiation rites. Women were excluded from the ceremony. A corroboree followed with women providing the beat for the dancers on taut animal skins.

Burial places were treated with great respect and were avoided in the course of daily life. The Ngambri interred kin with ceremony, sometimes using caves, sometimes logs and sometimes in a seated position underground.Young men were initiated at puberty and friendly neighbours were invited to participate.

The Ngambri learned from their trading partners of the arrival of white men who wanted their land and their women. In 1820 when white men arrived on horse back, the Ngambri moved into the hills to watch….

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