Teachers Kit

Background on Gummingurru

Gummingurru is located between the towns of Gowrie Junction and Meringandan, 15.5km North West of Toowoomba, Queensland (Thompson 2004). The traditional owners of Gummingurru are the Jarowair people. The site contains Aboriginal stone arrangements or totems, which are the visual remains of an important Aboriginal ceremonial site. The totems that remain include: bora rings, a turtle, a crested pigeon, an emu, a fish, a kangaroo, a snake and a bunya nut.

The Gummingurru site is recognised as being significant and rare because of the good condition the totems are in and also because of the unique location of the site which is away from the more common northerly and westerly localities of ceremonial totem arrangements (Ross 2007). Gummingurru has been described by the officer in charge of the Archaeology branch during the 1980s as a site that 'would rank extremely high being the largest and best preserved stone arrangement in south-east Queensland, where such relics are a rarity' (Thompson 2002:4).

Gummingurru was an important stopping place for Aboriginal clans from the south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales region (Annie Ross, pers. comm. 8th May 2007), as they travelled to the Bunya Mountains to celebrate the fruiting of the Bunya Trees (Araucaria bidwillii) (Thompson 2004). This occurred every three years and was an important Aboriginal cultural event enjoyed by as many as fifteen clans from all around the Bunya Mountains (Tindale 1974 in Thompson 2004:7). For young Aboriginal males travelling from the south-east Queensland region, Gummingurru served as an initiation site, where they were initiated into the 'rights of adulthood' (Brian Tobane, pers. comm., in Thompson 2002:10). This allowed the young men to participate in the men’s ceremonies that took place at the Bunya Mountains, since only initiated men were permitted to do so.

Due to the relocation of the local Aboriginal people from the Gummingurru area by the government in the 19th and 20th centuries (Ross 2007), a significant amount of information has been lost about the Aboriginal culture and tradition in relation to the Gummingurru site.  To continue the Aboriginal connection with the land, traditional owner, Brian Tobane is re-inventing the site and as a result is giving it a new layer of meaning (Ross 2007). The re-inventing of Gummingurru as an Aboriginal educational centre is a continuation of the Aboriginal practice that has been taking place at the site for centuries. In the words of Ross (2007:13), 'The site is understood among regional Aboriginal populations as having always been a place of identity-making, youth education and alliance formation. And in Indigenous terms it still is.  The only difference is that all these activities are being conducted in the 21st century and so have a 21st century look.'

The site is now used as a gateway for people to learn and understand Aboriginal culture through educational activities. This is why school educational kits, such as this one, have been designed for school children. Our Educational activity was to design an interpretational package for school children on the theme of Aboriginal connection with the broader landscape and also its smaller elements. We hope this package is of practical value for our targeted school group and provides them with a fun learning tool which enables them to develop an understanding about a fascinating culture which deserves respect from all Australians.

Gummingurru Educational Kit for Grades 4-5

Our project, titled ‘Gummingurru: Part of Something Bigger’, illustrates to students the theme of social, cultural and historical connection that Gummingurru has with other culturally significant places in the broader landscape, as well as the deep relationship Aboriginal people have formed with the natural environment over thousands of years.  We do this by placing the location of Gummingurru in the larger landscape so as to cultivate an understanding that Gummingurru is only one of many special places to the Aboriginal people of this area.  Through the use of the site’s totems, we also demonstrate the Aboriginal connection to the natural environment by explaining to the students the yuri system, in particular, the aspect of this system that relates to the way in which individual Aboriginal people collectively cared for the land.

The yuri system requires plants or animals to be assigned to a particular Aboriginal person.  Once assigned a species, that person is then made responsible for that species and its environment (Annie Ross, pers. comm. 6th March 2007).  They also become aware that their own well-being is inextricably linked with the well-being of their totemic species as well as the overall well-being of the country (Bird Rose 1996).  Throughout a persons lifetime they may accumulate a number of different species, so eventually within an Aboriginal community all knowledge of flora and fauna is covered (Annie Ross, pers. comm. 6th March 2007).  Male initiation ceremonies at Gummingurru are thought to be one such occasion where a yuri were assigned to a young man (Adrian Beattie, pers. comm. in Thompson 2004:8).  The stone/totem arrangements at the Gummingurru site are assumed by some people to represent some south-east Queensland species of the yuri system (Bruce Rigsby, pers. comm. 1999, in Ross 2007:7)

As a part of this package the school children have a PowerPoint presentation with accompanying worksheets for use in the classroom prior to their visit to Gummingurru.  Once at Gummingurru, there is a board game for the students to play which continues on with the theme.  All activities satisfy a range of the student’s core learning outcomes from the teaching syllabus for grades 4 -5 (mostly from the level 3 criteria), 'Studies of Society and Environment – Years 1 to 10 Sourcebook Guidelines' (The Office of the Queensland School Curriculum Council, 2001).  The relevant learning outcomes from the syllabus for each activity are present in Table 1.

Activities - 'Gummingurru: Part of Something Bigger'

PowerPoint presentation

This presentation has been designed as a self-guiding student activity which contains the written word and animated pictures.  Accompanying this activity are six simple worksheet activities for the children to do. These will enable the students to apply the knowledge that they gain from the presentation. These are to be printed out and can either be completed during or after the PowerPoint presentation.  The average student should complete the presentation and worksheets 1 to 4 in no more than 30 minutes.

In brief, the PowerPoint presentation is told through the cartoon character of Brian Tobane:

  • Firstly Brian explains to the students how Gummingurru is a special place that is visited by some Aboriginal clans on their journey to the Bunya Festival at the Bunya Mountains. From this message the students will gain an understanding of how Gummingurru is connected with other special natural places in the landscape.
  • Brian then explains that this idea of things being connected in the landscape also applies between Aboriginal people and nature.  And that because of their great dependency on nature or "country", Aboriginal people took great care of it.
  • He then introduces the yuri system and gives a simple example of how it works.
  • This leads into the giving of yuris to people at initiation ceremonies, like those that took place at Gummingurru.
  • Brian then shows some photos of Gummingurru, including a couple of the rock formations, and explains that these shapes are evidence of ceremonies, and that these plants and animals could be yuris.

From the presentation, it is expected the students will gain the Aboriginal culture's perspective on how to care for the environment. It is hoped that the students will understand that to look after the health of the larger ecosystem, all the smaller, separate parts of the system are just as important to keep healthy because everything in nature is connected. Students should also develop an understanding and appreciation of this aspect of Aboriginal culture and realise that just as the Aboriginal culture has depended on nature for tens of thousands of years, humans today continue to do the same, and that a very effective, time-tested way of looking after nature (and ourselves!) is for all of us to cultivate a deep, personal relationship with it.


The presentation is located in the file 'PowerPoint presentation' on the accompanying CD and will automatically open as a slideshow.  To progress through the slideshow, click the left mouse button or press the Enter or Page Down keys on the keyboard.  It is important that the viewer only does this when the circle in the top right-hand corner of the screen is green.  When the circle is red, it indicates that there are automated features which work by themselves.  To go back to the previous screen/action, either scroll up using the mouse scroll, right-click the mouse and select ‘Previous’, or press the Page Up key.


Teacher's Worksheet (PDF 415 kB)

As mentioned the worksheets can be completed by the student during or after the PowerPoint presentation.  Worksheets 5 and 6 can be left until after the Gummingurru visit if this is more appropriate.  The worksheets for the teachers (with the answers) are supplied in a separate file on the accompanying CD along with the student’s copies (without the answers).  The students' copies are able to be printed out on single A4 sheets in black and white.

Worksheet 1 – 'Different Environments'

Worksheet 1 (PDF 138 kB) 

In this activity students are asked to draw the things that are important to the creation of their town or city (their environment).  It is expected that students will draw things that are representative of their 21st century environment.  From the text at the bottom of their worksheet and from what they were shown in the presentation it is hoped that the students will see that the things which create their environment also create their culture and who they are as individuals.

As stated in the PowerPoint this concept very much applies to the Australian Aboriginal culture.  Over tens of thousands of years the Aboriginal culture has had a foundation of nature as its environment, this means that the Aboriginal culture was entirely influenced by nature.  Aboriginal Culture in the 21st century still retains these vital natural elements.  This is an important concept because it will enable the students to gain an understanding of Aboriginal culture and how it differs to other cultures, in particular Western culture.

Worksheet 2 – 'Yuris'

Worksheet 2 (PDF 212 kB)

Students are asked to draw lines from each person to their corresponding yuri plant or animal in the landscape.  This is a simple activity which has been developed to compliment relevant slides in the PowerPoint presentation.  It aims to get the students visually aware of an Aboriginal person in their natural environment.

Worksheet 3 – 'Ceremonies'

Worksheet 3 (PDF 45 kB)

Gummingurru is an Aboriginal ceremonial site. For the students to develop an understanding of the meaning of the word ‘ceremony’ a crossword has been created.  This crossword is made up of ceremonies which the students are likely to be familiar with and also aspects of the ceremonies at Gummingurru and the Bunya Mountains which were spoken about in the PowerPoint presentation.

To do the crossword students are asked questions, all the answers are supplied for them. When they have the correct answers for the questions they can fill in the corresponding blocks in the crossword (e.g. 1. across = wedding; 4. down = females).

Worksheet 4 – 'Behaviour at the site'

Worksheet 4 (PDF 41 kB)

At the end of the PowerPoint presentation the students are advised on the appropriate behaviour that is expected of them when they go to Gummingurru.  Worksheet 4 re-emphasises some of these points by asking the students questions which they are to respond to by circling the correct answer.

Worksheet 5 – 'Some things to think about'

Worksheet 5 (PDF 44 kB)

This activity is for students to do once they have finished viewing the PowerPoint presentation. It is a 'fill-in-the-word' activity that involves the students reading the story and placing the appropriate words, which are supplied, into the blank spaces.  The story simply talks about how Aboriginal culture cares for nature and how modern society has not been caring for nature.  

This theme, although it has not been directly discussed in the PowerPoint presentation, is an underlying theme of the Aboriginal peoples close connection with the country.  This activity makes relevant the importance of caring for nature in our present day lives.  At the end of the story is a question for the student ‘What do you think?’ This can be merely a self-contemplating question for the students, or the teacher can develop another activity from it.

Worksheet 6 – 'Guess the grid shapes'

Worksheet 6 (PDF 37 kB)

This is a time-consuming but fun activity for the students to do.  It can be done before they visit they Gummingurru or after, the timing is up to the discretion of the teacher.  The students are asked to colour in the corresponding squares from the co-ordinates supplied.  The shapes that will appear before the students on the page will take on the unconventional forms of animals and plants that the students will be or have been faced with at the site when looking at the stone arrangements.  This activity will encourage the students to see pictures of animals and plants in a way that is a bit more difficult to recognise than line drawings.

Board game

Board Game (PDF 601kB)

The board game is based on the journey that south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales Aboriginal people would have made to get to the Bunya Festival at the Bunya Mountains. This journey involves the male players stopping at Gummingurru for the male initiation ceremony and the female players stopping at the Secret Women's Site.  At both of these sites the players receive a yuri (and are told to care for it and its environment), a practice which is thought to have taken place during the Gummingurru initiation ceremony (Adrian Beattie, pers. comm. in Thompson 2004:8).  When the students reach the Bunya Mountains (the finish), they can read a short description of the sorts of activities that the male and female Aboriginal people would have undertaken in preparation for the Bunya Festival.

Up to five players can play the board game at one time.  The game involves throwing a die and moving the chosen playing piece the number of squares indicated on the die. Throughout the journey, players run the chance of landing on spaces that direct them to either miss a turn, go back to the start or move forward.  Each of these instructions relates to a situation which the Aboriginal people, who walked this journey, may have faced.  The main aim of the game is to simply experience the journey to the Bunya Mountains; winning is secondary.