The Past is Alive

Studies of Society & Environment

Stage 5 - Teacher’s Guide

rock circle


This resource is an initiative of The University of Queensland Cultural Heritage course LPWM2008 and has been developed by Leanne Sturtevant, Jacob Betros and Bartholomew King in partnership with Dr. Annie Ross and Traditional custodian Mr. Brian Tobane (Jarowair).

'The Past is Alive' is an education resource that provides a range of activities for achieving Stage 5 learning outcomes in the Queensland Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) K-12 syllabus. This resource will aid students in the accomplishment of many of the SOSE objectives set by the Queensland School Curriculum Council, especially the component of the SOSE syllabus that is based on living Aboriginal heritage, by facilitating students' understanding of living Aboriginal heritage at the Gummingurru site.


Cultural heritage is an important part of human history. Defining and interpreting the uses of an area by its previous inhabitants allows the values of the place to continue into today’s culture. The Gummingurru site is a perfect example of defining and interpreting a site more than 100 years after its stories were covered by grass, making them hidden. Brian Tobane is an Aboriginal man who should have been brought to this sacred site for initiation, however his clan was moved away and taken to Palm Island in the 1950s. Now that he has returned to the site that his ancestors frequented, he is working on the land rediscovering the site’s history in its stone arrangements. Brian Tobane is in charge of maintaining the site and is constantly working on the land, finding new outlines of animals and the cutting rings where young males were initiated into adulthood. However, the history of the site is not just that of Aboriginal people, but of everybody. Europeans have had a major influence over the site and its traditional uses by the people travelling to the Bunya Mountains. The land has been impacted by its agricultural use over the past 100 years, but the site is still distinguishable as an Aboriginal place. Due to the site not being marked, European settlers were not aware that the site was so significant to Aboriginal people from the area. The settlers, not seeing the site as a culturally significant site, took some rocks and moved them from their positions and used the rocks to support fence posts (Brian Tobane, pers. comm., 2008).

History of Gummingurru

The site at Gummingurru was set aside in the past to be visited by Aboriginal males who had reached a certain age and were due to be initiated into manhood and receive their new set of 'yurees', or totems. This gave the young men the right to visit the site with the elders and participate in the male activities at Gummingurru, and later at the Bunya Mountains. The women and uninitiated children were not permitted onto the site and were to stay well away from the area. They had their own site a few kilometres away at Highfields where they performed their own ceremonies.

Gummingurru was a significant site to the Aboriginal people who met there every three years before continuing to the Bunya Nut festival at the Bunya Mountains to the north (Ross 2008). It was used as a site for initiation of the young males into adulthood; this is where they received their scars which symbolised their entry into adulthood. This particular site is the most easterly stone arrangement site associated with Bora grounds in Australia (Thompson 2004). It is sacred to the Barrunggam, Jarowair and Wakka Wakka people. As well as initiation by scars, young males were taught about socialisation, preparing them for the Bunya Nut festivals. Before these festivals people from all around south eastern Queensland and north eastern New South Wales would come together and meet at Gummingurru to initiate young males and teach them about life and their responsibilities from there on. It has been estimated by Tindale (1974) that at least 15 different groups of Aboriginal people visited the area on the way to the Bunya Mountains every three years.  Gummingurru is only one of many Bora sites that were used by the Aboriginal peoples of south eastern Australia. It is very significant to the men who were initiated at the site and to all the men of this region (Bowdler 2005).  Aboriginal people all over Australia are claiming back their land; they are basing their claims on their connection to the land and the fact that these the areas are sacred to their history.

Gummingurru is located on the Darling Downs about half an hour (25km) north west of Toowoomba roughly 6 kilometres south of Meringandan in Queensland (Thompson 2004). The stone arrangements that are clearly seen at the site are what make it so significant as a cultural heritage artefact and provide an insight into the history of the Aboriginal people in south east Queensland.

Living Heritage

Gummingurru is receiving visitors of all ages from all over south eastern Queensland.  these visitors are coming to learn and discover the history of the area. The Condamine Alliance, along with other groups involved in the area, have constructed a learning centre for the site to further help with the teaching of the next generation about what once went on at this site and in Aboriginal culture. With the involvement of young groups and teaching them about the past and the traditional uses of the land, it is helping to bridge the gap between Western and Aboriginal Australians. The artefacts from the site are continuing to be used as a means of learning more about what is involved in Aboriginal culture. With Brian Tobane’s education of people about the site and helping to create new links between Australians from all walks of life, the site is living on and becoming part of everyone’s cultural heritage. Interpretation of the historical site adds meaning to culturally significant sites, however without interpretation the real significance of a place's heritage may remain obscure (Knudson et al. 1995).



This resource is intended for teachers of students in Years 6 to 7 working towards Stage 5 outcomes in the Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) K-12 syllabus. The activities included in this resource assist students to achieve the key concepts of cultural diversity, cultural perceptions, belonging, cultural change and construction of identities. These key learning processes comprise the five core learning outcomes of the SOSE strand; investigating, creating, participating, communicating and reflecting (Queensland School Curriculum Council 2001).

This resource has taken into consideration the Flesh Kincaid Grade Level, which assigns readability based on the average number of syllables per  word and the average number of words per sentence (Beck 1998). This resource obtains a score of 7.0, indicating it is ideal for a seventh grade level. Flesh Reading Ease measures the readability, based on scores ranging from 0 to 100. Ideal writing averages from 60 to 70. The Flesh Reading Ease of this resource measures 66.1 suggesting its stage 5 student audiences will clearly understand it (Ham 1992).

The Resource

This resource is titled 'The Past is Alive'. It is a teachers' kit which provides a range of suggestions for achieving Stage 5 learning outcomes relevant to students who visit the Gummingurru site. The resource comprises teaching and learning activities and a range of supporting materials including a PowerPoint presentation, an interactive computer learning game and worksheets. The activities are all designed to be completed at the Gummingurru site.

The interpretive materials of this resource are based on the principles of good interpretation as outlined by Ham (1992). The materials have been developed to be:

  • Entertaining: interactive computer games and worksheets have been developed to be engaging to students of grades 6 and 7 (targeted audience).
  • Relevant: theme and activities of this resource are built to support learning about the Gummingurru site and are applicable to the learning objectives of the Queensland School Curriculum Council.
  • Organised: the resource is organised in a logical order, a PowerPoint presentation depicts information required to complete activities.
  • Thematic: the theme 'The Past is Alive' has been developed to convey the topic Living Heritage presented at Gummingurru.


PowerPoint Presentation

This presentation has been compiled to be shown to the students before they visit Gummingurru. The presentation welcomes the students to the area, and briefly explains what they will see. This is done by providing a brief history of the site. Following this is an introduction to the yuris, or totems, represented by the stone arrangements. This aids in the explanation of what living history is, and how it is represented through Gummingurru. The aim of the presentation is to prepare the students for the excursion and provide them with the knowledge they will require to complete the four activities provided on the CD.

To begin the PowerPoint presentation, simply double click on 'Gummingurru – The Past is Alive.pps' located in the PowerPoint Presentation folder on the CD. In order for this presentation to run, Microsoft PowerPoint is required. If you wish to move this file onto a computer, the corresponding files located in the same folder must also be moved, as they provide the music heard during the presentation. Once the show has begun, simply click the 'continue' icon on the bottom right of screen to continue to the next slide, or click the 'exit' icon to exit the presentation at any stage.

Computer Game

This computer game is based on the stone arrangements located at Gummingurru. The first screen is a general introduction to Gummingurru, and the second contains instructions on how to play the game. The game comprises four puzzles. Students must drag stones from the right side of the screen onto their corresponding silhouettes. Once all stones have successfully been placed into their correct positions, the student will be prompted to answer what the arrangement represents. They will be given a choice of four yuris, however only one is correct. Each yuri the student correctly finishes is located at the Gummingurru site. A correct answer will allow the student to continue on to the next puzzle.

Although this game may appear juvenile to some students, it is hoped that they will understand the meaning behind the game. The game provides students with the opportunity to 'build' yuris out of stones themselves. By building yuris they will understand how the opportunity exists for heritage to be rejuvenated, and how something that happened many years ago still has meaning today. This presents students with a better knowledge of what living heritage is and how it is represented at Gummingurru.

This game is provided on the CD, and needs a flash programme such as Macromedia Flash Player to run. This programme can be downloaded from:

Word Find

For students to understand how Gummingurru represents living heritage, they must understand the significance of the site. This word find tests the students' general knowledge of the site, asking them questions which range from where Gummingurru is located, to who the traditional owners are.

The words that are hidden in the grid have not been given; rather the students must figure out the words from clues and hints that have been provided. If the student correctly works out all the words, and finds them successfully in the grid, then a secret message will appear from the letters that do not appear in any words. 'Gummingurru' is the hidden word, and when successfully found, will show students how the site incorporates the significant aspects of the site represented by the 12 words. Completing this word find will aid the students' understanding of the significance of Gummingurru, enabling them to understand why it is pivotal that the heritage of the site lives on.

Both the students' worksheet and the teachers' worksheet (with answers) are provided on the CD. Microsoft Word is required to read the files, and can be printed using the programme.

Living Heritage

By now students should have a fundamental knowledge of what living heritage is. Once they have completed their walk through Gummingurru, they should be able to associate how the site is living heritage to Indigenous people. This worksheet is aimed to make students think laterally about what living heritage of their own may be.

Students are asked to think of some examples of living heritage in their own local landscape. By understanding how living heritage is a part of their own lives, students will gain a wider respect for the site and understand its importance as Aboriginal heritage. They may notice also that Aboriginal heritage is very much more a natural value, whereas theirs is more a built value.

Both the students' worksheet and the teachers' worksheet (with answers) are provided on the CD. Microsoft Word is required to read the files, and can be printed using the programme.

PowerPoint Quiz

This quiz brings together everything the student should have learnt from the PowerPoint presentation, and by visiting the Gummingurru site. The questions in the quiz are short, however they cover the most important aspects of the site and how it portrays living heritage. This presentation can be used in a class atmosphere, and allows the chance for student collaboration.

This quiz is provided on the CD. Microsoft PowerPoint is required to read to run the quiz. Teachers can find answers on the corresponding Microsoft Word Document.

Stage 5 Studies to Society and Environment Syllabus


'The Past is Alive' – Activity Objectives and Learning Outcomes

PowerPoint Presentation

Wordfind Worksheet

Computer Game

Relevant Core Learning Outcomes (Queensland School Curriculum Council 2001)

CI 5.1 maintenance revival.

C1 5.1
practices and beliefs that illustrate roles, rights and responsibilities of individuals.

C1 5.3 appreciate manner in which groups satisfy needs.

CI 5.5 similarity and difference in cultural representations.

CI 5.4 grouping based on age or interests.

CI 5.1 land, sea & water connections as central to cultural identity.

C1 5.3 material aspects of culture (artefacts).

C1 5.3 identification with values, signs and symbols associated with group membership.

Activity Objectives and Relevance to Syllabus

The PowerPoint provides students with knowledge they will require to complete activities, and introduces the theme 'The Past is Alive'. The power point explains the ‘revival’ of Gummingurru and its significance today and in the past.

Students can:

  • develop and focus on topic and use the information in the PowerPoint to provide background knowledge about the site.

The Wordfind enables students to understand how Gummingurru represents living heritage and why it is important that the past remain 'alive'. Students identify common cultural representations.

Students can:

  • synthesise information and draw conclusions

The computer game helps students grasp an understanding of signs and symbols associated with individuals and cultural identities. Students are introduced to yuris (totems) and learn material aspects of culture.

Students can:

  • gather and sort information
  • analyse information and consider evidence and perspectives inherent in it


'The Past is Alive' – Activity Objectives and Learning Outcomes (continued)

Living Heritage Worksheet

PowerPoint Quiz

Relevant Core Learning Outcomes (Queensland School Curriculum Council 2001)

CI 5.2 relationships between social perceptions and the acceptance of certain groups as community members.

C1 5.3 extent to which cultural heritage is valued by individuals within the culture.

CI 5.5 similarity and difference in cultural representations.

CI 5.4
grouping based on age or interests.

Activity Objectives and Relevance to Syllabus

This worksheet aims to help students recognise living heritage in their own lives. Answers should reflect an understanding of social communities and their relationship to Gummingurru as a living heritage site.

Students can:

  • identify an issue connected with a community’s perceptions of cultural groups.
  • analyse information and consider evidence and perspectives inherent in it.

The PowerPoint quiz aims to reinforce the theme 'The Past is Alive'. Students should understand the importance of living heritage and 'maintenance revival'. Questions in the quiz reinforce understanding.

Students can:

  • participate in a cooperative process (with peer groups)
  • Cooperatively present findings or conclusions in an oral/multimedia format
  • express and reflect findings.

Visiting Gummingurru

Teacher Preparation

For thousands of years Gummingurru has been a significant Aboriginal initiation site, originally only initiated men were allowed onto the site. Today traditional custodians ahve given their permission for students of all ages and genders to visit the site (Brain Tobane, Traditional Custodian, pers. comm., 12 April 2008). Teachers are advised that some students may require parental permission to enter the site as a result of personal/cultural beliefs. Teachers should also consider the following general preparation prior to the visit:

  • Student's medical conditions.
  • Student clothing (it is recommended that students wear long pants, closed shoes, a hat and sunscreen).
  • Food and drink (it is advised students bring a packed lunch).

Student Behaviour

It is essential that students respect the site and behave appropriately. Teachers must ensure that students:

  • Do not pick up or move any stones
  • Always respect the Aboriginal culture as well as speakers, guides and any other member of the Gummingurru community
  • Ask before taking a photo of the site or of an Aboriginal person, as the site is very sacred to Aboriginal people
  • Do not damage the site or the Visitors Centre in anyway. This includes taking your rubbish with you and placing it appropriately into a bin
  • Do not touch any animal or plant you come across. The landscape is also rough, so due care must be taken while walking through the site.

Further Information

Teachers can access further information relevant to Gummingurru at the following websites.
The Condamine Alliance website provides information on the work undertaken by the Condamine Alliance to protect and preserve the arealearning centre.

The following document is an excellent source of information for Aboriginal Stone Arrangements throughout Australia:

The following website provides basic background information about the Jarowair people:


This resource is an initiative of The University of Queensland, Cultural Heritage LPWM2008 course and has been written and developed by Jacob Betros, Leanne Sturtevant and Bartholomew King. The authors would like to acknowledge Jacky Cribb for her advice using the UQ Gatton Library database to locate research material, in particular lesson plans.

For feedback regarding the assignment topic and guidance of the assignment the authors acknowledge:

  • Dr. Annie Ross: School of Integrative Systems, University of Queensland Gatton.
  • In addition the authors acknowledge traditional custodian Brian Tobane for his information, provided on 12 April 2008.