Early in 1998 a garage sale at the Mt. St. Bernard College fete in
Herberton, Far North Queensland, led to the scavenging of hidden junk.
While searching for old door and window frames beneath the three quarters
of a century old school buildings five aboriginal axeheads were found in a
pile of rocks. Their origins were a mystery but due to some simple
investigation methods we managed to gather a fair idea about their origins
When we first took on this project we approached it from a scientific
point of view. We measured them, took sketches, identified the type of
rock and looked at them under a microscope.
As the project went on, the cultural side of them became more and more
important. We realised that these axeheads were necessary and of critical
economic resources just two hundred years ago. We discovered that stone
tool production was a precise and refined, highly technical skill using
rare and unique materials. Yidinji elder Nungbana put the project into
perspective and restored an axe to functional condition using traditional
methods shown to him by his grandfather as he lived as a child in the bush
of the Atherton Tablelands.
The main thing we discovered is that scientific investigation has much
less value than first hand knowledge when it comes to axeheads.
Our plan is to use the photos and data we have collected, together with
plaster casts of the axeheads for a public display that will travel around
the schools, libraries and shire offices of Far North Queenland. Display
materials and photos were donated to the permanent collection of
Irvinebank Museum in 2001.
Nungbana (George Davis) -Yidinji elder
Courtney Bethel, Ryan Burnell, Rachel Cameron,
Samantha Chapman, William Cockrell,Cassie Gabiola,
Daniel Hogan, Vanessa Lee Cheu, Nicole Mcphee,
Noel Missingham, Guy Moulang Alesha Pearson,
in association with the Tablelands Reconciliation Group
Mt. St. Bernard College
the Cairns Catholic Education Office
display materials and pbotographs through an Education Grant from BP Amoco
website courtesy Earth Science Australia