Carving a connection through trees
Did you know there are messages and signs in the trees? Rebecca Mugridge met Kerry Neil and went on a discovery of scar trees – living, ancient relics of our past and an important part of local culture and heritage.
By Rebecca Mugridge
A scar tree is a remarkable, living piece of historic art. A tree marked by Aboriginal people and a rich part of our history in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Kerry Neil, Director of Goombuckar Creations, Co-Founder of Triballink and local Gubi Gubi/Kabi Kabi man is passionate about scar trees in our region.
“They mark special, special places such as springs and waterfalls and ceremonial grounds. So, when you see one, they really are important,” said Kerry.
“Scar trees have been a part of us, our people, for 1000’s of years, some of the trees are 400 -700 years old and that is a connection to that place that is 70O years old. And then you start seeing carvings on rocks that are 25,000 years old, it’s amazing the history we have in the area.”
Traditionally, scar trees, also known as carved trees were used as markers to indicate a place of significance like a water source or to help guide in a direction. The scar on the tree was carved out of the bark and the removed part was then used to make equipment.
The artefacts and incredible artwork on display at Goombuckar Gallery, in Kerry’s collections at QCCC Mapleton, where he teaches with Tribalink, are so impressive they immediately immerse you in fascination of our local history.
Amongst his artefacts are tools used to carve scar trees and an impressive collection of shields. As Kerry talks about each piece you really start to understand just how rich our local history is.
Scar trees are a historic part of the culture in the area, “They were used as signposting to mark the roads and trails and getting from place to place but also for shield making and canoe making, bowls, utensils and all kinds of stuff,” said Kerry.
The iconic trees, found across Australia, have a very strong presence in our Sunshine Coast Hinterland and importance to the area.
Jamie Hazelden, The Australian Bushman TV personality has seen some incredible scar trees across his travels and even has an impressive double one on his property in Mount Mellum.
Jamie is dedicated to bringing local culture into his work and features scar trees on one of his DVDs about the region, Exploring Hidden Secrets of the Sunshine Coast where Kerry guest stars and shows Jamie an impressive scar tree people can then go and find and visit in Mapleton.
“While some are important long story ones, others were for things like canoe making, especially up north. Many in our area were very important signposts, from the scout den in Landsborough to the Bunya Mountains walking path and they are all the way along the path,” he said.
QCCC owner and co-founder of Triballink Andrew Grant said, “We already think the area is remarkable, but the scar trees just confirm it. Scar trees mark places of great significance, beauty or importance.
“When you come across a scar tree it pays to stop and have a look around, because you know for centuries it has held importance.”
Through Triballink, young kids are learning about scar trees and much more, “They learn to value the cultural heritage and it is an exercise in reconciliation. We want kids understanding the importance of culture.”
While continuing traditions in Aboriginal culture can see whole new generations of scar trees being created, these ancient relics, many that even predate invasion/settlement will sadly, eventually all be lost.
Threats to scar trees include old age but also man-made land clearing, development and even being accidentally chopped down for firewood. Many people may not even be aware that they have one on their property and they can be accidentally removed when land clearing occurs.
Something even more devastating than the loss of one of these great trees by accident is also the potential loss of a special place, or artefacts that the tree was a signpost for.
Some experts estimate within as little as 100 years we will only see the more ancient scar trees preserved in museums.
Secretary and Director of Veteran Tree Group Australia, Jan Allen said, “Culturally, scarred trees are some of our most enduring features in our natural landscapes.
“Not only do they speak about the values and history of 60,000 years of human occupation, they also provide precious complex habitat structures needed by a multitude of organisms to complete their life cycles.”
Kerry wants people to learn more about these trees and look out for them as well.
“We need to showcase them, as a collective it is going to benefit our whole region,” he said.
Kerry’s knowledge and passion for scar trees is infectious and soon had me looking at older trees and forests in a whole new light. You may now find yourself keeping your eyes open for potential scar trees everywhere you go.
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