Kirrenderri exhibition at Cairns Museum tile 15 March to 22 June

Kirrenderri, Heart of the Channel Country

15 MARCH – 22 june 2024

aerial view of the Mithaka Stone Arrangement with Kirrenderri exhibition dates, 15 march to 22 June 2024
Featured image: A newly rediscovered ancient giant “Scorpious Stone Arrangement” in the remote desert of far western QLD, is offering new clues about the Mithaka Indigenous history for Associate Prof of Archaeology Michael Westaway along with colleague Dr Kelsey Lowe a Geo Archaeologist, on Mithaka lands north of Birdsville. The research team are completing a geo physical survey of site in an attempt to help understand the purpose of the secret stone structures. Photographed by Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum in collaboration with Mithaka people of Channel Country present Kirrenderri, a visually striking and narrative rich exhibition chronicling extraordinary stories from one of the most remote locations at the very heart of Australia. Channel Country is renowned as an intersection for Aboriginal trade networks that connect the continent. Revelations of the age and scale of sites in this landscape are evocative and lead to a reimagining of the deep history of this country.

The exhibition highlights stories from Indigenous perspectives and is comprised of rarely seen collection artefacts, historic and contemporary photographs, letters, maps, archaeological discoveries, and rare interviews exploring the cultural and aesthetic riches of the Mithaka region of Channel Country.

A collage of two historical images with a mustering camp, group of men from the Gorringe family.
1. A mustering camp, from Alice Duncan-Kemp's first book Our Sandhill Country, 1933. Photograph courtesy H. Spring. 2. Arrabury stockmen c.1930s. Jack Moore (second from left), William H. Gorringe (centre), Harry Gorringe (first right), & others. Courtesy Gorringe Family Archives.
Alice Duncan Kemp on a typewriter surrounded by books
Alice Duncan Kemp

 In June 2019, the Mithaka people of South Western Queensland met with collaborators in Toowoomba to create a substantial cultural mapping project. At the meeting, distinguished researchers from the Australian National University, University of Queensland, the Alice Duncan Kemp family, and University of Queensland Anthropology Museum, discussed how best to conserve this unique environmental and cultural heritage.

This rich resource of knowledge is presented in Kirrenderri – Heart of the Channel Country alongside objects donated by author Alice Duncan-Kemp (1901-1988).

Her contributions including books, letters, her personal typewriter and a significant collection of artefacts from the Duncan Kemp family collection compliment the cutting-edge archaeological discoveries and poignant contemporary Aboriginal stories, told by the Mithaka people.

The Directors of Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation
Mithaka Aboriginal Corp Directors

Audiences are invited to explore Country through photographs and videos of 10 Mile quarry, the Debney Peace Site, and Mooraberrie station. These sites of significance underscore historic milestones and the resilience of relationships forged on Channel Country from the late 1890s to the present between Aboriginal and pioneering families, with continuing ties to Country, the cattle industry, and supporting industries. Duncan Kemp, whose family owned and ran Mooraberrie cattle station on Channel Country, wrote about these landscapes during her time on Mooraberrie in her books – Our Sandhill Country (1933), Where Strange Paths Go Down (1952), Our Channel Country (1961), Where Strange Gods Call (1968), and People of the Grey Wind (c1999).

The Debney Peace site, or Mulkamukana, a fascinating, yet rarely discussed site of reconciliation pre-1900, reveals the story of significant negotiations between local Indigenous people and pastoralists. In 1889, a large gathering of several hundred Aboriginal people from the Georgina, the Diamantina, the Cooper, and surrounding region, resulted in substantial negotiations which brought an end to local level conflict between Native Police, who were present at the behest of the settlers, and local Indigenous people.

 Archaeological artefacts from several key quarry sites reveal important stories from the past, including what now appears to be the largest known Aboriginal quarry in the world. With over 25,000 individual quarry pits documented in 3D with fixed wing drones, revealing the dramatic scale of this site. The inclusion of these artefacts and scientific data provides fascinating learning opportunities for educational programming and resources, available for school and community group bookings.

a collage of three historical images in the droving stockyard with horses and cattle in Mithaka, and Alice Duncan on a horse.
Droving stockyard and Alice

Publication contributors: Michael Aird, Peter Hiscock, Tracey Hough, Shawnee Gorringe, Joshua Gorringe, Michael C. Westaway, Tom Griffiths, Jane Willcock, Mandana Mapar, Richard Martin, Geoff Ginn, Kelsey Lowe, Doug Williams, Ian Andrews, Jen Silcock, Andrew Fairbairn, Nathan Wright, Natalie Franklin, Phillip Habgood, Ray Kerkhove, Duncan Keenan-Jones, Tiina Manne and Julien Louys.

Learn more about Kirrenderri