Three generations of the Mabo family applauded as the University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Gumbi Gumbi Gardens were officially declared open Tuesday, October 8th.
Bonita Mabo, wife of late Indigenous land rights activist Eddie Mabo, her daughter and granddaughters joined community and business leaders, including many Aboriginal elders, for the ceremony at USQ Toowoomba.
The official opening included a rock laying and smoking ceremony and performances from internationally renowned novelist and poet, Herb Wharton; country music artists Roger Knox and Troy Cassar-Daley; and the Kooma Didgeri Dance Troupe.
“It was really great to be here to enjoy this moment with the University,” Mrs Mabo said. “To see something like the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens is wonderful and I think this kind of thing is needed at all universities. It’s not just something for Indigenous people to enjoy, but for everyone to enjoy together.”
The Gardens cover approximately 2.2 hectares of land adjacent to the northern side of the University main entrance and features extensive plantings of Indigenous flora used by the local Aboriginal communities. It also includes a number of small and large teaching spaces infused into the overall character of the development.USQ Vice-Chancellor
Professor Jan Thomas said it was an honour to have three generations of the Mabo family at the official opening of the Gardens.
“We’re really thrilled to have Mrs Mabo’s support and indeed some of the artworks in the Gardens were done by her granddaughters,” Professor Thomas said. “The Mabos were pivotal in changing the face of Australia and in progressing reconciliation – their contribution to Australian history is profound. To have the endorsement of someone so significant to the history of reconciliation is very special to USQ.”
Professor Thomas said the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens celebrate the link between Australia’s traditional custodians and the land and plants they used for food and medicine for centuries. “These Gardens are a chance for locals and visitors to understand and appreciate the heritage of our district,” she said. “They are also a visual symbol of USQ’s commitment to reconciliation and an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to move forward together.”
The Gardens have been designed in close partnership with Historical Elders from Toowoomba and Elders of the Jarowair People, the traditional custodians of the land on which USQ Toowoomba resides.