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Un-gaire (Swamp Reeds): As told by Aunty Margaret

03 Un-gaire (Swamp Reeds) Aunty Margaret.mp3 (2203 KB) mp3 document icon

Baskets made from Swamp Reeds are exhibited in the Inquiry Centre at Queensland Museum South Bank.


I’m Aunty Marg. I lived at the Myora Mission and grew up there until it was closed in 1941.

My Aboriginal culture is vast, and I have had the opportunity of knowing two old Grannies, Dungoo and Alison, whose knowledge was passed down to me. I am grateful to these two old ladies, who have taught me so much about the animals, sea creatures and plants.


As a young girl, I would go with my dear friend. We were ten years old at the time. We would go, well down into the swamps and pick the reeds for the Grannies, Dungoo and Alison. The Grannies would come with us down into the swamps where the (un-gaire) reed was growing.

The swamps were well down a large hill and the old Grannies were very old and found it hard to carry the bundles up the hill.

They would say to us, “Girlies, only the reeds with the pink bottoms, not the white”. The pink was much stronger. When we gathered the bundles we would helps them to carry them up the steep hill.

The Grannies would immerse the reeds in hot water and then roll them in ashes to dry them out. Then, they would roll the reeds on their legs to make them pliable, and easier to use to make the baskets.

When we went back the next day after school, they would have the baskets and mats made, which were sold to the authorities for just five schillings each.

We would ask the old Grannies if they wanted us to do any more chores, and they would say in their language, “No. It is getting late and ‘Bullyman’ might come”, (meaning policeman), their minds going back to the days when the children were taken from their families.

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