State Library digitises Bloomfield River history

More than 20 years since they were recorded, the stories of the people living in the Bloomfield River region can now be heard online through State Library of Queensland’s (SLQ) catalogue.

In 1995, Bloomfield River resident Camilla Darling conducted numerous interviews with local Kuku Yalanji Elders and non-Indigenous settlers of the Bloomfield Valley to document the rich and varied history of this remote rainforest region in Far North Queensland.

The 39 interviews reveal the way of life of the subjects and their families, and speak to the interactions and relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous settlers in Bloomfield prior to, and during, missionary involvement.

Capturing stories of residents who have lived in the region since the 1940s and 1950s, as well as residents with profound knowledge of the history of Bloomfield from the 1800s, the oral histories collection is a comprehensive view of the area’s fascinating past and heritage.

Some stories capture the culture of Elders, which have eroded through time, especially since white settlement. Other stories reflect on the tin mining and timber industries, which were the two major industries on the Bloomfield, but have long since ceased.

Over an 18 month period, SLQ reformatted the original audio cassette recordings of the interviews to a digital format to make this collection of unique oral histories accessible to all, including the descendants and families of the interviewees.

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the Bloomfield River oral histories amount to a powerful collection of memories of a community that spans from the time of Captain Cook.

“This oral histories collection is important as it offers a powerful view of the diversity and history of Queensland, and through its recent digitisation, is now easily accessible for all,” Ms Enoch said.

“Bloomfield River is a true microcosm which highlights our varying ways of life and plays an important part in our understanding of this state’s rich history.”

State Librarian and CEO Vicki McDonald said the digitisation of this collection is significant as it offers a comprehensive view of one of Queensland’s most interesting communities.

“Oral histories are often very narrow in focus but this collection is vast and sweeping, describing how this unique Far North Queensland community survived and thrived,” Ms McDonald said.

“Now, after an extensive digitisation process, these voices and stories can be shared with surviving family members, the wider community, and future generations.”

“It is often peoples’ stories, rather than objects or facts, that really brings history to life and this oral histories collection does just that.”

Digitised photographs and a digitised hand drawn map of the Bloomfield River region are included with the oral histories collection online, and transcriptions of all recordings are currently in progress.

Media enquiries
Hillary Bell, SLQ Communications | communications@slq.qld.gov.au | 07 3842 9864

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