It’s an ancient craft that’s stood the test of time, but even indigenous weapon-making succumbed to drought. The wood is proving just too dry.
“We would cut them and probably make one up right now and then a fortnight later it would split,” says Ghungalu Elder Steve Kemp. Kemp makes boomerangs, a traditional hunting stick known as “nulla nullas” and clap sticks from Acacia trees at his Woorabinda home in central Queensland. He’s passing on the skill to his nephews.
“Using modern tools now, we adapt,” he says.
“When Captain Cook came with his steel axe, well we obviously threw our stone axe away. And now we use sandpaper that we buy from Mitre 10 (hardware store).”
But Kemp had to stop last year because drought caused the Acacia wood to crack, rendering them useless.
“I’ve been out here 30 years and this is the worst year I’ve ever experienced,” he says.
Last year, Australia’s Woorabinda region received its lowest annual rainfall in a decade.
Only 500 millimetres fell at the nearby Blackdown Tableland weather station, half its average annual rainfall.
But since the start of this year, upwards of 100 millimetres has fallen, bringing the region back to life. It’s not enough to break the drought, but more is on the way, say experts.
“Some shower and storm activity will continue over the next week and definitely the Central Highlands and Coalfields will record further more than welcome falls,” says Gabriel Branescu from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Welcome rain means weapon-making resumes.
“We looked at a lot of trees and you look in the middle, and you see new growth and then yippee, we’re right to rock and roll,” says Kemp.
A promising sign for the months ahead.