Bill Speedy shares stories of his First Nations heritage from his home country around Bollon in south-western Queensland.

Story John Dunn  Photo Leeroy Todd

Bill Speedy has come home. Back to the banks of the Wallam Creek at Bollon in south-western Queensland where he spent much of his youth with his extended family. A descendant of the Gwamu/Kooma people, he is an elder and a Traditional Custodian of the area. His people were the first to live on the creek and establish a yumba, the name for camps consisting of simple huts made from flattened kerosene tins that often housed families of 8 or 10. They cooked and socialised in a bower shed made from timber poles supporting a ceiling of mulga branches that provided shade from the hot summer sun.

“My dad would tell of running barefoot to school over the three-corner jacks [thorns], my aunty Buelah would collect water from the creek from a fallen tree and my aunties Muriel and Lorna learned to dance by watching the brolgas,” Bill says. “My uncle Mick was the first Indigenous baby born on the floor of the bush nursing clinic and my uncles Butcher and Johnny would show me how to track and hunt and how to stay alive in the bush.”

Memories like these come flooding back today as Bill and his partner Judith Russell operate a tourist business designed to impart the experience of First Nations people during the middle of last century.


This story excerpt is from Issue #153

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2024