Grant funds recording of Indigenous history at Murdering Lagoon

Murdering Lagoon, as the name suggests, has a dark history. Located on Vine Creek Station, south of Charters Towers, it was the scene of some brutal killings in 1864, an account of which is written in a biography of the one of the first owners of the property.

This account, however, differs significantly from the oral history of events that had been passed down through generations of local Indigenous people and stockmen who lived and worked in the area, located on the land of the Jangga Traditional Owner Group.

Thanks to a $5,000 NQ Dry Tropics Traditional Owner Grant, members of the Jangga group recently had the opportunity to record these stories to prevent their loss from the pages of history.

The grant, supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, enabled Jangga elders Colin McLennan and Les Budby Sr to get back on country by visiting the property where they had worked during their youth, like their fathers before them.

Colin and Les recorded their oral history on film, and catalogued existing cultural heritage sites around the lagoon, assisted by Les’s son Jeffery Budby, Pat McLennan Sr, and Liz Hatte, a member of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists.  

It was an emotional visit for Les, who had not been back to the station in 50 years. He was able to reconnect with his youth and share stories with his son who had never been there. On arrival at the lagoon, Colin set up a camp fire to boil the billy and put rib beef bones on the fire, which had been their routine when they used to muster there.

“I know all the tracks,” said Colin, as he spoke about the history of Jangga people and their connection with waterways such as the Suttor, Belyando, Cape and Selheim Rivers. “When you get the opportunity to get back to the places you have been over the years it fires you up.”

The group identified 19 old Coolibah trees with scars of cultural origin, including canoe scars – one from the creation of a shield and another with an adapted hole called a ‘tucker box’ where supplies would have been stored.

Thanks to this project, knowledge of the lagoon’s history has now been passed onto two key members of Jangga group, who can retain it and pass it on to others.

“With more grants we can keep building a bigger picture, and capture this knowledge for the benefit of people no longer living on country and future generations,” said Colin.

Plans are in place for the Jangga stories to be included in an informational booklet, which will provide history of the region to Jangga people and the wider community.

Alan and Selena O’Sullivan, the current owners of Vine Creek, discussed the results of the project with the Jangga team and its significance.  Colin appointed their children custodians of the site and relics, so they can look after them and make sure they are not moved and taken away from the ‘place they belong’.

For more information about the Engaging Traditional Owners project, please visit the NQ Dry Tropics Website at

PhotoThe Jangga team. From left, Les Budby snr, Pat McLennan snr, Col McLennan, Jeffery Budby, Elizabeth Hatte (archaeologist).