Uncovering History: Toohey Forest’s Hidden Past

Toohey Forest
Photo Credit: Scott Nicholls/Google Maps

Toohey Forest, a tranquil retreat known for its ecological significance and scenic beauty, was the site of a significant discovery of artefacts in the late 19th century. Over one hundred years later, a new round of efforts are being made to uncover the story behind that discovery.

The Indigenous Significance

Toohey Forest, a part of the Brisbane area known as Meanjin to the Turrbal and Yuggera Peoples, is rich in Indigenous history. This land was home to abundant natural resources and served as a hub for traditional activities. From hunting and crafting using the local fauna to spiritual and ceremonial practices, the forest was integral to the Indigenous way of life. 

Even in the post-European settlement era, indigenous people continued their traditional practices in the forest, albeit with increasing challenges due to displacement.

The Discovery by George Thomas McDonald

In the late 19th century, a significant discovery was made by George Thomas McDonald, a surveyor and farmer. While exploring Toohey Forest, McDonald stumbled upon a cave that housed a collection of ochre-painted human bones, alongside stone and shell knives. 

Mr McDonald, who was born in Scotland in 1835 and later settled in Brisbane, played a pivotal role in bringing these historical pieces to light. He passed away on 29 Jan 1915  in Wynnum at the age of 79. 

Since then, the artifacts have been carefully preserved and later housed at the Queensland Museum.

Recent Developments and Research

Fast forward to the 21st century, and these artefacts have once again sparked interest. The Annerley Stephens History Group is leading the charge and recently organised a conference to delve deeper into the nature and history of the artefacts.

The event aimed to shed light on the local history, with a focus on the First Nations’ heritage. A key aspect of the conference was to discuss the significance of these artefacts and their connection to the local Indigenous people. 

Annerley Stephens History Group
Photo Credit: Annerley Stephens History Group

With the consent of Aboriginal elders, a thorough examination of these artefacts has gotten underway to determine their age and deeper historical context.

Toohey Forest Today

Today, Toohey Forest stands as a testament to Brisbane’s rich and diverse history. It is not only a natural sanctuary but also a bridge connecting the present to the past. The discovery of these artefacts has opened a new chapter in understanding the Indigenous heritage of the area, offering insights into the lives and practices of Australia’s First Peoples. 

As research continues, Toohey Forest is poised to reveal more of its hidden stories, enriching our understanding of the land and its original inhabitants.

Published 14-Nov-2023