The largely waterless lands of the Corner Country were traditionally occupied by several Aboriginal groups. In the Milparinka area lived members of the Maliangaapa people, around Tibooburra, were Wadigalis and Wangkumaras.
A fundamental understanding of the land and environment helped Aboriginal tribes to survive, especially their ability to find and conserve water. Soaks and wells were dug in dry creek beds, holes gouged into the lower ends of claypans, and campsites established alongside creeks and waterholes. They carried water in bags of kangaroo skins, or in coolamons. Many Europeans, both explorers and early settlers, could not have survived without the help of the Aboriginal people.
Trade routes and tracks were established across the desert to the west, to the north and east to the rivers. Sturt recorded following one track for six hours, coming, in the end to a well full of water. Stone artefacts found in the Corner Country had their origins in quarries hundreds of kilometres away.
The settlement brought changes to life in the Corner Country. Pastoralists spread their flocks of sheep and cattle across the region and competed with local Aborigines for water, and for grazing land. Often there were serious and tragic consequences. In time, however, many Aboriginal people were employed on the newly formed stations and were able to co-exist with pastoralists on their traditional lands. Others moved to local centres such as Tibooburra where they lived on the fringes of the township.
In 1909 the Aboriginal Protection Act was implemented, and in 1936 the Aboriginal Protection Board acquired the powers to remove Aborigines from “undesirable living areas”. From Tibooburra, around 70 people were forcibly loaded onto trucks and taken to Brewarrina. Some found their way home to their tribal areas, but life for many was irreversibly damaged.
Across the Corner Country are many locations with traditional Aboriginal names, Milparinka and Tibooburra are just two.
by Harold J Hunt JP 124283
Harold Hunt is the author of several biographical books, including ‘Memoirs of the Corner Country’, the story of his mother May, the last Aboriginal woman born in Milparinka
A descendant of the Maliangaapa People
Totem. Gnaamba. ( Boney bream fish)
Evelyn Creek runs through Milparinka. It was named by Charles Sturt in 1844 after his brother, Evelyn, a landholder in Victoria. Preservation Creek on which Depot Glen lies is a tributary of Evelyn Creek. The name “Milparinka” is an Aboriginal word, believed to mean elopement. The story goes that a young couple, each from a different tribe, fell in love and were forced to live away from their families. They camped alongside the waterhole at Milparinka. In the 1880s the same waterhole sustained a community of miners and their families in a desperately dry and difficult landscape.
Evelyn Creek would not be known to many people away from the Corner Country of New South Wales. But it is the lifeblood of that area. A gum tree lined the creek. Its source is a number of smaller creeks and gullies beginning south-west of Tibooburra, this state’s most western town, and it wends its way down to the Cobham Lake. The overall length is only about one hundred kilometres, however, the significance of this creek is crucial to the opening up and prosperity of that part of the country from sheep and cattle grazing.
Prior white settlement it was the main meeting place for the Maliangaapa people and other tribal groups of the lakes between the Paroo River and those from the lakes east of the Flinders Ranges.
There are features of the Evelyn Creek that are not found in many other parts of the country. As well as the heavily grown gum tree lined banks it contained a wide variety of flora providing sustenance for wildlife therefore also providing food for the people.
The other major feature is that the creek had deep waterholes at various distances apart which became camping and ceremonial areas for the different tribal groups. Those waterholes provided substance over lengthy dry periods. That particular feature enabled graziers to select the most appropriate places to build their homesteads as can be seen by the property homesteads of Peak Hill, Milring, Coally, One Tree and others further down.