First Peoples and the Space of Empire
Next morning, through a screen of wine-coloured Japanese plum trees, I stepped on the edge of the Range. Eight hundred feet below me the mists were just breaking up from the purple valley floor; shreds of finely ascending gold and tenderest pink, quivering stirring banks of silver, parting to reveal deep blue and purple of fathomless shadow; ruby touching the peaked wall of the northern mountains; and to the east the hill waves running on and on to meet the sun. ‘The Singing Gold,’ Dorothy Cottrell
Geographically the Darling Downs is a series of rolling grassy plains which extend from the Great Dividing Range in the east through the Condamine river catchment area and westwards in the direction of the Darling River system in Southern Queensland. It is one of the world's richest agricultural regions and its colonial history is dominated by the reluctant transition from a semi-nomadic hunter gatherer people to the widely dispersed pastoral holdings of an invasive squattocracy and ultimately to agricultural development and closer settlement by smaller landholders. Its three main municipalities are Toowoomba on the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range in the northeast, Warwick in the southeast and Dalby in the west .
Information on the indigenous inhabitants of this European division of space prior to the settler invasion is scant. N. B. Tindale describes four tribes: Barunggam, Jarowair, Giabul, and Keinjan (Tindale, Aboriginal Tribes 13-14), who shared the Waka Waka language with tribal variations . The indigenous occupation of the region dates back some 40000 years and the population at the time of white contact is thought to have numbered between 1500-2500 . The indigenes were a hunter gather people who moved through their recognised tribal territories in smaller familial groups according to seasonal and cultural demands (French, Conflict 7). They adapted their labor and technology so as to sustain 'a stable population in a balanced environment' and 'this allowed the development of increasingly complex social systems and cultural traditions (French, Conflict 10). Every three years indigenous people from tribes based throughout southern Queensland and northern New South Wales would travel to the Bunya mountains for a festival, during which the bunya nut was consumed and poems and songs exchanged via the corroboree. The invasion of the region by Europeans led to the violent dispossession of the indigenous population. Today it is difficult to trace many traditional people in the region, although there remains a significant population of historical people of indigenous descent.
 Maurice French, ‘Introduction: The Eye of the Traveller,’ Travellers in a Landscape: Visitor’s Impressions of the Darling Downs 1827-1954, Maurice French, ed. Toowoomba: USQP, 1994, p. 2.
 N.B. Tindale, Aboriginal Tribes of Australia, Berkely: U of California P, 1974, p.17.
 Maurice French, Conflict on the Condamine: Aborigines and the European Invasion, Toowoomba: USQP, 1989, p. 6.