• Deebing Creek mission site. (The Point)Source: The Point
Fraser's Property proposed development on the site has caused widespread concern and community leaders fear another piece of Indigenous history could be lost.
Jodan Perry

The Point
11 May 2016 - 6:58 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 9:04 AM

The site of the old Deebing Creek Mission outside Ipswich in southeast Queensland has a long and troubled history.

Sonny Thompson, a Deebing Creek descendant, says it's a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the descendants of those who lived there, and those who were buried there.

"It means everything to us, it’s something that we lay down of a night time and think about how our people have been treated.”

Roberta Graham, another Deebing Creek Descendant, says if it were developed she would be “devastated”.

"Our history would be lost, our identity would be lost, it would destroy our people our people that was buried here.”

Eight kilometres from the centre of the city is the site of the old Deebing Creek Mission. 

The mission site has a history that dates back to the 1880s, according to historian Daniel Haberman in his book Deebing Creek & Purga Missions, 1892-1948 produced by Ipswich City Council. Aboriginal people were sent to live there because city dwellers were concerned about their health, particularly after being introduced to alcohol by Europeans. They lived there until 1915.

Sonny Thompson says those who came to Deebing Creek were buried there.

“It’s only a small bit of land, we’re just trying to get that back,” he says.

“They can make it into a park, open it up for everyone, we’re not trying to keep people off, it we just don't want the soil to be dug up because we don't know where people are, our people are buried."

Property developer Fraser Property bought the land in October 2015 from a previous private owner who bought it from the Crown, which acquired ownership of it after the mission closed in 1948.

Fraser's Property said it intends to develop the land, which may involve building a community centre, parklands and houses.

But elders such as Mr Thompson and Ms Graham question what will happen to the old mission site.

When it was purchased the company outlined its community consultation process, stating it is ongoing.

The group told ‘The Point’ this week it is talking with stakeholders to ensure they have an input and it hopes to continue consulting with community groups over the next two months.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale also says it advocates community consultations.

“This council is so passionate about Indigenous use of land and especially heritage culture,” he told ‘The Point’.

“So we will be working with everybody involved before any development. I think people are getting excited too early because I can tell you nothing is going to happen until the state government , Indigenous culture and council sign off on it."