The Yidinji People, of the Tableland Yidinji clan, lived mainly in the Danbulla area but had camps right along the Barron River. One of these camps was at Barrabadeen. This camp was significant to all families of the Yidinji clan as it was centrally located to a number of culturally significant and sacred sites both visited and used on a regular basis. These sites included a huge tree, opposite Barrabadeen on the banks of the Barron River, used by families for ceremonies. Up in the hills, where open woodlands meets the rainforest, was a good supply of native honey which would be collected by the people and shared. One sacred site was a birthing place at Black Gully, only four kilometres from Barrabadeen. While women gathered there for ‘women’s business’, the men would wait for them in the place that is now the Black Gully picnic area. These are only a few insights to the culturally significant history that Barrabadeen and the extended Tinaroo Lake region has for the Yidinji people.
At Scout Point there are 2 graves of pioneers Sarah Robson (1816-1906) and her son James (1845-1903). The headstones are very rough, but have weathered well for nearly a century. They were made from raw cement still in the kegs. The cement would have been imported from Scotland, as was usual in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The Robson family originally came from Scotland and settled this area around 1880. The family is famous for being involved in the push for the railway, telegraph and telephone services, as well as the building of churches, Masonic Temple and other enterprises.
James Robson was granted a lease at the intersection of the Barron River and what was later known as Robson’s Creek (now under water in Tinaroo Dam immediately in front of the campsite). His mother (Sarah) and his 2 sisters settled with him at this site (Danbulla) and the remains of some of the stumps of their home he built are still on the flat above the graves.
The establishment of ROBSONS Track, which allowed a much easier route along which to transport minerals from the Atherton Tablelands to Cairns, is the feat for which James Robson is mainly remembered. The blazing of this trail enabled the establishment of Cairns as the major port of the area, rather than Port Douglas. The route that James Robson cut through the dense rainforest follows what we now call the Gillies Highway to Riverstone (Gordonvale today).
On January 1st, 1884, a large party from Cairns, Riverstone and other areas assembled at Redbank (Cairns) to honour James Robson with a gold watch and chain and an address bearing 48 names in appreciation for extending Robson’s Track.
James Robson died in 1903 after escorting his very pregnant neighbour to Atherton to have her baby with medical care. On his way home he drove his sulky through Tolga and Kairi down to the crossing of the Barron River (where Danbulla Drive now crosses the river below the dam wall). The Barron River was in full flood at this time. He got into his boat just before dark, to row across the flooded river to the northern bank and his house. The boat was caught in debris, upset and swamped and carried away downstream. James’ body and boat were recovered when the flood receded. His mother, Sarah, arranged for James to be buried just below the house on the slope facing the Barron River (in its current location 2.5 metres above the crest level of the dam wall completed in 1959). Sarah died and was buried next to her son 3 years later.
As World War 2 raged on in Europe, the Japanese used this time to invade South-East Asia. Within a short period of time the Japanese were in Papua New Guinea and only a short distance from the Northern Australian coastline. With most of Australia’s Imperial Force’s (AIF) battling the German and axis forces in North Africa, the Australian government were forced for the first time in our history to deploy elements of the 30th brigade ( army reserves ) in large numbers overseas. This was to try and stem the advancing Japanese until the AIF divisions could be re-deployed from overseas and retrained.
The 9th division were recalled from Gaza and on the 24th January 1943 left for Australia. Upon arrival home they were sent to the Atherton Tablelands region to start jungle warfare training. Shortly afterwards the 7th division and elements of the 6th division were recalled and left Palestine on the 30th January 1943. Within a short few months they joined the 9th division on the Tablelands.
Soon the Tablelands played host to over 100,000 allied troops and was used as a stepping stone to repel the Japanese out of Papua New Guinea. The Barrabadeen area still retains relics and remnants from this era. The local residents hold a sense of pride in the knowledge that our area played a very important part of one of the greatest victory’s in Australian military history.