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The local history of Diddillibah

Diddillibah – the bah means place of and Diddillibah means the place of the coarse grass used for making dilly bags. A new book, Diddillibah, is a detailed resource and fascinating read of local history and families that lived in this area for generations.

by Rebecca Mugridge

According to the book of the same name, Diddillibah is a small locality of hills, valleys and houses in a peaceful, rural setting with Nambour and Woombye less than 10 kms to its west, Bli Bli to its northeast and Maroochydore to its east.

The whole area has a natural beauty that frames the houses and buildings with a soothing green and a rustic, country charm, and yet, this idyllic place is just minutes away from the hustle of Maroochydore or the Bruce Highway.

The Diddillibah book came about as a rich source of local history, and also an immaculately fact-checked record. The correct details were important, such as a Methodist had been recorded as a Church of England, and other incorrect facts.

Local historian and author Eunice Paulett, a retired teacher passionate about the history of the area, said these inaccuracies inspired her to research and preserve as much factual information and correct details as possible.

“I've lived on the Sunshine Coast since 1973. I was a Geography and German teacher at Caloundra and Nambour high schools before I retired, then I worked as a volunteer at the Tourist Information offices in Mooloolaba and Maroochydore for nearly ten years. During that time, I wrote a brochure for the council on walks on the Sunshine Coast. I did them all of course!” Eunice explained.

“I have a teacher friend, Audienne Blyth, who has written a lot about the history of Yandina, and she encouraged me to research and do a booklet on Rosemount where I live. So, I did. That was in 2018. A couple of years later, Covid year 2020, some friends in Diddillibah encouraged me to help get facts right about Henry Keil and the church and the school at Diddillibah.

“So, the researching and fact-checking and interviewing descendants of early settlers began,” Eunice said with a big smile.

“I had help from Lynette Walker, Jenny Catalano, contacts made at the Nambour Museum, and information from the local history section of Nambour Library, by people who documented some parts of the area a long time ago, (e.g., Tom Petrie and Fred Fink).

“The book grew and fell into chapters about early settlers, fruit growing- especially pineapples - and the sugar cane cultivation; the schools, the church, roads and bridges, etc.

“There were some funny stories along the way like those by Graeme Pettigrew, who sadly has since died.

“And of course, there are always unknown contacts and other stories we didn't hear about when writing the book.”

Spelling, Eunice said, is also an incredibly important part of collecting history.

“My first point of research interest was Henry Keil. There’s Kiels Mountain School and Kiels Mountain and Kiels Mountain Road but his name was Henry Keil,” she pointed out.

The 117-page book explores the families, stories and buildings of Diddillibah in a detailed collection of research, carefully curated into a book. Inside, amongst the historical facts, readers will find maps, details of the local families and a wonderful array of old photos.

Peter Lawrence, proud Yugarapul man, historian and local Kiels Mountain resident has written a chapter in Diddillibah titled First Inhabitants, Traditional Custodians, First Nations People.

“The local Kabi Kabi people have lived on what is known as the Sunshine Coast for thousands of years. They are sometimes referred to as the Gubbi Gubbi people, First Nations’ culture, land and language are interwoven,” Peter writes.

Peter has a wealth of historical knowledge and, like many local historians, has his own personal family connection to the Sunshine Coast.

“The origins of names, Diddillibah, Woombye, Caboolture, Yandina, Nambour (Namba), Maroochydore, they are all Kabi Kabi or Yuggera words. They tell you what the area was, like Kuluin means black swan. Some suggest Diddillibah means carpet snake but the word for this is “wongi,” Peter shared.

“I have been teaching history for about 25 years in secondary schools in Queensland, always with an Aboriginal focus. I used to teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island studies in the late 1990s and I’ve taught modern history for over 20 years.”

Along with the chapter in Diddillibah, Peter has also written a chapter for a Modern Histories textbook for Cambridge and has been a researcher for books like World War I-based book, The Boys from Barambah, in 2014.

“My great, great, great grandfather Walter Bunny was European,” said Peter. “He had land allocated to him in 1868 and they were the first European family in the Rosewood Scrub West of Ipswich.

“My great grandmother was an Aboriginal woman, she was taken from there and hidden by the European side of her own family in Brisbane. My mum’s side of the family moved here about 1930, behind the Banana Bender Pub.

“My great grandparents had a banana farm there, they are the Rossow family. All my great-grandparents were living in the Landsborough area by 1940.”

Peter said local history books like Diddillibah, which now include a First Nations viewpoint, are important but there are also a few others well worth reading.

In the Tracks of the Rainbow Serpent is an Aboriginal history of this local area,” said Peter. “Another one I always refer people to is Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland.

“The book [Diddillibah] is a good starting point,” Peter added, for anyone interested in history.

Eunice’s book is an achievement in local historical significance and whether you have family links to the Sunshine Coast or are just curious, it is a fascinating window to the past.

“I think booklets which record local history are important to people presently living anywhere here on the Sunshine Coast,” Eunice said.

The latest edition of Diddillibah has been digitised by Allan Petts, and the Diddillibah Hall Committee organised the printing and the sales. It can be purchased through the Hall Committee website or their Facebook page, $25, You can avoid postage by collecting your copy from Black Cockatoo Retreat by appointment, ring Sally 0439 884 988.


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