IN Queensland we love our big events featuring the fastest runners, the quickest cyclists, the sporting supermen and golden girls who dazzle us with their speed and strength.
The Drumley Walk is not a race or a competition. This three-day trek from Beaudesert to Southport, via Mount Tamborine and Nerang, is more of a celebration, says Rory O’Connor.
Each August, Rory leads the 200 or so walkers on the walk through Aboriginal Yugambeh land that commemorates his great uncle, Billy Drumley (1853-1950).
Billy, a Yugambeh man, was a local hero and community leader who took the 70-kilometre journey each year to check on his sister and her family. He did it in a day, even into his eighties.
These days walkers take three, enjoying some of the state’s most scenic walking terrain, staying in local hotels and enjoying fine food.
The walk started as a private pilgrimage in 2005 by Rory and his cousin Hague Best. The men were amazed at how quickly the event was embraced by the public, with today’s walkers a diverse group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, locals and tourists.
Rory believes the event appeals for many reasons, including this rare ability to bring together almost all corners of the community in a relaxed setting that encourages conversation and open mindedness.
“It’s a non-confrontational way to learn about the Yugambeh language region and the many tales of local Aboriginal characters,” he says.
He thinks it is important to hold an event to celebrate an Indigenous man and the local Aboriginal history but is quick to point out this history is a shared one.
“White history does not exist in isolation from Aboriginal history,” he says.
“I want non-Indigenous people to know about how their community formed and the walk teaches them in an interesting and engaging way.”
Talking is a big part of the walk. As Rory explains, “My relatives do it as an excuse to catch up, enjoy nice food and tell big stories.”
“Walking is a great backdrop for having a yack.
“As we tell Drumley’s iconic story, people begin to understand what life was like for Aboriginal people in his area.
“In a non-confronting way, people learn about the frontier wars, removal policies and the real impacts it had on families that still live in the area.”
Billy Drumley, while a gentle man, was a strict disciplinarian who believed in education.
It’s fitting then that this walk is helping a diverse audience learn more about history, culture and each other.
This year, a British tourist joined the walk, while a Melbourne group plans their Queensland holiday around the event. A Gold Coast judge joined the walk to interact with Indigenous youth, while a group of Muslims came to learn about community history. Local schools reward gifted and talented students by sending them on the walk while police send ‘kids at risk’ along for a positive experience of ‘hard yakka’.
Rory says that last year’s walk included a team, with four children in tow, which travelled more than 2000 kilometres from the Mornington Peninsula in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“They walked barefoot,” Rory says.
“And thought it was wickedly cold – they wore jumpers while the rest of us were sweltering in t-shirts.”
Messages aside, Rory insists the walk is really about ‘just good fun’.
“This is just a straight-out celebration of an ordinary man who left an extraordinary legacy. And it reminds us that strong communities need men and women to stand up tall and act responsibly as Drumley did,” he says.
The Drumley Walk is supported by the Queensland Events Regional Development Program.
For a full calendar of supported events visit www.queenslandevents.com.au.
For more information on The Drumley Walk visit www.thedrumleywalk.com
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