As you wander through Saunders Park reading the interpretative signage at the Wulgurukaba Plant Trail, you will be provided with an opportunity to learn about the way in which Aboriginal people have used native plants as a resource for food; to make medicine; shelters; fishing nets; dilly bags; spear; boomerangs; coolamons (carrying vessels) and canoes. Much of the planting was done recently in 2012 by students from Shalom Christian College, however many of the trees in the park are well established.

Wulgurukaba Walkabout Dancer – photo by John Sheil

Who are the Wulgurukaba people?

The Wulgurukaba people are descendants of the ‘dreamtime’ and the first custodians of beautiful Saunders Beach. Their traditional country includes Magnetic Island; areas west to the Reid River; south to the Haughton River and north as far as Rollingstone. Within these boundaries Wulgurukaba people have resided for thousands of years; travelling according to the seasons for ceremony purposes and to make best use of natural resources. The Wulgurukaba people have a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land.

According to Elder Arthur Johnson, Wulgurukaba means ‘canoe people’. Historical records make specific reference to the use of canoes by Wulgurukaba people. In 1860 at Cape Cleveland, Dalrymple recorded his observations of “a canoe taken from the natives … being formed of one large sheet of bark about 10 feet long, sewed up at either end with the same cane-like creeper used for this purpose down the coast…capable of carrying six or seven men.”

Creation Story

Gabul the Rainbow Serpent travelled down from the north all the way to Ross River, creating the landscape that we see today, including the islands of Hinchinbrook, Palm and Magnetic. The tail of Gabul rests at Halifax Bay, his body at Palm Island and his head at the Arcadia headland on Magnetic Island.

Wulgurukaba people have passed down through the generations this creation story.

Our Solar System by Artist Daniel Kornel


Why were more plants needed at Saunders Beach?

Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast near Mission Beach as a Category 5 system on February 2, 2011. At Saunders Beach, 220km away, the combined effects of strong winds and storm surge moved massive amounts of sand, destroyed trees and damaged infrastructure.

Beachfront residents who had been evacuated from the area returned to find an estimated one third of trees along the beachfront destroyed. Well established native vegetation is vital in these coastal areas to act as a buffer against weather events and to rebuild the damaged coast. Native plants trap wind-blown sand, re-building dunes. It is hoped that planting which has taken place during the establishment of the Wulgurukaba Plant Trail will enhance the natural process of dune stabilisation, restoring and protecting the parkland for generations to come.


The Three Worlds by Artist Daniel Kornel


Sally Minns with Environmental Excellence and Sustainability Award

Environmental Excellence and Sustainability Awards 2013

At Townsville’s Eco Fiesta on June 4 2013, Sally Minns was awarded a Highly Commended certificate for Individual Initiative with respect to her work on the Wulgurukaba Plant Trail project. According to the Townsville City Council website the award is:

Presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution towards environmental protection and improvement in Townsville. This is an award of recognition of a person who has worked tirelessly to improve our natural environment. Examples include dedication to environmental programs, volunteer time on environmental projects, working with and leading the community on environmentally-based projects outside of normal work or business requirements.

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Developed by

The Wulgurukaba Plant Trail has been developed by Sally Minns and the Saunders Beach Community Centre in consultation with Michael Johnson from the Wulgurukaba Aboriginal Corporation. This project is supported by NQ Dry Tropics, through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country. Thanks to the students and staff from Shalom Christian College for their much appreciated assistance.

Student from Shalom Christian College

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