Everything You Need To Know About The Lost Bora Ring at Kippa-Ring

bora ring redcliffe

Did you know that Kippa-Ring was named after an Aboriginal bora ring near Klinger Road? The ring was nearly destroyed in 1950, but its significance remains up to this day.

The word “kippa” is a Kabi indigenous word that means an “uninitiated man” whilst the ring was a reference to the bora ring, a raised platform of dirt arranged in a circle where most important ceremonies of the Aborigines took place.

Considered as one of the lost rings of South East Queensland, the ring was a double-ring complex and located 30 metres north of Klinger Road West. Moreton Bay Regional Council said it was situated off Anzac Avenue in the vicinity of Boardman Road. To be exact, it was approximately 21 chains east of the Anzac Avenue turn-off and on the crest of a low sandy ridge partly cleared of timber.

Satellite view of Kippa-Ring in 2021, where the bora ring was said to be located (Photo credit: Google Maps)

In his book, “Aboriginal pathways on South East Queensland and the Richmond River,” author John Gladstone Steele wrote that the bora rings, across the top, measured around 24 metres north-south and 22.5 metres east-west.

The ring was also mentioned in “Tom Petrie’s Reminiscence of Early Queensland,” a book published in 1904 and was known as one of the best authorities on Brisbane’s early days. Recorded by his daughter Constance Campbell Petrie, Tom mentioned that remains of the ring were still seen near Humpybong, the former name of Redcliffe, from the Aboriginal word umpi bong meaning “dead houses.”

Tom Petrie is of Scottish descent but his family moved to Australia at a young age. He spent much time with the tribe from his childhood. He mixed freely with Aboriginal children whilst studying in Moreton Bay penal colony (now Brisbane). 

Tom, who learnt to speak Turrbal and was encouraged to share in all Aboriginal activities, described the ring as a large saucer-shaped depression in the ground. Tom also went on to say that the circle itself was about 40 or 50 feet (around 12m to 15m), slightly smaller than what Steele mentioned in his book.

“The greater ceremony of kippa-making was carried out in the following fashion and what is known as the ‘bora’ ceremony of other tribes is not unlike it. First a circle – called ‘bul’ by Brisbane blacks and ‘tur’ by the Bribie Island tribe – was formed in the ground, very like a circus ring, the earth being dug from the centre with sharp sticks and stone tomahawks, and carried to the outside on small sheets of bark to form a mound or edging round the ring about two feet high.,” Constance wrote, based on the recollection of his father.

Bora Ring’s Fate

As with many lost Bora rings in Queensland, the Bora ring near Redcliffe is now hidden in the rural scenery. According to T. Houghton, of the Redcliffe Historical Society, it was offered to the Redcliffe City Council. However, the offer was declined and the bora ring was ploughed over, now forming part of farm cultivation. The stone axes and grinding stones found in the surrounding area were turned over to the Redcliffe Historical Society Museum.

Aerial photos taken in 1956 showed that the location of the ring was already cultivated by that time. However, Armchair Histories noted that a closer look would show remnants of the ring. It was also mentioned that the bora may be gone, but it’s still appropriately used by aboriginal community groups.

Near the location of Bora ring (Photo credit: Google Street View)

Global Web Builders, a historic archive, stated that the site is identified as Lot 1 of RP 139809 and is freehold land, meaning the owner can use it for any purposes but in accordance with local regulations.

The article on GWB further claims that the five-acre land was bought by the Clarke family in 1901, with the present generation of the family claiming there wasn’t any evidence that will prove a bora ring existed on the site. The Clarkes then sold it to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brisbane, whose Corporation of Trustees sought rezoning of the area for residential use. Later on, it was acquired by Dellmere Pty Ltd, which planned to develop the site into a housing estate.

In 1997, the late Senator John Herron wrote a letter to former Liberal Party Representative for Brisbane Teresa Gambaro, stating that the site was under serious threat for the proposed development. In the letter, he also wrote that he requested advice from the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) as to whether they would consider purchasing the property on behalf of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA).

The foundation sought the protection of the area for the purposes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (the Commonweatlh Act). Under section 9 of this act, it was clear that the minister can make declarations to preserve and protect places, areas and objects of particular significance to Aboriginals under the following circumstances:

  • The Minister receives an application made orally or in writing by or on behalf of an Aboriginal or a group of Aboriginals seeking the preservation or protection of a specified area from injury or desecration
  • The Minister is satisfied that the area is a significant Aboriginal area; and that it is under serious and immediate threat of injury or desecration

Herron, who was a Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in the Howard government at the time, said the ILC Board approve the purchase of the property on behalf of the traditional owners and that Dellmere Pty Ltd agreed to sell it.

The former senator, who was known for being a champion of Indigenous Australians, said a condition of the purchase is that the land can’t be developed as it was acquired for cultural reasons and that the land cannot be rezoned without prior approval of the Redcliffe City Council.