The Ngoorabul people are the traditional owners of the Glen Innes Highlands area. During the thousands of years they have lived here, they learnt what every modern local learns to do – adapt to highland weather. The Ngoorabul lived on the highlands in the summertime and vacated the area in the winter months.
Today, Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council manages around 3000 hectares of land near Emmaville, including The Willows and the adjoining property Boorabee.
The place name Boorabee is derived from the Ngoorabul word for koala – boor-bee. Today, the Ngoorabul community continues this close relationship with koalas and preserves the marsupial’s habitat and monitors its population.
Both Boorabee and The Willows have deep spiritual significance for the Ngoorabul people.
The Ngoorabul traditionally passed down creation stories to younger people in their community, and they share the story of the Severn River Gorge with visitors to The Willows to connect them to the land. The story tells of a giant greedy cod named Goodoo and a powerful magic man, Biamme, who punished Goodoo for his greed – in the process creating the gorge. Today, Yellow Belly and Cod are caught in season in the river.
The Willows is near Strathbogie Station, known as a safe place for many Ngoorabul people, and the former Nucoorilma Mission, where many Ngoorabul people lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Conservation of bush food and medicine is important to the Ngoorabul. Boorabee and The Willows contain endangered white box, yellow box and Blakely’s red gum woodlands.
The Ngoorabul use their ecological knowledge to gather species on the properties including witchity grubs, black orchids and mookrum berries.
The Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council purchased The Willows (1) in 1987, an area rich in flora and fauna, and home to several rare and endangered species including the spotted-tailed quoll.
Nearby, the Boorabee Aboriginal Corporation purchased three adjoining properties Rosemont, Canon and Boorabee (2). Together, these properties were declared an Indigenous Protected Area to protect and support the sustainable use of natural resources.
In total, there are about 3000 hectares of land, home to numerous sites of significant cultural importance.
The area attracts visitors interested in various forms of ecotourism.
There are walking tracks with signage to help you understand the unique plant and animals species present in each community. Guided tours can be arranged with a minimum of four people.
Birdwatching is another popular drawcard. The large area of woodlands attracts a large variety of birds including several rare species. Guided tours can be arranged . Spring and early summer are the best times to see the diverse range of birds that occur on the properties.
Catch and release fishing is available on the beautiful Severn River and magnificent Gorges (3) for Murray cod and golden perch.
There are two overnight camping sites with no amenities. Riverside Camp Grounds (4) are accessible to two wheel drive vehicles. Arrawatta Camp Grounds (5) is only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles. Limited sites available, and booking is essential, at least 7 days in advance.
At the front gate of The Willows, the Ngoorabul Knowledge Centre (6) provides visitors with a cultural understanding of this area. Information can be obtained about the different activities on offer including spotlighting for nocturnal animals and birds, local area information and any activities that may be coming up.
In the meantime, if you are interested in visiting The Willows or Boorabee, we suggest you contact the Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council on (02) 6732 1150.