Burra Bee Dee Mission | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Burra Bee Dee Mission

Item details

Name of item: Burra Bee Dee Mission
Other name/s: Forked Mountain
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Site complex
Location: Lat: -31.2352962764 Long: 149.3448125610
Primary address: Oxley Highway, Coonabarabran, NSW 2357
Parish: Coonabarabran
County: Gowen
Local govt. area: Warrumbungle
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Coonabarabran
Hectares (approx): 628
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT7022 DP1030458
LOT255 DP753378
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Oxley HighwayCoonabarabranWarrumbungleCoonabarabranGowenPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Coonabarabran Local Aboriginal Land CouncilCommunity Group20 Oct 05
Department of Trade & Investment, Regional Infrastructure & ServicesState Government20 Oct 05

Statement of significance:

Burra Bee Dee Mission and Forky Mountain is of State significance as it maintains and continues to show the historical process and activities and is a place of occupancy of Aboriginal people from the district. The site is associated to a significant historical phase of NSW as it was land granted to an Aboriginal woman, Mary Jane Cain in the early 1900's by Queen Victoria and gazetted in 1911 as an Aboriginal Reserve. The area is able to demonstrate the strong associations to past customs and provides an understanding of cultural practices that were undertaken. The site of Burra Bee Dee mission, the cemetery and Forky Mountain is associated to the Gamilaraay people as a significant place as it is the original site of occupation for many Aboriginal people, it is associated to the memory of Mary Jane Cain and it is a place of cultural, spiritual, historical and social values.
Date significance updated: 30 Mar 04
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1892-1957
Physical description: The site covers approximately 628 hectares of land which includes the mountain known as Forky Mountain. Throughout the area there is no physical buildings, remains or objects of former dwellings such as housing, school or the church.

The only remaining site at Burra Bee Dee Mission is the cemetery which is still currently being used by the local community.

School House:
In the early 1970s the original school house was removed and is being used for private use.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Certain specific areas within the boundary have high potential for archaeological evidence. These include the main area of the mission and surroundings and at the base of Forky Mountain.
Date condition updated:16 Jan 04
Further information: The community would like to preserve the area and enable educational visits and tours to the area to promote Aboriginal heritage. Enhancements such as an interpretation trail around the main area of the mission and possibly a cultural centre to house the memorbilia and artefacts and educational information about life on the mission.
Current use: School excursions, and continual use of orginial cemetery.
Former use: Occupational site and Mission Site


Historical notes: Burra Bee Dee Mission was founded in 1908. In 1892 Mary Jane Cain who originally lived on the river bank close to town who used to run goats of which would get away from her and head to Forky Mountain. It was this that eventually made Mary Jane Cain and husband to build a place out at Forked Mountain for her to stay. Mary Jane Cain wrote to Queen Victoria on numerous occasions requesting that the land was to be granted to her. Queen Victoria granted that Burra Bee Dee or part thereof be handed to Mary Jane Cain and Queen Victoria requested that Mary Jane was to manage the property and was required to provide a place for the Dark people to live on. The land there was later reserved for Aboriginal use and in the early 1900 was brought under the control of the Aboriginal Protection Board and became a managed station. Burra Bee Dee Aboriginal Reserve was gazetted on the 21st February, it was made of three reserves in existence one of 400 acres 1892, one of 73 acres from 1906 and one of 100 acres 1911 other major camps in the Coonabarabran area there were not under the Board control included the showgrounds and Gunnedah Hill.

Burra Bee Dee was originally known as Forky Mountain after the hill that dominates the landscape. The mountain was the reason for Mary Jane Cain visited to the place to shepherd her goats back to Coonabarabran. The land which was originally granted to Mary Jane Cain was officially known as Forky Mountain until the name was changed to Burra Bee Dee somewhere around 1911. The significance of the name Burra Bee Dee is an Aboriginal word meaning flying mice. Just as the Mountain is a significant and organising feature of the landscape it is often a significant and organising feature of the language, the stories of Burra Bee Dee. Forky Mountain was significant to the people of Burra Bee Dee as it was a birth place, a place for burials and a food source.

The first hut on the mission was built by Mary Jane Cain husband which was a boarded house with tin and bark and a dirt floor. With the influx of Mary Jane's extended family and other families from around the district peoples dwellings ranged from bag houses made of Hessian bags, tents, and bark and kerosene - tin shacks. To the two roomed fibro houses built during the peak of the managers days. The shacks were built in clusters and added to went needed. The clusters were known by the women who ran them Granny Cain, Queenie's place and Granny Fuller's. The only houses built in rows facing the road were the five or six fibro houses that the government built in later times.

Not only was the Burra Bee Dee mission used by Aboriginal people as a place for dwelling other areas such as Gunnedah Hill and Coonabarabran Showground were also other places of dwelling. Although neither groups in the beginning liked each other they all eventually ended up living at Burra Bee Dee.

In 1924 two women came to Burra Bee Dee as Missionaries. They lived and worked with the people for 30 years and were very much an institution in Burra Bee Dee life. Mr Marney one of the Burra Bee Dee residents built the church for the missionaries to live in on the mission. The women held sewing classes which every year they held a show. Church was held every Sunday morning with Sunday school in the morning for the children and church of an afternoon.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Gamilaraay Nation - living on missions-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Emigrating from one district to another within NSW-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Communal forms of land occupancy and management-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in, adapting and renovating homes for changing conditions-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Operating and maintaining cemeteries and burial grounds-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Burra Bee Dee Mission and Forky Mountain shows evidence of the activity that was undertaken by the local Aboriginal people. Founded by Mary Jane Cain in 1892, and formerly known as Forky Mountain, Burra Bee Dee Mission became a home to many Aboriginal people across the district. Originally granted to Mary Jane Cain in the early 1900's by Queen Victoria, the area was gazetted in 1911 as an Aboriginal Reserve and the named changed to Burra Bee Dee Mission. The area is of State significances as it is able to demonstrate strong associations to past customs and provides an understanding of a historical phase of the Gamilaraay people and cultural practices that were undertaken. The Gamilaraay people continue to visit the site to undertake cultural practices and maintain the original cemetery which is still used today. The relationship to that of Forky Mountain also has not only a spiritual connection to the Gamiliaraay people but a connection to land as Forky Mountain played a significant role in the occupation sites within the Mission.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Burra Bee Dee came about the efforts of one Aboriginal woman, Mary Jane Cain. Due to a flock of wandering goats, Mary Jane Cain and her family made Forky Mountain their home in the late 1800's. Through the efforts and persistence of Mary Jane Cain, Burra Bee Dee was formalised in 1911 and became a place of occupation and food for the local Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people from around the district. Burra Bee Dee became an important centre for the local Gamilaraay people and a significant place of occupation. The site of Burra Bee Dee mission, the cemetery and Forky Mountain is associated to the Gamilaraay people as a significant place as it is the original site of occupation for many Aboriginal people, it is associated to the memory of Mary Jane Cain and it is a place of cultural, spiritual, historical and social values.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Burra Bee Dee and Forky Mountain has a strong and special association for the Gamilaraay people for its social, culutral and spiritual values. The area is well known for its linkages with dreaming stories and Forky Mountain is often a significant and organising feature of the language and the stories. Forky Mountain was a special place for being 'born under the mountain' and being buried at the 'foot of the mountain and it was a special place of the 'Sun Dance', a ritual that occurred every Easter Sunday, where many would climb to the tip of the mountain to watch the sun dance. Burra Bee Dee and Forky Mountain is a place of importance and belonging to the Gamilaraay people.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The base of Forky Mountain has the potential to yield new archaeological information and provide evidence of past human cultural activities. Further documentation of oral histories of elders and collection of memorbila and interpretation of the area will further enhance the documentation that is already provided.
SHR Criteria g)
Burra Bee Dee and Forky Mountain is highly siginficant to the Gamilaraay people to their cultural heritage values. The area is outstanding as it is able to demonstrate the principal characteristics of the Gamilaraay people. Being the site of the original settlement at the base of Forky Mountain and then later the gazette 'Mission' site, the area has the attributes to demonstrate the way of life and customs of the Gamilaraay people. Although there are no physical buildings remaining, the origianl cemetery is all that remains and is maintain and used by the local Aboriginal community.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions SCHEDULE "C"

1.In accordance with section 57(2) of the Heritage Act recommends the Minister grant the following exemption from section 57(1):

(i) Survey works by the Department of Lands in accordance with the Surveying Act 2002 where these works are undertaken with:
(a) initial consultation with the Coonabarabran Elders group to determine appropriate representative/s;
(b) the on-site assistance of the nominated representative/s from the Aboriginal community. This assistance shall include providing advice to the Department of Lands on undertaking the works to conserve the Aboriginal significance of the site, and monitoring the works to identify any potential sites, artefacts or features of Aboriginal significance discovered following commencement of works; and
( c) the agreement of the nominated representative/s from the Aboriginal community for works affecting potential sites, artefacts or features of Aboriginal significance that have been identified by the nominated representative prior to or following commencement of works.

(ii) Activities and works undertaken by the Aboriginal community for traditional practices, such as use of the site as a meeting place, use and maintenance of the cemetery, and other culturally appropriate activities or works that enhance the Aboriginal significance and understanding of the item.
Jun 7 2004
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0168804 Jun 04 943480

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  (not given)
OtherAdell Hyslop2003Regional Visit
Oral HistoryCoonabarabran Aboriginal Elders Group2004Regional Community Meeting - 18 February
WrittenMargaret Somerville1994The Sun Dancin, People and Place in Coonabarabran

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5054965

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