The story of the macadamia began millions of years ago, in the rainforest along the north east coast of Australia.
Before European settlement, Aboriginal people congregated on the eastern slopes of Australia’s Great Dividing Range to feed on the seed of two evergreen trees, one of which they called ‘Kindal Kindal’ which was the macadamia. Aboriginal peoples had other names for macadamia including Boombera, Jindill & Baupal.
Macadamias were not staple fare; they were considered a delicacy and were treasured and collected wherever they were found. They were also traded between tribes and used as special ceremonial gifts at inter-tribal corroborees.
Aboriginal women would collect macadamias in their coolamons or dilly bags and take them to their feasting grounds. They would remove the husk and crack the shells using stones with special indentations. This technique involved placing the flat indented stone over the nut and then striking it with a larger stone, delivering an even force and minimising the damage to the kernel.
It wasn’t until the 1850s that Australian macadamia trees attracted the attention of European botanists Walter Hill and Ferdinand Von Meuller when they were struck with the majestic beauty of the trees they found growing in the rainforests of Queensland.
While the first plantation was established in the 1880s, it wasn’t until the development of successful grafting techniques and the introduction of mechanical processing that commercial production of the tough nut became feasible. Macadamia enthusiast Norm Gerber pioneered the grafting techniques that enabled the development of our commercial industry, and he is often referred to as the founding father of the Australian macadamia industry.
Australia’s Aboriginal people had a special legend that explained the origins of the macadamia. The following is the legend as re-told in January 1993 by Olga Miller, the senior Elder of the Butchella Tribe of Fraser Island.
The Legend of the Baphal
Way back in THE FIRST TIME [The Dreamtime] when Yindingie our Messenger God was leaving the Mountain, the Budjilla people had to decide who was to look after our Land.There was someone to go to Burrum Heads to look after the north and someone to look after the south at Inskip Point. When it came to looking after the Mountain, nobody wanted to really leave and go to a far away place, so a man called Baphal said he would go.
So Baphal packed for his long journey and unbeknown to him his friend the jewel lizard stowed away in his pack. He had walked a long way, all the time he could see the Mountain in the distance. Finally he reached the Mountain and set up camp, when out jumped the little jewel lizard. Baphal said to him what are you doing here? The little lizard said I did not want to leave you so I hid in your pack and came with you.
One day when Baphal was walking along he fell and hurt his foot - he could not get to food and water. The little lizard could see that Baphal was hurt, so he went to the rock wallaby to ask him what to do. The rock wallaby said, we have to get him some water. So they got Baphal’s eelamun and hurried to the water, but when they got there, the rock wallaby could not reach. So he took the eelamun to the kangaroo and the kangaroo filled up the eelamun with water and gave it back to the rock wallaby who with the lizard gave it to Baphal.
Then the lizard said we have to get him some food. The rock wallaby said we should ask the cockatoo. So the cockatoo flew out and collected some nuts and scattered them around the mountain so Baphal could have food.
Then the rock wallaby and the lizard decided that Baphal needed help from his people so they made a fire and asked the cockatoo to get some leaves. The cockatoo flew out once again and collected some green leaves from the nut tree, and this created smoke. Well our people on the Island seen the smoke and they sent help to Baphal.
When our people saw what happened they called the Mountain, Baphal’s Mountain. When our people seen the lizard they called him Baphal’s lizard. When our people seen the nuts they call them Baphal’s nuts.