The family of Cherbourg's early residents to reunite

PICTURE OF OUR PAST: The Yarrabah Mission brass band with Charlie Chambers holding the tuba. Next to him is Reverend Gribble.
PICTURE OF OUR PAST: The Yarrabah Mission brass band with Charlie Chambers holding the tuba. Next to him is Reverend Gribble.

DESCENDANTS of one of Cherbourg's earliest residents will travel from across Australia to meet for a family reunion in Brisbane this coming weekend.

This will be the third time folks related to the late Charlie and Nancy Chambers will meet in Acacia Ridge on Saturday, October 28.

Charlie was from the Kuku Imiage clan near Edwards River in far north Queensland and Nancy was from the Koa clan in Winton.

Their granddaughter Alexandra Gater said Charlie was stolen from his family about 1862.

"The circus stole him, put him in a cage and took him around,” Mrs Gater said.

"People laughed at him but he was just six years of age and he was a frightened little boy.

"When the circus was finished with him, they left him on the street.

"A missionary found him, took him in and cared for him.

"Their daughter was a teacher and she taught my grandfather how to speak English and how to read and write.

"As he got older, he said he wanted to go back to his family and he was taken to Yarrabah Mission where he met and married my grandmother.”

While at Yarrabah, Charlie started training with Anglican missionaries under Reverend Gribble.

He learnt to play the tuba and joined the mission's brass band.

Like many First People, Charlie and his wife Nancy's lives were controlled by the state.

When in their 20s the couple were moved to Fraser Island, then to the Purga Mission at Ipswich and finally to the newly established Barambah Mission.

They were put to work clearing land for the mission and building the first two dormitories.

While the other men and women were sent to work as farm labourers and domestic servants, Nancy stayed behind to care for their children who lived in the dormitories.

"Nancy ran a soup kitchen,” Mrs Gater said.

"She was also an early social worker.

"When the children were sick she would take them on the tram down to the Royal Brisbane Hospital as an escort and she would pick them up and bring them back to Barambah.”

As one of the few educated and then ordained indigenous men, Charlie was an outspoken advocate for his people.

He worked in the courts helping guide young men through the system.

"He worked with the state and spoke out about the living conditions in the early days,” Mrs Gater said.

"In appreciation for their hard work they were given ownership of their house in Barambah Avenue opposite the Cherbourg Hospital.”

While the house has since been demolished and rebuilt, Charlie and Nancy's descendants still live on the property.

"Charlie and Nancy Chambers were well-known and highly respected throughout Queensland for their valuable contribution and hard work which they made throughout Queensland,” Mrs Gater said.

"Together they had five children who were raised in Cherbourg, who have many descendants.

"Their legacy and teachings have been passed down through the generations, through hard work, endurance and valuable contributions they have made to the Cherbourg community, and all the families who were staff and residents.

"Their descendants continue to pass down their legacy through hard work, contributing to many fields of clergy roles, professional roles, work in various industries, sporting and academic achievements, and the arts and creative industries.

"From their five children - Samuel, Livingston, Faith, Hazel and Naomi - they have as many as hundreds of descendants, too numerous to count.

"The generations spanning over six generations. This weekend their descendants will be gathering to come and pay homage to their lasting legacy.”

She said it was a chance to reconnect.

"(To) share memories and stories, and get together to meet once again, as well as meet family they have yet to meet,” Mrs Gater said.

South Burnett

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