Digger’s family fighting for land rights recognition

PRIVATE Peter Craigie is the forgotten black Digger of the North West.

Dajarra man Peter Craigie served in World War One in the 9th Light Horse and 2099A Driver 32 Infantry Batallion as a driver and a gunner.

As a 21-year-old, he rode his horse from Birdsville to Adelaide where he voluntarily enlisted on December 30, 1915.

Sadly, during his time at war, Peter Craigie was gassed while serving overseas and came back a very sick man.

He passed away at the age of 52 in the Cloncurry Hospital, after being taken there for treatment from Dajarra.

Peter Craigie was born on Roxborough Downs Station (Aboriginal name Kuthawarra) 

in 1894 to parents Bunny Roxborough, a full-blood traditional Aboriginal woman of the Wangkamadla/Wangkajutjuru tribe, and James Craigie, a Scottish station manager.

Roxborough Downs Station is located on the banks of the Georgina River south of Mount Isa, near Boulia.

His father James Craigie took up managing Roxborough in 1878 when he originally took the first lot of cattle there from Mount Cornish. He built the homestead and set Roxborough up after previously working on Mount Cornish.

Peter Craigie had seven siblings: George, a full blood born at Kuthawarra in 1877, Geraldine/Cherida married Lawn Melville, born Kuthawarra, Joe Craigie married Topsy/ Mary Kerr born Kuthawarra, Jack Craigie married Mary Moody born Kuthawarra, Dora Craigie married Arthur Newton born Kuthawarra, Donald Craigie married Kitty and Dinah Craigie married Sydney/Caeser Aplin.

Peter Craigie married his wife Daisy Cusack in Adelaide in 1916, before he embarked on the HMAT Anchises on March 16, 1916 to go overseas to serve in the First World War.

He fought in action at the Somme in France. He was in the 9th Light Horse Regiment, but upon getting gassed and spending a lot of time in hospitals, he was transferred to the 32 Infantry Batallion as a driver.

He returned to Birdsville in 1919, where he and his wife had 10 children. He returned to his traditional country in the North West at Dajarra in the early 1920s, where most of his children were born. He reared his children on his traditional country.

Easter married Alf Timms, Eileen married George Simmons, James Craigie lived and died in Boulia, Peter Cecil Craigie, Olive married Michael Bohning, Bruce Craigie, Norma married Joseph Rogers, Sylvia Craigie died as an infant in Dajarra in 1934, Horace Craigie and Terry Craigie, who is the only surviving child. Allan was the oldest brother.

He reared his family around Boulia and Dajarra.

His mother Bunny was later tribally married to King Bob of Boulia, who she had children with. Today relatives of Peter Craigie are still living in Boulia – the Doyle and Bedourie families.

But unlike other returned soldiers, Mr Craigie, a man who represented his country, was never given any land.

Peter Craigie’s grandson Joe Rogers and his only surviving son Terry Craigie.

Peter Craigie’s grandson Joe Rogers and his only surviving son Terry Craigie.

His granddaughter Lorna Bogdanek says that to date there is still a struggle for land rights.

“His traditional land has been taken from him on the say so of anthropologists and lies that have been sworn in the Federal Court. These people know who we are referring to,” she said.

“There is documentation where James Craigie first settled Kuthawarra/Roxborough in 1878.”

“We have documentation of the Craigies being born on Roxborough from 1877 until 1952.

‘‘The people that claimed this country were shown this country in recent years and this is a well-known fact in the Aboriginal community. There is documentation, supporting this family as the Georgina Tribe.”

Peter’s brother, who was a full blood, was born before James Craigie arrived there.”

A native title claim has been lodged for a parcel of land covering Ardmore, Stradbroke and Buckingham Downs stations.

Peter Craigie’s grandson Joe Rogers said his grandfather deserved recognition for serving his country by way of rights for his family.

“We want to get that connection to the land where my grandfather was from,” he said.

“We don’t want their land, we just want native title rights and interests on the land of our grandfather, the black Digger.”

To honour the war hero, Mr Rogers will be joined by younger brothers Errol and David, along with their uncle Terry, the last surviving child of Peter Craigie, at a special commemoration in Bedourie this weekend.

The Anzac centenary will be celebrated at Vaughan Johnson Lookout, where 100 horses will be ridden for the Anzac Day service.

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