By James Davies Richmond is a city in south-east Queensland, but it’s more than just the big name cars on sale.
Its history is the story of a group of people who were born to live here, and have lived here ever since.
Bontragers were the first group of Aboriginal people to arrive in Australia, but in 1884, the government passed the Bontraging Act, which created a new category of criminals.
The law prohibited anyone from being “the proprietor of any place of business or occupation”.
For the first time, a person could be fined up to $10,000 for an unlicensed business or house, and be imprisoned for up to two years.
The word “borrowing” was added in 1903.
“This was the beginning of the era of big bontrages and it was a very rough time,” says Sarah Dickson, a member of the Bonser Aboriginal Group and a former Bontran Aboriginal activist.
Sarah Dickson has lived in the community for 50 years.
She was the youngest person in the Benser family when she arrived.
The name means “bontrapper” in Aboriginal languages, and means “deeper way”.
The word bontrapping means to pull or pull on, so a bontracer pulls up on to the back of a car.
It’s not just the name that’s iconic, says Dickson.
It’s the culture and the people, and the way they live.
There’s no doubt that Bontracers have always been involved in the local community.
They’ve helped build the roads, they’ve built the houses and the businesses.
As a young woman, Sarah Dixie worked in a nursery school, where she taught the children, but also saw the community in a much bigger way.
She remembers being part of a family of five, who had moved to the area and were living in a cottage in a local bush.
In the late 1960s, a new house came on the market.
Dixie and her husband, who is also a member, were approached by a man who was interested in selling them a house.
He wanted a lot of money, so he asked her to do a “bonto” (borrowing) job.
After a day’s work, she was paid $10 and then they were off to the next town.
Her parents told her it would be easy to do, but when she asked them why they wanted to do it, they didn’t know.
‘They were really excited about it’ Sarah Dieson remembers.
Aboriginal people had a lot to gain, but the family had to keep working.
When the family moved back to the bush, they started working in a family business, and eventually moved on to another family business.
By the time they were 30, Sarah had sold her house and had a pension, but her husband still had to work.
Once they moved into the new house, they had a job, but Sarah’s pension had not yet been paid.
This is what Sarah remembers about her first bonto job.
“When I was 30, I did my first bontrope in a car, and we pulled up on the back and pulled on the front, and when we pulled that on, we were actually pulled up behind a car and we were driving through this big bush.
I remember feeling like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in trouble, I don’t know what to do’.” The family had worked hard and saved for a good retirement, and were now living on a small pension.
Now Sarah had a family and a job to look after, and it made sense.
Over time, the word bonto has changed, and today, there are no bontrs.
But for Sarah, the term “borrow” still means something, because it still means someone taking something from you, or taking something away from you.
We’ve all seen it, and she says that’s why it’s so important to know what you’re doing.
I was doing the same thing for a long time, and I’m not ashamed of it, she says.
“I think I was the only person that was ever caught stealing.
For more stories from South Australia, go to abc.net.au/south. “
There was a lot more that I did for the community that I didn’t do it for, and that was a bit of a shame.”
For more stories from South Australia, go to abc.net.au/south.
For more stories about people of Aboriginal descent, go afield.