27 October, 2022
As the first ever Aboriginal person to travel to the Antarctic Circle, the late Doongbung Towney brought great pride to his family.
Graeme ‘Doongbung’ Towney passed away suddenly
last week. But despite no longer physically here, Doongbung’s
stories and legacy will remain as strong as ever.
Family have gathered over the past few days to share
and exchange stories of Doongbung. He was the cultural
knowledge holder of the Towney family, and was a proud
Doongbung spent the first few years of his life down by
the river, with his family, in a tin shack made of flattened
cans. This was until the floods of 1955. From there, his
family and other Aboriginal families were moved to tents at
the Gilgandra showgrounds.
His father, Jack Towney, advocated for a lot of families
after the flood, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to
move to the area where ‘The Pines’ now is. After that,
Doongbung grew up on the Gullingbland Mission at
Balladoran, surrounded by his family.
At 14, Doongbung left school and became an apiarist.
Family have said that Doongbung always had extensive
knowledge on all thing’s wildlife, and when he started work
in the 1970s for the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife
Service, that knowledge only grew. Doongbung was
appointed warden under the Tasmanian National Parks and
Wildlife Service Aboriginal Act soon after starting. This
Act gave him the power to enforce the laws associated with
the protection of the sites when necessary.
Later in his career with National Parks, Doongbung
spent 14-months on Macquarie Island in sub-Antarctica. He
became one of the ‘Australian Antartic Winterers’, receiving
an Australian Antartic Medallion, which recognises
those who wintered in the Antarctic Circle. Being the first
Aboriginal person to do so, he couldn’t have been prouder.
There he carried out research into sea birds, seals, eradicating
feral cats and rabbits, penguins, albatross, two
species of Giant Petrels, and many more smaller birds.
Doongbung often thought about how proud his own mother
and father would be of him, as the first Aboriginal person
to receive the Antartic medallion.
Resigning from the Tasmanian National Parks and
Wildlife Service, Doongbung returned home to Gilgandra
where he worked for NSW National Parks and Wildlife
He went on to work for them as a ranger for a further
14-years, making up 30-years total working for the
National Parks and Wildlife Service. During this time,
Doongbung was very active in the setting up of the
Goobang National Park, and was appointed the first ranger
in charge of the area.
He was extremely proud of this
achievement, as this was on the Country of his great grandfather,
Billy Wandong, who was a Spirit Man.
Doongbung was proud of his entire family. He was the
son of Jack and Madeline Towney (nee Naden). He was a
loved brother of Eleanor (dec), Joy (dec), John (dec), Fay
(dec), Cynthia (dec), Peter (dec), Phillip, Rhonda, Wayne,
John, Anthony, and Kylie. He was a cherished father of
Sonja, Feiona, Billy, Luana, and Donna.
Doongbung was the keeper of many stories, some that
will be carried with him, and others that will live on
through his family.
Penelope Towney, Doongbung’s grand-daughter,
described her Pop as Gwarngi, meaning silly, and said she
felt Dyiramadilinya, very proud of him.
Doongbung loved reading The Gilgandra Weekly and Koori Mail, and always said how important it was to him to come home to Gilgandra during his final years.