The Kaiabara are an indigenous Australian people of the state of Queensland. Rather than an independent tribe, they may have been a horde of the Wakka Wakka.


Norman Tindale put Kaiabara territory at around 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2), around the headwaters of Stuart Creek, running south from roughly the area of Proston to Kingaroy and the Cooyar Range.[1] They constituted a rather small tribe, and R. H. Mathews considered it more appropriate to write of a 'family' or 'triblet'.[2]

Social organization

The Kaiabara marriage system's description was contested among early ethnographers. R. H. Mathews in several articles claimed that it was matrilineal while Alfred William Howitt, followed by Andrew Lang, argued that descent was patrilineal.

Howitt initially posited that there was a general class system he and Lorimer Fison called the Gamilaraay type, with a variant common in south-eastern Queensland stipulating descent through the male line, citing the Kaiabara as one of the Bunya mountain tribes which exemplified the pattern. Relying on information garnered by correspondence with Jocelyn Brooke, a Sub-Inspector attached to the Australian native police, he divided the Kaiabara into two phratries, each having two clans within their respective subdivisions, with the following results:[a]-

Primary Divisions Sub-classes Totems
Kabatine Bulkoin/Bunda Carpet snake; native cat; Flood water
Dilebi Baring/Turowain turtle; bat; lightning

Establishing these general divisions, he concluded that the marriage rules were as follows:-

Male Marries Children are
(M) Bulkoin (F) Turowain Bunda
(M) Bunda (F) Baring Bulkoin
(M) Baring (F) Bunda Turowain
(M) Turowain (F) Bulkoin Baring

Howitt's schema caused a technical perplexity, causing the amateur ethnographer Andrew Lang to speak of an 'intricate puzzle',[3] for Howitt was arguing that, viewed in terms of the phratries and their subclasses, the descent was from the father whereas, viewed in terms of the totems associated with them, the descent was in the female line.[2] Unlike Howitt, Mathews had personally interviewed the relevant tribal elders to ascertain the facts and verify the models proposed. As a result, he formulated the following system:

Phratry Male Marries Children are
Karpeun Balkoin (Banjoor) Derwain Bunda
Barrang Bunda Derwain
Deeajee Bunda Barrang Banjoor (Balkoin)
Derwain Banjoor (Balkoin) Barrang

Alternative names

Source: Tindale 1974, p. 173


  1. ^ Howitt concluded:'From these diagrams it is clear that with the Kaiabara descent is in the male line, for the children are of the same primary division as their father, and of that sub-division which, with his own, is equal to the primary division. In the Kamilaroi type the children belong to the primary division of their mother and to the sister sub-class of that to which she belongs. I think that we may safely assume that the Kaiabara system is a development of that of the Kamilaroi type which surrounds it on the north-west and south, and of which it is the recognised equivalent.' (Howitt & Fison 1889, pp. 48–50)


  1. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 172.
  2. ^ a b Mathews 1911, p. 101.
  3. ^ Lang 1910, p. 110.