This ‘I took the Leap Mackay’ frame has been described as distasteful after it was erected on the site where a woman jumped to her death. Picture: Instagram.
This ‘I took the Leap Mackay’ frame has been described as distasteful after it was erected on the site where a woman jumped to her death. Picture: Instagram.

Tasteless sign marks spot where woman died

A GIANT photo frame with the slogan "I took the leap Mackay" has been installed on the edge of a cliff where a woman holding a baby jumped to her death.

The frame - a prop designed to promote local tourism when snapped by visitors and uploaded to social media - was reportedly erected by a private tour operator on the peak of The Leap, a mountain in Mackay, Queensland, around Christmas last year.

But the historical site has a dark history that should be respected and not exploited for tourism, according to family members who descend from the baby who survived the fall.

It was 1867 when a group of local Aboriginal people accused by settlers of either spearing cattle or spearing a man named John Greenwood Barnes in the arm, were approached by the state's Native Police Force.

The group fled, with one woman reputed to have been called Kowaha, seeking refuge in caves at the top of nearby Mount Mandurana.

As the police closed in, Kowaha jumped off a cliff clutching her baby, who was said to be wrapped in a shawl.

This ‘I took the Leap Mackay’ frame has been described as distasteful after it was erected on the site where a woman jumped to her death. Picture: Instagram.
This ‘I took the Leap Mackay’ frame has been described as distasteful after it was erected on the site where a woman jumped to her death. Picture: Instagram.

The baby survived, the shawl possibly acting as a safety capsule when caught on a bush, and the little girl was adopted by settlers James and Mary Ready, according to The Courier Mail.

The child was Johanna Hazeldean. She married an Englishman called George Howes, had three children, died on December 28 1887 and is buried in the Mackay cemetery, according to the newspaper. Several of her descendants still live in the area.

In a published work, Queensland historian Clive Moore said there "seems no doubt that a massacre occurred at The Leap in 1867 and that the survivor was a female, probably about two or three years old".

Professor Moore said the story encapsulated 18th century Aboriginal and European relations with its "combination of destruction and kindness''.

It's a sentiment The Leap, an outback pub built in 1881 that has become an institution in the Mackay district, appeared to also echo. The venue features a statue of the woman clutching her baby outside the venue. It was installed to honour Kowaha's memory and the history of traditional owners. But the same can't be said for the Insta-friendly photo frame recently plonked on top of the mountain, according to her descendants.

The Leap Hotel features a statue of the woman clutching her baby outside the venue.  Picture: Lachie Millard
The Leap Hotel features a statue of the woman clutching her baby outside the venue. Picture: Lachie Millard

Deb Netuschil is the great-great granddaughter of Johanna Hazeldean, Kowaha's baby who survived the fall off the mountain.

She told the ABC her family considered the frame "really disrespectful".

"That's a place of sorry business for us because of the history and because of what happened," Ms Netuschil said.

"We were one of our lineage to survive, but there is a lot of our mob that that didn't.

"That's where our line stopped. That's where the massacres happened."

The area is today considered a massacre site where native police 'dispersed' the local Aboriginal population using violent means.

Yuibera traditional owners told the ABC they were not consulted on a new frame with signage at the top of the peak which they see as "taking the Mickey".

The Department of Environment and Science said the frame would be removed this week.

A spokesperson said the sign was placed there without Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services authority.

"QPWS respects the [Yuibera] people and agrees the signage is offensive," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"As well as the insensitive nature of the sign, it is an offence to put any signage on a national park without authority.

"QPWS removes any unauthorised signage from national parks."

The council did not authorise the frame, according to reports.