The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra

Written by Binna Burra

November 30, 2021

Binna Burra 1970s


Memories of Binna Burra – Catherine Gzell.

My mother tells me I first went to Binna Burra when I was 6 weeks old, and I cried a lot. Her father Len Butts became a shareholder of Binna Burra after the end of the Second World War. He liked it as a place to take his family. Mum remembers parking the car at the Dump and walking up the goat track to get to the Lodge. I think there was some sort of flying fox or pulley system to get bags and other things up to the top of the mountain.

My first memory of Binna Burra would be when I was about 3, so around 1970. Mum was pinning a blob of cotton wool onto my pink and white bunny costume for the Easter Saturday night fancy dress parade. In those days the building which later housed the reception and lounge area was the dining room, with the kitchen in what was later the shop. I remember sitting at long tables with fancy white lacy tablecloths in the old dining room. On Easter Saturday night these tables would all be moved to the side so the fun could begin. There would be the fancy dress parade followed by progressive dancing like Strip the Willow and square dances and of course the Binna Burra Slosh, done to Trinny Lopez’ “What Do You Do in America” and “If I Had A Hammer”.

Peter Biggs made a big impression on me when I was a bit older. Every year he would dress up in his white shorts and singlet, cover himself in shaving foam and stride in (often shivering) as the Abominable Snowman. It was a tradition. One year Mum dressed us all up in newspaper – apparently we were “In the News”. Another year we had to act very tired carrying lots of packs and stuff. That was Arthur Hailey’s “Overload”.

But of course Binna Burra wasn’t just about costume parades and dancing – it was about the bush. I remember with wonder being given a share of scroggin (dried fruit, nuts with a bit of chocolate and the odd jellybean or two) from an old canvas backpack which Dad would pick up in the morning before we went off for our bushwalk. There would be bottles of water or orange cordial, ham and salad rolls, fruit and fruitcake as well. It was wonderful! I also remember going on accompanied hikes where someone would boil a billy over a fire, with water collected from a nearby waterfall. I loved watching the spinning of the billy in a complete circle to help the tea brew. (I could never understand why the tea didn’t just fall out – it was like magic.)

Mum and Dad loved the walks and other adventures. Apparently Mum even walked all the way to Mt Hobwee and Wagawn before light to see the sunrise over the border in her teens. Dad still has a couple a scars on his back from rapelling. He used to love telling the story of how he got lost unsuccessfully trying to climb Egg Rock and had to hitchhike his way back to civilisation. Apparently he scared a few people because they thought he had escaped from the nearby Numinbah Correctional Centre. He also tells the story of how Mum nearly sat on a tiger snake during one long hike (I think it may have been to Fountain Falls).

I grew up coming to Binna Burra every Easter, starting off just Mum and Dad and me and then over the years with my sisters Angela, Justine and Cecelia. Me and my sisters would stay in one of the old split log an shingle roof cabins on the top row whilst Mum and Dad would stay in the cabin at the Dining Room end of the bottom row. Dad used to sing songs like “10 green bottles”, “One man went to mow” and “Green grow the rushes O” to stop us whinging about how long the walk was. He would get us to sing along so I still find myself singing them in my head when I go out walking.

Our family favourite was Daves Creek country – varied forest and great lookouts a perfect length for a family with young children. We also loved the Caves walk and later Coomera Falls circuit. I remember seeing my first blue crayfish in one of the rockpools on the Coomera Falls walk.

We also enjoyed the abseiling. I have fond memories of Barry Davies organising the abseiling off Windy Corner. Taking that first step off the edge was amazing. I later used to bring my boyfriends up to Binna Burra to try out the abseiling as well. It was something I really loved.

The pinnacle of adventure at biina Burra for me was the Over the Edge walk. A group of us walked out to Shipstern, abseilled off the edge, slid down a tree, scrambled up Turtle Rock, explored the caves there and then wandered down a grassy paddock to the waiting Binna Burra bus at the end of the day. I had to wait until I was about 12 or so to be old enough to join that walk, but the wait was worth it!

I think around that time the new Dining Room was built. Mum and Dad contributed to the fundraiser effort, as did many others, and all were rewarded with leather back dining chairs with their names carved into the back. A fun game for me and my sisters was trying to find Mum and Dad’s chairs amongst all those chairs in the new Dining Room. I loved getting in there at breakfast as soon as the old bell rang to get a table on the lower level. It had a huge expanse of glass looking out over the wilderness to the plateau on the other side. Occasionally you would get to see a satin bower bird, king parrot or crimson rosella flash past in all their glory. One year a male satin bower bird built his bower in the traffic island right outside the reception and lounge building!

On those rare occasions when we didn’t go for a bushwalk I loved morning tea – fresh scones with jam and cream.

Dinners were great as well. To be honest it was probably the only time I enjoyed soup – there seemed to be something special about steaming Binna Burra soup in huge earthenware tureens with fresh homemade bread rolls and butter. A great start to a meal. Then we would line up at the kitchen window to collect our main meal which usually included a choice of a roast of some description, and then again for dessert. My favourite dessert was Yes Please (a bit of everything).

After dinner there was often a presentation in the reading room above the Dining Room, or spotlighting etc, but my parents were really into games so we usually went to their cabin to play Trivial Pursuit, Mahjong, scrabble or whatever was their latest favourite game. I never felt bored despite no television or portable technology in those days.

Later I brought my own small children and future husband to Binna Burra. We went spotlighting, rolling down the grass outside the old Groom’s cottage pademelon spotting and bushwalking ourselves. My children became the 4th generation in my family to enjoy Binna Burra.

I look forward to the time when my children’s children can also enjoy the amazing experiences Biina Burra has to offer.

Catherine Gzell

25 November 2021

The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
The Gzell family memories of Binna Burra
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Catherine’s Grand Father: Vitaly de Gzell (1908-1977)  a Russian-Australian architect, who practised in Queensland in the modernist tradition.

(The Brisbane Architectural Practice of Blackburne and Gzell (1934-1953). Search on )

Catherine’s Father: The Hon Ian Gzell AM QC (1965), formerly a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. A strong supporter of Binna Burra, he sometimes provided pro-bono legal advice on matters of the company Constitution and the rights and privileges of different shares classes.

‘The Hon Justice Ian Gzell was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on Monday, 4 February 2002. In his welcoming remarks, the President of the New South Wales Bar commenced by noting that His Honour had come to us from Queensland, something which is not forgotten, either by the Queenslanders or by those around them.

His Honour’s practice when he resided in Queensland was not limited to that State; His Honour practised, amongst other places, in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Singapore, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.

His Honour was a reporter for the Commonwealth Law Reports from as early as 1973. Subsequently His Honour moved to the Sydney Bar and established a varied practice from in 5 Selborne Chambers, with special emphasis on revenue law. Once in Sydney, His Honour became director of both Barristers Superannuation and Counsels Chambers, of which he was chairman since 1999.

In Queensland he had been secretary of Barristers Chambers in the 60s and 70s. He has also been a director of the International Dispute Centre and has made contributions through the Business Law Section of the Law Council, the Commercial Law Association and the Taxation Institute of Australia.

Outside the law, His Honour provided financial and moral support of music through the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the National Council of Opera Australia and regional arts organisations.’

Always interested in Binna Burra, The Hon, Ian Vitaly Gzell AM KC, born 28 May 1941 passed away on 22 December 2022.


Sydney Morning Herald:

By David Marks KC:


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