A Story of the People of Goulburn Islands, North Australia



Naganmara - a magic man

Naganmara came from way up in the north - he came from one of the islands. He landed on Cape York Peninsula, and then he travelled down west. When he travelled, he was all on his own. This man was a magic man, and as he came he followed the beach. When he stopped, a tree sprang up, and he named it a ngurum or casuarina tree. He travelled a bit farther and sat down, and another tree sprang up. He named that tree. As he travelled along the beach, all the trees that grow along the beach sprang up, and he gave them all their names. But he didn't look back as he went along naming all the trees. Then he sat down, and looked back, and suddenly an island sprang up. 'Oh, there's an island!' he said. 'I want trees to grow on that island.' So he caused trees to grow, and grass. He went a bit farther and looked back again and another island sprang up, and then a line of islands. These are The English Company's Islands. Well, this is where he sat down and counted the islands. He moved on a bit more, and he caused the water holes and the springs. He said, 'this is fresh water. This is salt water'. He caused swamps, he caused long beaches. Then he said, 'these are cliffs'. So he caused cliffs to come up and then trees to grow inland. And grass.

Location map for South Goulburn and North Goulburn Islands

He came on a bit farther, then sat down again. Then he looked back, and there were islands springing up. Lines of them. These are the islands that go out toward the Wessel Islands. Then he went along a bit farther. He was very, very interested in the way that things were going. He was very happy. So he decided to move on a bit farther. As he came down, he walked along the beach and found the beach all covered with shells. Shells had been washed on to the beach. He looked at them and he said, 'these shells must have names'. He walked on and he crossed creeks, but before he crossed over they were just little trickles. he said, 'let these be big creeks', and then he said, 'let there be trees'. These were different sorts of trees, the mangroves that grow along the creeks. And then he came a bit farther. He walked along the beach. He sat down. This magic man, Naganmara, travelled right through from Cape York Peninsula, right through to western Arnhem Land. That's where he finished up. He was a powerful man. He could say something, and when he said a word, the things that he wanted, they happened. When Naganmara landed, he found people living on the mainland. He travelled down and he found different people with different speech - their languages were a bit different. The people saw Naganmara and saw the works that he did. They got very interested in him. They said, 'Nagamara, he must be a magic man. Or he must be something that has power'.

He travelled right down to the west of Arnhem Land, right up to Cobourg Peninsula. That's where he travelled. He3 had met a lot of people. He once camped with a lot of people. They came to the place where he was camped. This was near Port Essington, or somewhere there in Yiwadja country. One day these people went out hunting, and there was with them a young man. He was very strong, very active. He got a lot of 'sugarbag', wild honey. And he ate and he ate till he was really full. So he said, 'I'll cross this creek'. He walked over with a lot of his friends. Everybody crossed the creek and he came after, and as he crossed the creek he got this pain. 'What's happened?' they asked. 'I think, well, I must have - I've eaten too much wild honey.' But he kept on walking till they came to a camp. They all settled down, but he was sick that night. He was in pain. They said to him, 'we can't do anything'. They tried their best to make him better and make him strong. But they couldn't do anything. He got worse and worse, until he died. 

When he died, all the people mourned for him. He was a great hunter. He was a good man. They had lost someone who had been good to them. So they mourned for him for several days. They didn't bury his body or put it up on a platform, as they used to do then. They had him all wrapped up. His father and mother weren't going to bury him. They were going to keep him somewhere until his flesh decayed, then they would get his bones. So they had this man's body. Anyhow, the news got around, and they said, 'oh yes, we know there is a man called Naganmara. Naganmars is a man who can help. He does many good things. He does many wonderful things. He must be a powerful man. He might help us. He might do something to give this man back his life'.

Some messengers went to Naganmara. They went to tell him about this man. He was camped with some people about a day's walk away. When the messengers got to this place, they were very tired, but they wanted Naganmara to go straight back with them that night. He could see that they were very tired and he said, 'there is no need to travel back tonight. We'll go back in the morning'. They said, 'he is dead, he may be stinking by now'. But Naganmara said, 'we will stop here till the morning, and then we will go'. So they camped there that night and in the morning started to walk back to their own camp, and a lot of people went back with these messengers.

Reverend Lazarus Lamilami, OBE

Naganmara was very, very humble. He did not show that he was a great man - he did not show that he could do something very, very great. But the people could see that Naganmara was humble and yet he was a great man. They all went back with Nqaganmara, they walked all the way with him, and at last they got to this place. The people could see them coming. 'Oh, there is that man coming! Naganmara!' So the cry went up, 'Naganmara is coming! Naganmara is coming! The great one. He is coming!' Naganmara felt the people were praising him. He felt very humble. He did not want them to praise him. So he beckoned with his hands not to do that. He told them to all sit down. They all sat down. he came up to the father and mother of the young man, and all the relatives came round He gave them  a little bit of a speech. He told them  not to worry, not to do themselves any harm. He said he would try his best to help them. He asked them where the body was. They said they would show him, and all the people followed to the place where the body was.

There Naganmara said, 'all you other people, I want you to go back home. I want only the father and the mother and the closest relatives of the boy to stay with me'. So they stayed and all the others went back to the camp. They wondered what was going to happen, what this man was going to do. They wondered. They looked very hard. They kept looking down the path. Then they could see some people coming. I don't know what Naganmara did, but this man was alive again. And the people saw him. They could see this young man coming back with Naganmara and all his relatives. The people were very happy. When Naganmara came into the camp, they shouted. 'Naganmara was a man who had great power. The parents were very happy. Very thankful.

We don't know when he died, but people have told us that Naganmara lived for many years. He did good for the people and he helped them. He did many kind things. In everything that he did, the people were very happy. Naganmara, a man with great power. That is the story of Naganmara.

Making the long beaches

See the long beaches. These long beaches, they say the jabiru bird made them. He walked a mile. Then he looked back. He walked on another mile, and looked back again. Then he walked another mile and looked back. And these long beaches, they say, they came because the jabiru kept walking and looking back. That's why the beaches got longer and longer. but the beaches were all black.

But jabiru had this other little bird following him along. This little bird we call guluwidbid. He is very small and when he runs his legs are very quick. This little bird ran along after jabiru. And as he went he had a firestick in his hand. He carried this firestick and it brought light, and it turned all the black sand to white. He followed the jabiru, and where the beaches were long and black he turned them white. It all became light. And that's why the sands are white. It became light. See the long beaches, that's where jabiru walked, and the sand is white because guluwidbid came behind with the firestick.

How the big stones came on Waira

This is a story of North Goulburn Island and a big giant. A long time ago on North Goulburn Island, Waira, there lived a man called Maiimaij. He lived on the east side of the island, and these people are called the Wara Narigi. They are Maung. A lot of people were camped on the east side at a place called Angalgein - that's near Yurungdjurung, the big name for that area.

One morning Malimaidj said, 'I will go and cut some string'. These plants are what we call mariwi. It's a creeper that grows in the jungle. People cut this creeper and scrape the hard stuff off and then beat it and peel it off. Then they soak it in water, or they bit it or chew it to get the sap out. Then they split the stems and dry them and make them into string. It was early in the morning when Maiinaldj went to cut this mariwi. He started off from Angalgein, walked along a path until he came to a beach, and then walked along the beach and went up into the jungle. As he came to the edge of the jungle, he saw this big Yumbarbar. A great giant. Maiinaidj was afraid. He was trembling, he was so frightened that tears were coming out of his eyes. He stool there. He did not know what to say. The Yumbarbar got up and said , 'what do you come here for? What do you want? Do you want a fight? Maiinaidj just looked at him and shook his head. He felt he couldn't fight this giant. He was too frightened to speak. The Yumbarbar handed him a club. He said, 'here's a club for you. We will fight. And we will see who is the winner, who will win this fight'. So the two of them started to fight. The Yumbarbar stood above Maiinaidj. And Maiinaidj looked like a little ant beside this big tall Yumbarbar. The Yumbarbar got his club, he swung it. He hit Maiinaidj and Maiinaidj fell to the ground, just like a piece of paper. But the Yumbarbar did not want to kill him. He just wanted to hit him little by little until he died. That's what he did. He hit Maiimaldj little by little. Malinaidj was on the ground. He was out of breath, he didn't dare to look. He held his breath just a little bit, in case the Yumbarbar would see him breathing.

Then the Yumbarbar dropped his club. He looked around and Maiimaidj quickly grabbed his club. He got up and he swung this club, hit the Yumbarbar's two big balls (testes). His two balls were very long and nearly touched the ground. When Maiinaidj hit his balls, the giant came down. He fell to the ground. The ground shook. All the people at the camp heard the ground shake. They could hear something making a big noise. And everyone said, 'it's Malinaidj! Maiinaidj! What has he done'?

Malinaidj started to vomit when he saw that this Yumbarbar was dead. He vomited. Then he started to walk back to the camp. he was shivering with fright. And he was vomiting. He did not worry about the creepers. He left his dilly bag, his wulangana, and he left the shells that he brought to cut the creepers. They used these shells called ngarlawi for cutting things because they didn't have any knives. He left all these things and walked back to the camp. Everybody in the camp sang out, 'Maiimaidj! Maiimaidj! What have you done'? He had a rest for about two hours, and when he got up he didn't vomit. They gave him some food and he was feeling all right again. Then he told them about the Yumbarbar. And the people said, 'we will go and see. We will go and see this great giant. Is he dead? Are you sure'" Maiinaidj said, 'he is dead'. So they decided to go and see, and they told him that they would come back again. It was about five miles to that place. They walked for five miles, and as they got near they saw this huge thing lying on the ground. They were very frightened. They went up, very slowly. They got closer and closer, and then they saw that he was dead.

Intestines of a green-back turtle are opened prior to washing
and boiling on the beach, South Goulburn Island

The first thing they did was to pull out his two eyes. When they had pulled out his eyes, they went and got some wood. They made a great heap of wood. Stacks of it. Then they put all the wood on top of the giant and set it alight. They burned him. In the early days, they often used to burn the bodies of people when they died. Now they say it's too cruel. They say it is too cruel for the people who are watching. The relatives don't like to see the body burning. After that they used to put the body on a platform and later collect the bones. Or they would bury the body. But today, if you go to North Goulburn Island you can see these big stones there. They say that these are the bones of the great Yumbarbar that Maiimaidj killed. The stones are there, and they are the bones of the giant.

Then, of the two eyes they pulled out, one they sent to the east so that people there could see an eye of this Yumbarbar. They took it a long way and showed it to many people. As a payment, these people from the east sent back lots of presents. They sent dilly bags, spears and fishing nets. They made drum nets for them. They sent back red paint, red ochre, that we call gurud. All these things the people from the cast sent because they wanted to repay the people for showing them the eye of the Yumbarbar. But the other eye, they sent that to the west. The people took it down to the west and from there it was traded to the people of Macassar. That's what they told us. They took this eye back to Macassar. The people there had never seen anything like those eyes before. They sent back presents to the people of North Goulburn Island, the Wara Narigi, because they were pleased that these people had shown them the eye of the big giant, the Yumbarbar, that Maiimaidj had killed. And you can see his bones up at Waira on the east side.  

The caves of Ngalungalu

This is a story of a man who was living in the country at the top of the King River. This man had two wives, and they were sisters. One day he said to his first wife, 'I think we will go on a long journey. We will go imurg [that is, to the east]'. His first wife said, 'yes, let us go. but what about our little boy'? Her husband said, 'he can stay home with his grandmother. Your sister, my wife, can look after him and my brother will be here. He can look after him'. So they gathered all their things together and went away to that far country in the east. They had relatives there. When they got to it, they stayed, because a lot of this woman's relatives were living there. She was very happy, and they stayed for many months.

While this man was away with his wife, his second wife was living with his brother. He wasn't supposed to live with her, buthe did. He was a lazy man, he wouldn't hunt. He wouldn't do anything. He wouldn't chop wood and he wouldn't get water or look after the little boy. He just slept all the time with his brother's wife. The grandmother used to do their hunting. Bring in the water. Bring in the wood. Look after her little grandson. This went on for a long time, and the old woman got very tired. She said, 'I'll destroy this man, I'll do something'. She thought of a plan, of what she would do to him.

One day when she went out hunting with her grandson they gathered yams and some bandicoots, goannas and wild honey. When she came back, she said to herself again, 'I'll do something to this man'. She gathered a lot of bark from the stringybark trees. She brought in a big bundle of it, but she didn't let this man see what she was going to do. When she came near the cave where they were camped, she hid all the bark. Then she went to the cave. She said to her daughter, she said, 'get up and have something to eat. You don't do any hunting, you or your husband. You two are just sleeping all day. You don't deserve anything. Come and eat'. So she gave them something to eat, but all the time she was still thinking the same thought, 'I'll do something to this man'. When the man and the woman, her daughter, had eaten, they went back into the cave. The old woman was very unhappy. But she still went on thinking about destroying that man. When they went to sleep in the cave, she said it was too hot for her and she would sleep outside. So she went outside and took the little boy with her and they slept out there. After a while she crept back into the cave and woke her daughter up, and said quietly to her, 'come outside'. So the daughter went outside. The old woman had everything ready. She packed all the bark rightly a cross the entrance of the cave and then she set fire to it. It all caught alight. The cave got very, very hot.

The man woke up and wondered what was going on. He tried to get out, but the fire was all across the entrance, blocking it. He couldn't get out. He cried for help, but they wouldn't do anything for him. The old woman said, 'you can die. You're a lazy fellow. You wouldn't hunt. This is your punishment. You will die'. And after a while the man died in the cave. The old woman and her daughter and the little boy went off to another place to camp. They made a new camp. but the brother of the dead man, away in the east, I think he might have had a dream or something. The story tells that he began to feel very uneasy. He felt something wrong had happened. so he said to his wife, 'I think we will go back. Let's go and see if anything has happened back in our camp'. They started off, bringing with them a lot of presents they had been given. He had a lot of spears and dilly bags and carvings, some sacred carvings, and he brought back netbags and fishing nets and all sorts of things that are made out of string. He had some things made out of parrot feathers, all decorated. Very pretty things he brought back with him.

As he came near his old camp, he felt that something had happened there. As he came near, he could smell something not very pleasant. So he went up to the cave and looked in, and there he found his brother was dead. All burnt. He cried, he lifted up his voice and cried out loud for sorrow. They were only two brothers and now he was alone. He picked u all his brother's bones and put them in a dilly bag, and he carried it on to where they found that the others were camping. He had an idea what had happened, so he made a plan, and on the way he began to cut some cane. His wife asked, 'what are you cutting that cane for'? He said, 'oh, it's nothing. I'm just going to make an armband for myself'. He did not tell his wife what he was going to do. This cane that he had, we call windi. He took this into the camp.

When the old woman, the grandmother, saw them coming, she called out to her daughter and her grandson and told them. Then she got up and she cried. She cried and cried and hit herself. She wanted to show her son-in-law that she was sorry his brother had died. But he said, 'don't trouble about it. I knew when I was away in the east that something was wrong. So I came back'. The old woman said, 'I'll tell you where your brother is. I'll show you'. But he said, 'don't trouble about it. I've been to the place'.

They camped there that night, and the old woman gave them some food. Her son-in-law wouldn't take any. He was very upset and he was thinking hard what he was going to do. But he said, 'don't trouble. I'll fix up everything'. The old woman told him stories about what had happened to his brother. That night when they were going to sleep, the man said, 'I won't sleep in the cave. I'll just sleep out in the open air. I feel much more comfortable than in that cave there'. So he camped outside with his first wife. About midnight, he got up and started to split the cane. He got the lengths of cane and split them and then he began sewing with them. I don't know how he did it, but he started sewing u the cave. When he had finished, he just waited outside the cave. Then he heard his little boy. He heard him wake up his grandmother and ask her to take him outside. he old woman got up and started to walk outside. It was very dark. But there was no open place, there was no air. She called out, 'what have you done to us? Let us out! Help! Help'! then she said, 'I've given you my daughters and now you have turned on me like this'. Her son-in-law said, 'yes, but what did you do to my brother? You turned on me, and now you are getting your payment'. And they all died in there.

From then on, that place has been called Awunirgbung. It means a place where he sewed, or a place he sewed up. The other cave, that is called Mambulawingbung, and that means the place where something was set ablaze. If you go and visit these big rocks on the mainland in the hills called Ngalungalu south of Goulburn Island, you will see where all this happened. It was a long time ago. I don't know if it is true, but this is what our people used to tell us about those caves.

Places set apart

There are many places that are djang. On Croker Island, where I am now, there are a lot of djang. Not many on South Goulburn Island, but there are some very important places on North Goulburn Island, but there are some very important places on North Goulburn Island and in our country on the mainland. In the past something happened there, and then people say the place is djang. It might be the earth mother or the Rainbow Snake, Ambidj, that caused the djang. Many places are like this, and people say we shouldn't go to them, we shouldn't touch anything there or something bad will happen.

One djang place on South Goulburn Island is on the east side up toward the north. There are two little points there. The first one, the one to the south, it's all right for people to go there, but the other one is a djang. People can't go into that area, they have to walk around the beach. This lace is called Iwanimadjiriwu. Iwani mans he or it is here, and manjiriwu is the name of the djang: 'mandjiriwu is here'. 

My father told me the story about this place. A man went to cut cane in the jungle near Mangrove Point. He was told not to cut cane at this place, Iwanimandjiriwu. But he did. Suddenly there was a big wind and a storm and the sea started to rise. It nearly covered the island. Some of the people went over to the west side to a place called Amaunu, where there are some hills, and others went to the mainland. They stayed there, and after about four or five days they could see the water going down. They went back, but now they hold this as a sacred place. There are rocks near the beach and trees growing there, and the cane that is growing just there, we are not allowed to touch it. It is djang.

Just near the Mission station on Croker Island there is a place where they get the water for the settlement. It is called Black Jungle now, but the people say there is a djang there. We call this place Banigurudalg - it means, that's where the crab is. They say that a lot of crabs caused this jungle, that the crabs came up; there and made this jungle for themselves. People say that if the jungle was cleared a plague of crabs would come up and destroy the village or even destroy the whole island. They say that the jungle is a djang place. on the mainland, going west from Goulburn Island and inland into Yiwadja country, the most important place is Langa. It is djang and it is njunjug (Nyunyug), sacred. Only one man is allowed to go there, and that is Paddy Compass who lives at Croker Island. Langa is a very special place and no-one else is allowed to go there at all. Not even Paddy's sons. It is farther over to the west from Tor Rock.

Not very far from Langa is an area we call Igararayl. It is near Mt. Borradaile and in this place there are some caves. There are a lot of bones in the cave, from a lot of people who were killed in there. There was a man called Marulda who got some gulag, a poison, from a place nearby that is djang, and he poisoned all the people who lived in the cave. He knew how to do this thing and how to make the poison and kill these people. He put the poison in the ashes of a fire at the entrance of the cave, and fanned the ashes so all the smoke went into this cave. So all the people died there. He punished them because they wouldn't send him the girl they had promised to him. This poison, it was a very special thing that he knew how to use. but that place where the caves are, that isn't djang. People can go there if they ask Big Nelson, the man who looks after that area.

Well, I have told you about some of the places that are in our country and in the country around. Some of them are njunjug and some are djang. And, as I said, some places like Langa are djang and njunjug too. Wherever we go, we know the stories about these places, and we know whether we can go there and what we can do. We know about how all these places were made, and this is something that our people have told us about what happened in the past - all these special places. The people know that they should keep these things, because the things that happened in the past, they are important to us. In the country around Hall Point in Junction Bay there is an important place. This is the country of the Maindjimaidj people - the people of my mother and her brothers. They all come from there, and this place we call Mandjulug is a special place. Farther on into the bay from Hall Point, a big stone stands up, just like a pillar. It is a very important place because it is a djang for the maralin and a djang of mandjulug.

The people say that this is where the maralin stopped. It came travelling all the way from Blue Mud and this is where it stopped, near Hall Point. This place is also called Duga Lara - that is, just the area when the Mandjulug is. And there is another story about5 this place and some other rocks that the people call Gumalan Arawir - that means, the place where the didjeridu stopped. Once there was a pack of dingo coming down from the top of the Gumadir River. These dogs were following a hollow log. The hollow log was in front, and the dogs kept going along after it. The log was really a didgeridu. In Maung, we call this arawir. It was making a long low noise, like 'beeb ... beeb ... beeb ...' The dogs were following this noise, but they couldn't catch up with the arawir - they just kept following. As they were going along they were forming the river, that is now called the Gumadir River.

The dogs kept on chasing but never catching up with the arawir. They kept on going until they got down nearly to the sea. Suddenly the arawir stopped, and then the dogs stopped. They decided to stay there, and that is where the big high rocks are now. Ambidj, the Rainbow Snake, was smelling around because she knew that something was there. Then she saw them, and said, 'what's wondered about this. Then she said, 'I know. I'll show myself and I'll do something'. And so this Ambidj stood up. And that's the very big high rock that's there. When she said this, she turned the dogs and the arawir into rocks too. Those are the rocks we can see now. That's Mandjulug, and that's djang. It is the most important djang in that country that belongs to my mother's people, the Maindjinaidj. People are allowed to go there and they can look at these big rocks, but they are not allowed to touch anything.

There are many places in our country where people say we must not go. Various things can happen if people go to these places or touch the things that are there. sometimes it is a big storm with thunder and lightning, or it can be sickness, or a lot of insects can come. It depends on the djang. At North Goulburn Island on the north coast, is a place we call Ilalmulg, meaning 'fly is here'. At this place is a tree that people are not allowed to touch. If someone touches a twig or a leaf, it will cause a plague of flies - not just on Goulburn Island but on the mainland and all the other islands. Lots and lots of flies. We say this place is djang, and it is really njunjug. On the east side of the Gumadir River there is something the same - it is the mosquito djang, that we call njili djang. People are not allowed to dig there and they are not allowed to break the trees. It is njunjug too.

There are a lot of places that are different but, as I said, they are not all njunjug. Tor Rock, that we call Wuragag, is a big high rock or a hill on the mainland and you can see it for miles and miles. We say this is Iyaliyali. It was made by a man who came from the north and turned himself into a rock. People can go there and they won't meet any trouble, because it is not djang.


Wild dog and kangaroo

A wild dog and a kangaroo got together, and sat down under a gum tree to have a talk. The kangaroo said that he wanted a picture of himself. So the dog said to him, 'I want you to paint me. I want you to paint a picture of me. And I will paint me. I want you to paint a picture of me. And I will paint a picture of you'.

The kangaroo said, 'all right. We will go out to the bush together'. And the two of them set off. I don't know what they looked like then, but I think they looked very different from the way we see them now. They put the bark on the fire and made a straight and flat and then they scraped it. They prepared it just the way people do today when they make a bark painting. Then they said, 'we will go out and get ochre. some red paint and some white clay. And some yellow paint'. They went out and got these things. They dug in the ground and got white clay and the red stuff and the yellow stuff. They brought it back and and they soaked it. Then they did the mixing. They mixed the white clay. Then they mixed the yellow, and then the red. They stirred and stirred and they made it look like real paint.

Then they sat down. The dog said, 'I'll paint you'. With careful eyes he looked at the kangaroo. He said, 'sit up! Sit up straight'! So the kangaroo sat up very straight and the dog got his hair brush and started to paint. He painted the body, then he painted the head, and then he made two ears and then the face - the eyes and the nose. He went down a bit lower and made his mouth. Went down a bit lower, and put on his front legs. He made them a bit small, like you see on a kangaroo, more like arms. Then he made his belly and his back. Painted it. Then he painted a tail, a long tail, and his hind legs. He made them long. Then he made his feet. He made everything. Then he was finished. He said to the kangaroo, 'now then, just go away a bit farther'. The kangaroo hopped away a bit. The dog said, 'stand up'! So the kangaroo stood up straight. Then he said, 'now you look like this painting'. When the kangaroo saw the painting of himself, he said, 'aha, you are a very good painter. That just looks like me'. Then he said, 'I'm very, very pleased about that. Now, all the kangaroos that come after me will look like this painting'.

Hot stones are inserted inside a green-back turtle, prior to cooking in hot
sand and coal. The opening is stuffed with grass after the stones have been put in
to fill the cavity made by the removal of the intestine, which are cooked separately.

The dog was very pleased too. He wagged his tail. He shook his ears. He licked his arm. Oh, he was very, very pleased. He showed his teeth, that is to say that he was smiling. He said, 'now, I am a good painter. Everyone will talk about me. They will all say that I am a good painter'. He sat down and he thought for a while. hen he said to the kangaroo, 'well, it's your turn now. You have to paint me. You have to paint a picture of me'. he kangaroo said, 'all right'. He got his bark all ready, scraped it, and got sandpaper leaf and smoothed it all down. He made it very smooth. He prepared the bark very carefully. Then he got his ochre all ready. When he had finished all this work, he was ready to start painting. He said to the dog, 'now then, stand up! don't look straight at me. Turn yourself sideways'. So the dog did that. The kangaroo sat down. With careful eyes he looked at the dog. And this is how he painted the picture. Very carefully. He painted the head, and then he made two ears. Then his face, his eyes and his nose. He went down a bit lower and made his mouth. That's how he painted. Then he sat down for a while. The dog asked, 'aha, are you getting tired'? But the kangaroo said, 'I'm doing a very good job'. The dog asked, 'can I have a look'? The kangaroo said, 'no, no you can't. Later on I'll show you'. he dog said, 'are you doing a good painting of me'? The kangaroo said, 'yes, I am. Say when you are ready and I'll go on'. So the dog said, 'I'm ready'. He got up and asked, 'the same way again'?

The same way again. The kangaroo painted the dog's body, right down. Painted his tail, and then he made his front legs. Then his back legs. Then he looked at him. 'This looks like a real dog, but I'll have to paint his lower part the other way.' So he made his lower part, just below his belly, and then he made his two balls at the back of his legs. And he said, 'all right, have a spell. I'm just finishing off the colour', just like a dingo. After a while he said, 'I'm finished now'. Dog said, 'are you'? 'Yes,' he said, 'I'm finished.' The dog asked if he could have a look, and the kangaroo said yes. The dog came round to have a look. Everything was all right, but his lower part was underneath his belly. He said, 'look here. hat's not right. I haven't got my lower part under my belly'. He said, 'you're wrong. You painted me wrong. And now my lower part will be under my belly and my balls will be behind my two legs'. He said, 'now then, you have done something that makes me angry'. He showed his teeth again, but this time he was angry. he kangaroo got up. He was frightened, he was shivering. His two front legs started to get smaller and smaller.

The dog said, 'I'm going to bite you. I'm going to kill you'. He sprang up to kill the kangaroo. He was angry. The kangaroo hopped away. The dog chased after him. He chased him and chased him. Up and down hills. Up on the rocks and down again. Into steep valleys. Across creeks. He chased him and chased him and the kangaroo got tired. He was tired out. But the dog was determined to kill this kangaroo. 'Because', he said, 'from now on I'll have my lower part under my belly. And that is something that is not very nice. He shouldn't have done that. I painted him very well. I've given him a very good painting. I've given him a real painting. But when he painted my picture he did it wrong. I'm going to kill him'. And so he did.

When the kangaroo got tired, the dog sprang up and grabbed him by the throat and there he held on and wrestled him. He said, 'now I'm going to get you'. At last the kangaroo fell down on the ground. But the dog was stronger than the kangaroo. He beat him. Knocked him right down into the ground. Then he started to suck his blood. He said, 'from now on, I'm going to kill kangaroos and wallabies and rock wallabies and rock kangaroos. I'm going to kill you all and I'm going to eat you raw. That is my main food from now on'. He showed his teeth, he scratched the ground. 'This is what I'm going to do. I'm a dog!' he said. 'I'll be very, very savage from now on. I'll hunt kangaroos.' He ate up the poor old kangaroo.  


This is the story of Dugong. Dugong was once a man and he lived on the land. He had a lot of relatives and they all lived together. They were people who wanted to live together. But Dugong was a very disobedient young man. He thought he knew everything. He did not want to be told what to do. Some things that his parents used to tell him he did not take any notice of, because he thought he was wise enough to go on his own. It is true that in our Aboriginal way, when a young man is about twelve or thirteen, he is supposed to know himself what he can do and he can do what he likes. He can go hunting on his own, or go fishing or go out in the bush. This Dugong said, 'they don't allow me to go anywhere'. He said, 'I'm going on my own'. He remembered that there were some fruits in the jungles that his parents had told him not to eat. They said they were poisonous and would make you sick. One day, when he was out hunting, he saw this tree and it had fruit on it. But this fruit was very dry. You could open the skin and inside there were some nuts. These nuts taste something like peanuts.

Dugong was very happy. He said, 'ha-ha. Now I'll sit down and have a food. I know my parents and other people have told us that we are not allowed to eat these nuts'. This tree, I don't know what it is called in English, but in Maung we call it inmulwabi.* If you touch the nuts, you will get very itchy and scratch and scratch and make big sores. Dugong sat down. When he had picked a lot of these fruits he sat down on the ground. He said, 'now I'm going to have a good feed'. He opened the fruits one by one, and he found several nuts inside each one. Generally there are about twelve or thirteen nuts inside one skin, sometimes more. He looked at the nuts. He said, 'this is very good, there's nothing wrong with it. I'll sit down and eat'.

As he was eating he could feel himself itching, so he started to scratch. He scratched and scratched and scratched. 'Oh', he cried, 'I think I'd better leave off, better stop scratching myself. He was still busy eating those nuts. He ate and ate and ate. At last he had finished the nuts. But he could not stand the itching, so he got to his feet. He started to rub his eyes. His eyes were getting swollen up. And his eyelids were closing in. He could just see a little bit of light, an little opening. He said, 'this is very bad. I'll wash all this itchy stuff away'. He ran quickly down to the sea and he washed himself in the water. But as he washed himself, he could see that it was not good. He was still itchy. His yes were still closing up. He wondered what was going to happen to him. So he dived right into the water, the salt water. He thought he would get the itchy stuff off if he dived right in. When he came out he looked like a dugong. He said, 'oh dear, I'm not a man any more. Oh, my head and my legs! I haven't got any feet. I haven't got any arms. I'm a funny looking animal'. And he thought to himself, 'ah, this is not good enough for me. I shouldn't have disobeyed. Well, I can't help it. I am a dugong, a sea-cow. I live on seaweed and grass that grows in the sea. That's what I am going to live on'. He swam right away.

This is the story of dugong who was once a man. It tells you not to be disobedient. Not to disobey people who are wiser than us when they tell us something they think is good for us. If we are disobedient, we will find something that we will be very sorry for. And this is what the dugong found. He was very sorry later, when he turned into a dugong. Now there are lots and lots of dugong in the sea, down in the sea. That is the story of the dugong. *Commonly called kurralong tree

Why the stars twinkle

When w are not hunting, and at night we sit around the camp fire, the old people tell us many stories. Many times as we sit around the fire on a clear night I have heard this story told when somebody, one of the children, asks why the stars twinkle. Our people tell this story about the stars.

In our Aboriginal customs, we say that the stars are all females. One time, a lot of women all went out in the bush together to dig some yams. These were the long yams that we call garwulug. They are the same yams that the old Neinggu singer, Balilbalil, has made a song about. This is a famous song that people sing, but it is his song because he made it. He is a famous songman and a painter. Well, the story goes, as I said, that these women went out with their digging sticks to gather garwulug. They went into the bush and they had to dig and dig. They had to dig about four feet down to get these yams. They dug and dug, and some were lucky and others were not. They all came back to their camp and started to cook the yams. Those that had got yams, they got them ready and when they were finished they started to eat them. They were eating and chewing away at the yams.

The other women who hadn't got any yams, said to one another, 'what are we going to do? We didn't get any yams'. They felt very ashamed that they couldn't get any yams. Then they said, 'we will live up in the sky where people will see us'. But the other women said, 'we want to live u in the sky too, where people can see us'. They said, 'we will join you up in the sky'. Suddenly some magic thing happened and turned all these women into stars. And so now you can see them all up there in the skies. some are twinkling and some are not. The ones that are still, they are the ones that came back to the camp without any yams. but the ones that twinkle, they are the ones that got yams and they are up there chewing their yams. When you see the stars on a clear night, you can see which were the lucky ones and which were the unlucky. The stars are all women.

These yams, the gurwulug, they are a very favourite food of the Aboriginal people. We call them long yams - they are about eighteen inches long and about four inches round. You can eat them raw or cooked, and they are very sweet. Very nice yams. They grow in the drier country. They grow like a creeper and we dig out the roots. usually they are ready about October. They are an important food, that's why the old songman made a song about them.

Ambidj - the Rainbow Snake

This is a story that was told of North Goulburn Island, Waira. It is about the east side of the island, where a lot of people were camped. These were the Wara Narigi - they are the people of the eastern side. The people of the west are called Muruon. They are two lots of people, but they are all Maung. Some of them speak a little bit differently, but they speak Maung too. There was a little boy on the east side who had no father and no mother. He had a grandmother, and she looked after him. She did all the work for him. I don't know what hat happened to his mother and father, but I think they were dead. One day the grandmother went out hunting, and brought back a lot of yams and water lily roots. She got the yams from the jungle and the lily roots from the billabong. The little boy saw what his grandmother had brought. He felt very hungry. In our Aboriginal customs, when a man and his wife have died and leave behind a little child, that child is called nomalaidj. And they say that nomalaidj children are always looking for something that they can't get. It is different when the parents are alive, the children play around and they know that if they want something they can go to their parents. With orphans, they feel that they can't get everything they want.

This little boy wanted everything. He asked for food and his grandmother said to him, 'later on you will get your food, but be patient because I am going to cook it now'. And straightaway she made a big fire and cooked the yams and the lily roots. The little boy was very impatient, he wanted the yams and the lily roots at once. The grandmother wouldn't give him anything raw to eat. She said, 'wait! Be patient. You'll get your share'. The boy sat down and cried and cried and cried, till the sun went down. When the grandmother gave him something to eat, he wasn't satisfied. He wanted more. Of course, she had to share her food with her relatives. The little boy got his share. but he wanted more. So he cried and cried. The sun went down, it was very dark. A pitch dark night. It was a very rough windy night. The little boy went on crying. he cried and cried, until out in the sea the Rainbow Snake heard him. This is what we call Ambidj. They say it looks like a dragon, a big sea dragon. He was much bigger than a dragon. I can't say how large, but he was very large. That is what they told us.

Preparing a goanna for cooking in sand and coal, North Goulburn Island

Ambidj heard the crying and came up above the water and decided to go over and see what was happening. The people could hear the big waves and the big breakers were roaring. The people heard this noise, and said to the children, 'keep quiet. Keep quiet. We are in danger! They couldn't make out what it was, but they could see the flames out on the sea. They said, 'somebody told the orphan to keep quiet and he wouldn't. He kept on crying and now the Rainbow Snake is coming ashore'. So he did. First, when he got ashore it was the orphan boy that he went for. Ambidj swallowed up this boy, and then with his big tail he dragged all the people into the sea and just swallowed them up. Not one by one, but the whole lot at once. No people were left on the east side of Waira, only on the west side.

Later on, the people of the west side, the Muroon, wondered why they hadn't seen any of the Wara Narigi. They said, 'we will go over and see our friends on the east side. What might have happened? no-one has come over to see us'. These people were always visiting one another and taking things over and getting things to bring back. But this time they waited and no-one came, so they decided to go over. And so they did. When they got to the camp, it was about sixteen miles across to the other side, they couldn't find anyone. but they could see big scales, like big fish scales, on the shore. Then they said, 'a Rainbow Snake has come up and swallowed them all'. They were very, very frightened. They went straight back and told the other people what had happened. They all thought that the Rainbow Snake might come and take them too. They get their bark canoes, and they got together their spears and their stone axes and all their things - all their fighting weapons. They decided to go to the mainland and find safety there. So a fleet of canoes started off from the west side of the island and went straight across to the mainland.

Now it seems that this Amnbidj had floated into Sandy Creek. He was too full to move - he was full of people. He went up Number 2 Sandy Creek. He went up about six miles, and there he had a rest. Then he went another two miles and rested again. He couldn't move himself. He decided that he would have to stay there. He was very full, and he could feel the people in his belly moving around. The people inside started to cut his stomach with stone flints and shells and other things that they had. He was having a terrible time, he was in pain. He was just lying there groaning and he could feel these people inside cutting his stomach. The people arrived in their canoes and decided to make their camp at the mouth of Sandy Creek. One day, when some of the people were hunting a bit farther up the creek, they saw some big scales. They were the size of a big dish. They were very big. 'Oh!, they said, 'that is the Rainbow Snake. She has come along this creek'. They decided to take the scales back and show them to the other people. And the others said, 'yes, it is Ambidj. We will go and see for ourselves'. So they went on up the creek, farther up, and then a bit farther, and then they came to the place where they could hear groaning. You could hear for miles and miles the sound of the Ambidj groaning to himself. The people decided to go on up and see. but when they got near, they were frightened. They said, 'let's get back or we might be swallow3ed up by the Ambidj'. They went back to their camp and got their spears ready, they got their axes and their fighting weapons.  

Then they lined up, all the people together, and they marched up to the place where the 'Rainbow Snake was lying. They all began to throw their spears. They hit the snake. The Ambidj turned and started to swallow them all up. It swallowed some, but the spears were too much. It was too much for the Ambidj. The Ambidj couldn't move. There were so many spears, it was just like tall grasses growing out of its body. There were so many spears that the people had thrown. They speared and speared. At last there was no more room for the spears. It was just spear hitting another spear. but the Ambidj was still alive. It moved around a little. The people asked him, 'where did you come from? Did you come from the east'? The Rainbow Snake shook his head. 'Ah, well, where did you come from? Did you come from the west?' No, he shook his head. 'Did you come from the north?' He nodded his head. Then they knew he must have come from one of the islands. They asked, 'which island did you come from'? They called the names of the islands, but the snake shook his head. At last they said, 'did you come from Waira'? And the snake nodded his head. They knew then that the Ambidj or Rainbow Snake was the one at North Goulburn Island. It was then that Ambidj died.

Then all the people got together, and they had a talk. They asked, 'what are we going to do with this monster'? the older people, or the elders, they said, 'let's cut his stomach open. We might find something in his stomach'. So they agreed, and they started to cut the stomach. They cut off the skin and the flesh and then, when they came to the stomach, they could see someone moving around. They called out, 'something is moving around in there/! So they went on cutting, and cut the stomach open. There were people. Live people. They got all these people out, and they washed them, washed them thoroughly. Then they started to heat them up with the fire and leaves of the ironwood. That's to make them strong. Our Aboriginal people always use the smoke from the ironwood when people are sick. They did this, and it made the people strong.  Then they told the story of the orphan boy who cried and how the Rainbow Snake, the Ambidj, heard him and came out of the sea and swallowed them all. They were very pleased that the snake had brought them there to Sandy Creek. At the top of the creek, that's where the snake went up. They call this snake Ingarnar. And up; at the top of the creek there is a big waterhole. It's a big hole. And the water is still blue, looks very blue. It doesn't get dry. In the dry season, it doesn't get dry at all. It's fresh water. They say this is where Ingarmar went down. After they killed him, he went under the earth again. Ingamar is the creek that goes up, right to Tor Rock.

The people all got together. They were very happy. And many people say today that this creek was made by a Rainbow Snake, that Ingarmar. That is the story of the Rainbow Snake, the Ambidj.

The crocodile

This is the story of the crocodile, how he became a real crocodile. He was a man once. There were a lot of people, and they were all going to cross a creek. There was only one bark canoe and the creek was too dep to cross any other way. They could only take a few people over, but this man wanted to go, and they wouldn't take him in the canoe. The others said, 'no, we won't take you. There isn't enough room'. They pushed him out of the way. he got very angry. He said to himself, 'what will I do to these people'? He was annoyed. He thought, 'they have done something to me. I don't expect them to do that to me. They should have taken me in the canoe'.

So he went up the river a bit farther, to the place they call Aniwunggalainyung. He cut down an ironwood tree. Then he got the roots, he dug them out and cut them off. He burned these roots of the ironwood tree. Then he got the skin and he beat it. He beat it, and it made a sort of pitch. Lainjung (lainyung) - that's the same pitch that we use to fasten on the head of the womera (spearthrower), and to join spears together. It is a very hard pitch, and once it is set the top won't come out at all. Well, this man took the pitch and put it on his nose. After that, he wriggled a bit. At first he thought he would be a snake, but then he decided that he wanted to get down to the creek. so he did. He got into the creek. And there he found that he was a crocodile. He said, 'now I look like a crocodile. What will I do? I will go and eat up those people who are just  crossing the creek. They refused to take me over. Well, I am going to eat them all'.  

he swam over to where the people were. They could see something floating on the surface of the water. They cried out, 'hey! what's that? Hey! what's that? There is something strange there in the water coming toward us'. The crocodile got down under the water for a while. In a short time he came up again. Then he got down under the water again, stayed under for a while and came up again. It wasn't very far to where the people were. So he said, 'now, I'll spring'. He made a big splash, sprang up in the water and tipped the bark canoe into the water. And down it went. All the people were swimming about in the water. Hew got them one by one. He got them and he ate them all. Then he said, 'from now on, I'll eat anything. I'll eat crabs, raw crabs, anything that is bad - I'll eat kangaroos. I'll eat anything that comes near the water. I'll eat anything'.

And now this crocodile, you can see him up in the sky. If you look up in the sky at night you can see him there and you can see the bark canoe crossing the creek. And there is the crocodile coming toward the bark canoe. That is the story of the crocodile, that our people used to tell us round the fire at night.


Birth and death

People say that the spirits of babies come from the east. They say that the spirits of the dead go to the west, but they say too that they go to an island in the north. It might be where the Macassans live. We are not sure where the spirit comes from or where the place is that it goes to, but people always believed that it went to the spirit world. They believed that this place was somewhere, but they were not sure where. They believed that it was a very lovely and happy place and the spirit stayed there for ever. The Maung, the Yiwadja and the Walang people believe that it is the man, the father and not the mother, who first finds the spirit of the baby. It might be when he is out hunting =- it might be at a waterhole or a billabong and the man says, 'that's where I found a spirit and I gave it to my wife'. Iyaliyal (or, lalial) - that means the place where the man finds the spirit.

Or it might e that a man finds the spirit out in the sea when he is out catching turtles or fishing. The people say that the father has seen the spirit of the baby. Or that the spirit of the baby comes to the father and he takes it. Sometimes the men out fishing with him do not know that this has happened. The father doesn't say anything. He waits. When he goes back to his camp, he gets a clean tin or a clean bailer shell that has never been used and he puts some clean, cool water into it. He gives that to his wife, and tells her to drink it. She drinks the water; but she keeps the shell or the tin and puts it away somewhere. About two or three days after that, she tells her husband that she is going to have a baby. He says, 'you know that when I gave you that water, the spirit of the baby was in the water'. Then the other people say, 'yes, we saw you giving your wife the water. We know that you are right'. Our people believed that the body and the spirit were different, because the spirit might come to one man or it might go to another. The man whose wife is going to have a baby, he will say that the spirit came to him first because he was ready for it. If he wasn't ready, the spirit could go to someone else. They say that the father knows before the mother. When she tells him she is having a baby, he will always say, 'yes, I knew that before'.

If a man is out hunting and he catches a very big or a very fat fish or an animal - it might be a turtle, or a fish, or a kangaroo - people say it is the spirit of the child that has given him the fat one. They talk about this. When they know that the woman is going to have a baby, they say, 'remember the time we caught that very fat turtle. That was the spirit of the baby'. They always think that, when a very fat  turtle or a very fat fish or something is caught, the spirit of the baby gave them this special thing. Sometimes too, people say, when someone catches a very fat fish or a fat animal, that there must be a djang there. It could be the djang of rain or lightning or sickness or the djang of a mosquito. Sometimes people didn't realize there was a djang there; but if they get this special big animal, they say there must be one around although they didn't know about it before.

Most of the people believed there were a lot of spirits, but some of them don't believe there are any at all. My brother Nangulumin doesn't believe in spirits. but there are some things that the people say that you should not do or the spirits will be angry and bring storms or lightning and things like that. I respect what they say, I wouldn't do it, although I don't really know if this thing will happen. My brother, he would do it even though people say it is wrong. He doesn't care, because he doesn't believe in spirits. He has been all through the rituals and ceremonies, he is not a Christian, and he doesn't believe in spirits at all.

When people die, the Maung believe that their spirits go to the spirit world. As I said before, when a person dies now they bury the body. Before, they used to put it up on a platform and leave it there till all the bones were bare. Then they would collect the bones and have a ritual for the dead person. A long time ago, some of them used to burn the bodies, but they don't do that now. They haven't done that for a long time. It doesn't matter what they do with the body, because the spirit goes straightaway. This story I will tell you is about what happens to the spirit, or ghost, when a person dies. 

Up at North Goulburn Island there are two big hills. That's on the eastern side, up at the northern end. These two hills, one is for women - that is, all the females who die - and the other is for all the males who die. I will tell you first what happens to a male spirit. When a man dies, the spirit leaves the body and goes up to this hill at North Goulburn Island. It goes to one of these two hills - the lower one. They are really big sandhills. This place we call Duga Gawuladja. When the spirit arrives here, it calls out. Someone from the spirit island hears the call and gets his canoe ready. He knows from the sound of the call  whether it's a male or a female. If it's a man, he brings an ugly, broken canoe. It's full of leaks. The spirit of the man keeps calling out. hen he sees the canoe coming right up on to the beach. He shouts to the spirit, 'come along! Come quickly'! the spirit goes down to the beach and up to the canoe and he is dragged in very roughly. The canoe man speaks to him very crossly. He says, 'come on! Get into the canoe. What did you come for? I've got no time for you. come along'!

As they move away, he swings the paddle. He pretends to do it accidentally, but he hits this man, this new spirit, with the paddle and then he pushes off from the shore. The water starts to come into the canoe, and it is very wet. He gets a big bailer shell and starts to bail out, and as he does this, he cuts the spiritman. This man is in torment. He is in pain. He doesn't know what he is going to do. He is moaning. The canoe man paddles on, and sometimes he swings the paddle round and hits the spiritman. He hits him on the head. The spirit is in terrible pain. He says to himself, 'why have I died? Now I am going to this other land'. We don't know, but they say that land is a better place than the one we live in. And that is where the spirit goes. After a while a call rings out, 'the canoe is coming'! Everybody gets ready on the beach, the people in the spirit land get ready. They knew that this one who has died is a man. When the canoe comes ashore, they drag him along and throw him on the sand. They treat him very cruelly. He picks himself up. Then he is taken to a place where he is looked after. A place where he feels at home. He begins to feel that this world is a better one. There is plenty of food, plenty of water and plenty of friends. That is what happens to a man when he dies, until he reaches the Unknown Island.

When a woman or a girl dies, her spirit goes to North Goulburn Island and she calls out from the high sandhill. They hear the call, and they say, 'hu8rrayh! there's female. She has come'! So they get a canoe ready. A very good canoe - it's a lovely canoe, all decorated. It's covered with parrot feathers and has paintings and carvings on, this lovely, beautiful canoe. They take food. And they take everything for this spiritwoman. The canoe starts off. It has lovely decorated paddles, and there is a strong man in the canoe to go and pick her up. He is all decorated and looks very pretty. When he comes near the shore he can see her on the tall hill. He pulls the canoe up on to the beach and runs to pick her up. He carries her down to the beach. But with the man 's spirit, they just called out to him and made him come himself. Then the canoe man puts the female spirit in the canoe, very gently, and paddles away, very happy. A lovely canoe all decorated with feathers, no leaks. A very pretty canoe. When they arrive at the spirit world, a cry goes up. They call out, 'the canoe is coming'! Everybody waits on the beach for this woman. And when she comes on to the beach, they pick her up and carry her away into a lovely home. A beautiful place. And she always stays and sleeps in this beautiful home.

That is the story they tell about how the male and the female spirits get to this spirit world. This place, they say it's an island. We call it the Unknown Island. I don't know where it is - it is up north somewhere. They used to say that this island was under the sea in the daytime and only came up to the surface at night. Now people say that this island is in Indonesia somewhere, it's up north. We call this place garungmoi gagaidj, that's an unknown island. They say that if a person does in the morning, his spirit will reach this place before noon. It is very quick for him to get to this place. When the body bursts, about that time - three or four days - he comes back, just to see what the people are doing, and then he goes back again to the spirit world.

I remember when I was a young boy at Goulburn Island and I was sent out with another young boy by the missionary. It was nearly dark. A man had just died a few days before, and people had told us, that is when the spirit can come back. As we were walking along the path, we saw a light. We were very scared - we thought it was the ghost of that dead person. We went running back, screaming that we had seen this spirit of the dead man. They wouldn't believe us. When one of the missionaries walked back along the path, there was a little buffalo there. A little tame buffalo that belonged to the Mission. We had seen its eyes in the path and we thought it was a spirit. That was the time that the spirit could have come back.

The Unknown Island or the island of the spirits is called Ulurunbu. I know a story some of the men used to tell about some people who went to this island. One of these men was my mother's half-brother, they had the same father but different mothers. I called this man idji, uncle. He told me this story, and I don't know whether they went to this island or if they went to Indonesia. Anyhow, this is the story he told.

There were two canoes of Maindjinaidj men who set off from Guion Point, on the mainland in their territory. They were big canoes, the kind we call lambiri, and the leader of these men was my idji; his name was Djargala. They wanted to go to Waruwi, South Goulbutrn Island. They set off, and they paddled and sailed. They kept on going and going, and they felt that they must have missed their way. As you know, this island, the Unknown Island, cannot be seen in the day because they say it is under the sea, but at night it comes up. so these men were still sailing when night came, and they saw some lights. These lights were on an island, but they thought that it couldn't be Waruwi because there were such a lot of them. They decided to sail on. They were trying to go past this island, and then suddenly their canoe landed on the shore. People, a lot of people, came to meet them. The Maindjinaidj men told them they had gone off their course and landed there by accident. The people of the island said, 'there is nothing wrong with that'. Then they said, 'come along with us. You must be hungry'. They took them all into one house and brought them food - yams, turtle meat and all sorts of food, they brought. 

The island people counted how many men had come in the canoes, and went and brought a wife for each of them. They told them they were welcome to stay on the island for as long as they wanted to. Every day, people used to being a lot of foods for them. They used to take them around and show them all the places, and other villages that were on the island. They said that the people spoke two languages, Manaanggari and Ilgar. One day the Maindjinaidj men got together on their own. They said to each other, 'I think we are trapped. We cant get away'. As soon as they did anything that seemed as though they wanted to leave, there would be one of the island people there and in no time a lot of people would come and stop them from going away. The island people said to the visitors, 'we've given you wives so that you will stop here all the time. we have been treating you very well. so why sneak away from us'? And then they said, 'it is impossible for anyone to get away'.

One night when everybody was asleep, everything was quiet and still, the men made a plan. There were no lights. The wives were fast asleep. The men got up one by one, each one woke another up very quietly. They all sneaked down to the beach. They had put everything ready in the canoes. They got into the canoes, and without making any noise they were off. They sailed all night and all day, and at midnight they came to North Goulburn Island. A lot of people were living on North Goulburn Island, but these men decided not to land there. They wanted to get a lot farther on, because they had a fear that someone might come after them. They sailed on, heading for South Goulburn Island. When they got to this place we call Alwambi, a camping place on the east side of Waruwi, they were very, very happy. They felt safe. They went around from there to Wighu, McPherson Point, and showed the people there the things they brought back from the Unknown Island. They had rice and coconuts and different kinds of fruits. They had materials and knives and axes and tomahawks. When they saw these things, the people of South Goulburn Island thought they must have been to Macassar.

This is the story that my idji and some of the other men used to tell. Djargala told me himself. The last man who was on this trip, died sometime during the war. This idji was very kind to my sister and my brothers and me. He called us gainjung, like children of his full sister, although he and his sister had different mothers. He told me this story. I don't know if they really did go to the Unknown Island, or if this was some other place. I think they might have been to one of the islands in Indonesia or somewhere.

Why the dead never return

This is a story about ningdarbug and gurana. Ningdarbug is a little animal that lives in the bush, it's like a spotted cat. We call it a spotted squirrel, but I don't think it's really a squirrel. Gurana is the moon. Once these two had a fight. I don't know what they were arguing about, but the squirrel got very angry. The squirrel ran for his club, and the moon ran for his. They came out together. The moon swung his club. He hit the spotted squirrel and knocked him unconscious. He lay there on the ground for a while and then he got up again. Then it was his turn. He swung his club and hit the moon. The moon fell down to the ground unconscious, for a little while. Then he got up again and swung his club and hit the squirrel and knocked him out. Then the squirrel got up again and swung his club and hit the moon. The moon lay on the ground. Then the moon got up again and he swung his club again. He hit the squirrel and knocled him down. He lay there. Didn't move. Then the squirrel said, 'I will die, and so will all the people who come after me. They will die. Same as me. They will die once, and that is the end of them. They will never come back to life again once they die'.

Then the moon said, 'I will die, but only for a little while, I will come back to life again. I won't die forever'. He asked the squirrel, 'what are the people going to do? Are they going to follow you or are they going to follow me'? The squirrel said, 'no, the people will follow me, not you'. And that is why, when we die, that is the end of us. We don't come back to life again. The moon said, 'I won't die forever. I will come back again'. So every time when we see the new moon we think, 'oh yes, he's back again'. We remember the fight that the spotted squirrel and the moon had. In the story, the moon said, 'I will die, but not forever'. but the squirrel said, 'I will die forever and so will all the people'. When people die, they follow the spotted squirrel, they can't come back. Only the moon can come back after it has died. This is the story that the people tell. 

The boy who was taken by the manja (manya)

This is a story about what I would call a devil. It was a spirit. I will call it a spirit. Anyway, this spirit was out hunting and at the end of the day he was going back to the cave. That is where he lived with other spirits. Some of them were good spirits and others were evil. Near this cave there was a camp of people, and one of the men from this camp was out hunting geese. He had a long stick. He climbed up a tree, and as the geese passed under the tree, he would knock them down with the stick. This is what our people do. We call this stick namaduru. Someone would stand at the foot of the tree and collect the geese as they fell down. The man climbed up the tree and he knocked the geese down with his namaduru. As he knocked them down, the spirit came by and heap. He thought, 'I'll wait until this man comes down, and then I'll show him all these geese. He might let me have one'. The man knocked down a few more birds, and when he had finished he threw down the namaduru. It is a very long thin stick, about thirty feet long. Then he came down from the tree, and when he saw this devil, he was very frightened. He thought, 'I'm in trouble now'. But the spirit said to him, 'don't run away, I won't do you any harm. I've come here to help you'. He said, 'I've picked up all these geese for you and they are over there in a heap. You can pick them up and take them home'.

Then the spirit thought that he would like to invite this man back to stay the night with him. So he asked him 'would you mind coming to my place and camping the night with me? And then in the morning I will let you go to your own camp'. The man was a bit afraid, but this spirit seemed different and he had a bit of confidence in him. So he agreed, he said, 'all right, I'll come and camp the night with you'. So the two of them picked up all the geese and went back to the spirit's cave. When they got near the cave, the spirit said, 'don't let my wife or any of the other spirits see you. Even my wife and my family, they are evil spirits. They will kill you if they see you. But I won't let them see you'. The spirits in these caves. When this spirit went out hunting, he used to just blow with his breath, breathe on the entrance of the cave and it would shut. When he came back, he would breathe on it again and the cave would open. He left the man there at the entrance. He hid him in a corner, and went in to his wife. He gave her some of the geese, saying, 'cook all these geese and give them to our families and have a good feed'. Then he said, 'I feel very hot in here - I think I'll go just outside and sleep there'. So he went outside and stayed out there with the man, just inside the entrance where the others couldn't see them. In the morning when they got up, he blew on the entrance and the cave opened. As the man was going, the spirit said to him, 'remember, when yo9u go, bring back a lot of people, to come and kill all these spirits because they are evil spirits'. 

then he told him this story. 'Once I was a man like you', he said, 'and it happened that one of the spirits got me and took me away. This was when I was a boy. Ever since, I have been kept in here, and I grew up amongst all the evil spirits. That's how I became a spirit and lived in the caves. So go back and bring a lot of people here, and they can kill all these spirits. These manja'. The man listened to him and then went back to his camp, and as he went he was thinking of this story. When he arrived back, the people asked what had happened to him. He said, 'wait a minute, I will tell you this story of a spirit first'. He told them how the spirit had been kind to him and taken him to his cave to stay there. He told them how the spirit had looked after him and given him everything he wanted. The he said, 'he has become a spirit in that cave and he can't return, the evil spirits keep him there'. He asked them to go along with him so that they could kill all these spirits. They got all their spears, their clubs and throwing sticks and all their fighting weapons, and set off for the cave. 

The man walked up to find his friend, who was waiting for him, and told him he had brought all the people. The spirit said, 'I'll go back and bring all the others out'. And so he did. He told them there were a lot of people outside. They came out with their spears, but it was too late. The people from the camp overwhelmed them and killed the whole lot of them. They took the good spirit away and brought him into their camp with them. When he got there some of the people recognized him, and they remembered he had disappeared from one of the families of that camp. When the people tell us this story, they tell us not to go away, not to go into another country because we might be kidnapped by these spirits. People still believe that they are somewhere about. Najigjig and mariwa are spirits that can kill. Najiglig has very long hair and his hair is very stiff. It sticks out like a brush. You couldn't comb it. It's very touch and just stands up like brushes. He is evil, and so is mariwa. A mariwa is a big spirit, a very big spirit - but we can't see him.

People tell their children that if they are naughty a spirit will come and take them away. When children hear strange noises in the night, it might be a bird or something, they are frightened and think that an evil spirit might have come to get them. Especially this is so with namargun, he is a really evil one. Manargun will kill. He will kill little babies or a little child. There is a bird that we hear in the bush sometimes and the people say that is namargun. When they hear this sound, they say that you must keep your children quiet or he might get them. He makes a sound that we hear at night, like 'Kauk! Kauk! Kauk'! Then the people say he has come to take a little child's spirit, or soul. They say that he takes the soul and he roasts it in a big stone oven. he eats the soul, and presently the child dies.

Sometimes you see a little child and he has no blood. His tongue is white and his finger nails are white and the eyes go white. They say the namargun has got the spirit, the soul, of that child. They say he has roasted the child's soul and the child will die. They say there is a place on the mainland where he takes the souls and that's where he roasts them. People paint pictures of the namargun  The ones I have seen show him as a funny-looking thing. He has claws and is something like a flyng fox. That's the namargun. They know that if a little child gets sick and dies and there is no reason for this, the namargun has taken his soul. Mimi are very kind spirits. There are some other spirits that are kind too. People say that they were men once, now they are spirits. Mimi are timid and get out of the way when they hear people coming. They are not on the islands, only on the mainland, and they made many of the paintings that are in the caves on the mainland. All that country to the west and going south to Oempelli, the area to the north of Tor Rock, that's my father's country and my grandfather's country. Their people, the Manganowal, I think they lived in those caves. There are bones in the caves, and there are paintings high on the walls. When I first saw these paintings, I wondered how they could be done so high up. One of the men who was with me, one of the older men, he told me, 'these paintings are done by mimi. Mimi can make the top of caves come down very close. Afterward they say a magic word and blow some wind, and the paintings go back near the top of the cave. That's how the paintings are done'.

Mimi are very shy spirits and during the day they hide in the caves. They make up songs. some men who have hidden themselves from sight have heard these songs that the mimi make, and they remember them and sing them to the people. The mimi have dances too. We say that they go away in the wet season, and when people look across from Goulburn Island and they see dust rising in the hills they say that the mimi are back and they are dancing. They have a special dance that they do.

There are many spirits and, as I said, they are not all evil. We have signs that the spirits are about. Like the bat we see flying around is a messenger for a blind manja or evil spirit. When we saw a bat flying around, the old people used to say, 'look at this bat, he is looking for fire to take back to a blind sprit, an old spirit who can't see'. He is what we call manja dja bunjigarlu - that is, spirit that (is) blind. People throw coals from a fire, just throw them away, an d they say the bat will pick up those coals and take them to this spirit. hey say the bat looks like his master the manja. His face and his wings and his claws, they are just like a bat. Well, if you come across an evil spirit, it might look like this bat.

Australia - Aboriginal Time Remembered

From Lamilami Speaks by Reverend Lazarus Lamilami, OBE
Ure Smith, Sydney, 1974

A Short History of Australia

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