My individual totem name is Murrai, meaning ‘unconditional love and friendliness’, like that found in a dog.
My family’s clan totem name is Jarraga, the scrubhen. It appears to be spread over a wide area, south from the Pyramid to Daradgee, through Eubenangee and east down to the Russell and Mulgrave River areas. The Pyramid in Gordonvale (Djarragun) is the scrubhen mound. Scrubhens build the biggest nests of any known bird. Their eggs are three times the size of a common hen’s egg and they mate for life, sharing the mound with other scrubhens. Their eggs were a very valued food source. The very loud repertoire of sounds made by scrubhens are often heard in the early hours of the morning and sound like crying, cackling or scolding.
In our custom there is always a storyteller who addresses the family members by their totem names. The storyteller is usually a woman. She passes on the ancestral creation stories, family stories and stories of change in order to try and make sense of present happenings, and stories of instruction to help younger family members survive.
In our family the storytelling was passed down to my Auntie Nellie and then passed on to me. My brothers, Fred, Jack and Jimmy, and my sister, Nancy, and I have not had any children of our own. So, for those interested in our stories, I hand the role over to all of you so that you may have an unbroken connection to our family and the land as you go forward in life and add your own stories,
‘so that no matter where you roam
This poem hangs on the wall of the Babinda Hospital and was written by my sister, Nancy, on the eve of her death.
The Boulders legend (a creation story)
A long time ago the Wanyurr Majay lived and camped along the creek and valley below Choorechillum (Bartle Frere). The valley was surrounded by hills and jungles.
Waranoo, an elder of our tribe, was married to a young maiden called Oolana. One day, not long after the marriage, a wandering tribe entered the valley and our tribe welcomed them and asked if they would like to stay a while.
In that tribe was a very handsome man called Dyga. On seeing him, Oolana fell in love with him and he fell in love with her too, but what could he do because Oolana was married to Waranoo and Dyga was from a different tribe.
After some time, Oolana and Dyga decided to run away upstream. They had been gone for quite a while. The two tribes began to miss Oolana and Dyga, so began searching for them upstream. It wasn’t long before the the two tribes found them camping by the stream. The wandering tribe took hold of Dyga and took him away.
Our tribe held Oolana firmly, but she broke free and threw herself into the water that had been calm and peaceful. Suddenly the water erupted into a swirling torrent of white foaming water and the ground burst open throwing huge boulders into the air marking the very place of her drowning.
Today the water is calm and peaceful again, but Oolana’s spirit remains and she calls for her lover’s return. So beware young men, she may call you to her foaming depths.
This story may well have served to warn young tribal men to enter the Boulders area with caution, as we all should. Respect for self and place are paramount. Despite the warnings, numerous people have drowned at the Babinda Boulders.
Story taken from Bunna Binda – Babinda Stories by Murrai (Ann Wonga)
Murrai (Ann Wonga)
Murrai is a Yidinji elder who has been a committed volunteer at the Babinda Visitor Centre for over 10 years. She has personally contributed to the greater natural and spiritual understanding of the region through guided walks and sharing information with scientists and educators. Murrai is the last of her clan and, therefore, feels it important to share her knowledge of Aboriginal lore with others. Her commitment to World Heritage Area values through her volunteering is unparalleled. Murrai published Bunna Binda – Babinda Stories in 2008.
Born and raised in South Africa, John now lives in Kuranda with his artist wife, Fiona, and two girls, Ruby and Jorgie. His passions include bringing people together to progress conservation and sustainability, natural history, art, photography, music and his family. He has served on the WTMA board and was coordinator of Cairns and Far North Environment Centre for five years. He currently works for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
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