Stories & Songlines

Cultural knowledge is held by individuals, Elders and Community and is deeply spiritual and personal. Over the past 250 years there have been many changes that have prevented our people learning our cultural language, songs and stories.

Now is the time for us to come together and share our stories so that our ways and values are better understood.

There are many Dreaming and significant stories shared by our mob.

Those which appear on this website have been approved for use by the Elders and Knowledge Holders to ensure balanced and consistent public material is provided and we thank them for their generosity.

We share the following stories, told to us by Community, to help tell the history of the Gunaikurnai, our connection to Country and our values.

Understanding that there are many ways to tell a story, we invite you to treat the following as a starting point in your awareness of our ancient culture.

Borun & Tuk

Our Creation Story

In dreaming time, the first Gunaikurnai came down from the mountains in Victoria’s northwest carrying his canoe on his head. He was Borun, the pelican.

He crossed over the river at what is now Sale and walked on alone to Tarra Warackel (Port Albert) in the west.

As he walked, he heard a constant tapping sound but could not identify it.

When he reached the deep water of the inlets, Borun put down his canoe and, much to his surprise, there was a woman in it. She was Tuk, the musk duck.

He was very happy to see her, and she became his wife and the mother of the Gunaikurnai people – they are the parents of the five Gunaikurnai clans.

The creation story is about the origin of our people. It helps to explain the bonds we have to our Country and reminds us that our ancestors are still watching over the landscape today.

It is important for us to be able to walk in their footsteps and follow their journeys from thousands of years ago – it is a powerful, spiritual aspect of our cultural heritage, and fundamental to our recognition and respect. We are guided by the spirits of our ancestors when we walk through this Country.


Yeerung & Djeetgun

The men and women of the Gunaikurnai

Long ago there was a great fight between the men and women of the Gunaikurnai. The men had killed a Djeetgun, a small bird that was sister to the women. In revenge, the women killed a Yeerung, another small bird, that was brother to the men.

This caused a great fight among the women and men. After the quarrel they began courting one another, they then agreed to marry, so uniting Yeerung and Djeetgun. Ever since then, the Gunaikurnai men have had to fight for their wives.

All Gunaikurnai men are of one order, the Yeerung the Southern Emu Wren. All Gunaikurnai women are Djeetgun, the Superb Wren.

The Den of Nargun

The Den of Nargun on Woolshed Creek, a small tributary of the Mitchell River, is of great cultural significance and is known as a women’s place.

According to Gunaikurnai lore the Nargun is a large female creature who lives in a cave behind the waterfall. Stories were told around campfires about how the Nargun would abduct children who wandered off on their own. The Nargun could not be harmed with boomerangs or spears. These stories served the dual purpose of keeping children close to the campsite and ensuring that people stayed away from the sacred cave.

It is a place of women’s initiation and learning ceremonies, and traditionally Gunaikurnai men are not allowed to enter the area of the Den of Nargun and the Woolshed Creek valley.

The Story of Legend Rock

Legend Rock, lying in the shallow waters of Bancroft Bay, is an important part of Gunaikurnai mythology. One day, three fishermen caught many fish in their nets but didn’t share their catch with the mob. The women, who were guardians of the social law, turned them into stone as punishment for their greed.

One day, some fisherman who had hauled in many fish with their nets, ate their catch around their campfire. The women, guardians of the social law, saw that the men had eaten more than enough but had not fed their dogs.

The men took no notice of the dingoes, and kept feasting, when suddenly one of the dogs began to speak. “You greedy fullas, why don’t you share the fish?” and they all heard it.

The whole camp was turned into stone, and stands as a red rock on that spot by the shores of Lake King to this day. Ever after this rock was referred to as Wallung, “The Rock”, and was pointed out to the children of the Gunaikurnai as an example of what happens when you are greedy and thoughtless, and when you don’t share.

Tidelek

Long ago there was a big frog and his name was Tidelek. He went to the river to have a drink. He began to drink the water from the water hole, then from the creek, then the river, ‘til there was nothing left.

All the animals were thirsty. There was no water anywhere.

The animals called a meeting, they decided that one of them should try to make Tidelek laugh. Turtle and platypus played leapfrog. That didn’t make Tidelek laugh. Duck and bird flew around. That didn’t make Tidelek laugh. Bataluk strutted to and fro puffing out his stomach. Tidelek was nearly asleep. Snake said, ‘Let me try’. He started a wiggly, squiggly dance. He twisted and nearly tied himself in a knot.

Then came a rumbling noise from Tidelek and it grew louder and louder. His mouth opened and he began to laugh. A mighty gush of water came out of his mouth, all the water came back to the water holes and the rivers.

Tidelek tells of the natural history of the area and the flood records the period of natural change. It shows the location of Lurtbit Yauung Brataualung clan group who recorded this story. It shows the natural history of the country going through a turbulent time of great natural change, which shaped the landscape as we know it today.

How Bung Yarnda was formed

Narkabungdha, the sea, was tired from playing with fish, rushing over rocks and rolling up and back on the sand. He searched the coast for somewhere to rest.

At last he found a quiet place with tall gum trees for shade and soft earth to lie on. Narkabungdha lay down to sleep. He wriggled down into the soft sand, turning his body this way and that until he was comfortable.

This place became Bung Yarnda (Lake Tyers), a place where Narkabungdha still rests among the trees.

The Story of the Southern Cross

The Dreamtime Ancestors of the Gunaikurnai

Narran the moon was a mighty warrior and a fearless hunter. One day, after travelling a long way, he couldn’t find any food at all. At last he saw Ngooran (the emu) on the other side of a wide creek, but the water was very deep and he could not get across. Narran thought he could cross over the creek on a log, but Brewin, a mischievous spirit, was hiding nearby.

As Narran reached the deepest part of the water, Brewin upset the log and Narran fell off it into the water and drowned. Narran’s spirit went to the sky where he is now the moon.

Ngooran also went to the sky and is now the Southern Cross. Narran still hunts through the sky trying to catch Ngooran.