Malgun fishing practice

From ref 20

Although Phillip and Tench both initially assumed that finger tip removal was indicative of marriage, they were inquisitive enough to realise that their assumption was ill-founded. Other colonists, however, were less discerning and less willing to let go of their own cultural assumptions about which acts were important enough to be symbolised by permanent bodily markings. RE Bertrodano, who visited the Clarence River in 1864 taking notes for the London University, insisted that finger tip removal was in fact a reflection of a woman's marital status.28 This interpretation of malgun is indicative of the fact that British observers were influenced by their own cultural assumptions when interpreting Indigenous customs; in this case assuming that marriage is an important act worthy of permanent marking. By the time John Turnbull visited Sydney in 1800, most white settlers realised that malgun was related to fishing. Turnbull describes the practice:

Whilst the female child is in its infancy, they deprive it of the two first joints of the little finger of the right hand; the operation being effected by obstructing the circulation by means of a tight ligature; the dismembered part is thrown into the sea, that the child may be hereafter fortunate in fishing.

Knowledge linked to environment

from reference 20

The seasonal arrival of certain fish species also prompted large gatherings of Aboriginal people from across different regions, and could be an occasion for celebrations. Ronald Heron, from the lower Clarence Valley described the way Green Point turned into a 'meeting point' for people from across the region when the mullet were running: It would be nearly like the main Christmas week ... They'd have parties of men out getting kangaroos. You'd have another party just concentrating on fishing, you'd have a group of women getting yams etc.

Seasonal knowledge about fish has been noted as the particular province of women in the Tweed Valley, where women 'knew the time of the year by changes in plants. For example, when certain plants were in flower, they knew the crabs would be fat or that the mullet would be running.' This expert knowledge of fishing seasons was part of Aboriginal peoples' intimate relationship with the natural environment they inhabited and has continued as knowledge is passed on to younger generations.