Arrival Stories

from Reference 13

Bundjalung [stories] still current today include one on the origins of the Clarence River and one on how the Aborigines first came to Australia. Calley suggests the latter [story] was imported from tribes to the south or southwest, but those Bundjalung and Gidabal who tell the story claim it as their own. I have included three versions of the same story, arranged in chronological order of their collection. The first version is from the Minyangbal group, near Byron Bay by Livinstone (1982)

Berrungen korillabo, ngerring Mommon, Yaburong. -

'Berrung came long long ago, with Mommom (and) Yaburong'.

Story 1

Thus begins a Minyung Legend to the following effect:-

Long ago, Berrung, with his two brothers, Mommom and Yaburong, came to this land. They came with their wives and children in a great canoe, from an island across the sea. As they came near the shore, a woman on the land made a song that raised a storm which broke the canoe in pieces, but all the occupants, after battling with the waves, managed to swim ashore. This is how 'the men', the paigal black race, came to this land.

The pieces of the canoe are to be seen to this day. If any one will throw a stone and strike a piece of the canoe, a storm will arise, and the voices of Berrung and his boys will be heard calling to one in the sea.

At Ballina, Berrung looked around and said, nyung? and all the paigal about there say nyung to the present day, that is, they speak the Nyung dialect. Going north to the Brunswick, he said, minyung, and the Brunswick River paigal say minyung to the present day. On the Tweed he said, ngando? and the Tweed paingal (sic) say ngando to the present day.

This is how the blacks came to have different dialects. Berrung and his brothers came back to the Brunswick River where he made a fire, and showed the paigal how to make fire. He taught them their laws about the kipara and about marriage and food. After a time, a quarrel arose, and the brothers fought and separated, Mommom going south, Yaburong west, and Berrung keeping along the coast. This is how the paigal were separated into tribes.

Story 2

The second account is told by Alexander Vesper and quoted in Australian Dreaming (Isaacs 1980: 13,14).

This story has been handed down by the Aboriginal people through their generations. This story cannot be altered.

I am sixty seven years of age. I heard this story from my grandfather who was a full-blood of the Ngarartbul tribe near Murwillumbah. On my grandmother's side the tribe was Gullibul, from Casino and Woodenbong. I heard this story also from many old Aboriginals who came from other tribes.

The first finding of this unknown land, Australia, was made by three brothers who came from the central part of the world. The names of these three brothers were Mamoon, Yarbirrain and Birrung. They were compelled to explore for land on the southerly part of the world because they forced out of the centre of the world by revolutions and warfare of those nations of the central part.

They came in a sailing Ship. As they made direct for the south, coming across different islands and seeing the people in these islands, they kept in the sea all the time until they came to Australia, to the eastern part of this continent. Their first coming into the land was at Yamba Head on the Clarence River.

They anchored just on the mouth of the Clarence. This was the first landing- of men in this empty continent. They camped, taking out of their empty ship all their camping belongings, such as a steel axe and many other things of the civilized race in the central part of the world.

After they had rested from the voyage, through the night a storm started to rise from the west. The force of wind broke the anchor and deprived them of the ship, which was driven out to sea and never seen again.

These three brothers had each a family of his own and they had their mother. Their three wives were with them. When they knew that the ship was gone, they reasoned among themselves and said, 'The only possible chance is to make a canoe and return from here from island to island'. So they went up the Clarence River and they came across a blackbutt tree. They stripped the bark off it, made a big fire, a long fire, and heated the bark until it was flexible, until you could bend it about as you pleased. Out of this long sheet of bark, they made a Canoe, Three of these canoes were made.

They went back to their families and told them to get everything packed up as they were about to leave. Their families said, 'Yes, we'll pack up, but mother has gone out for some yams. She was looking for something to eat. So they sang out. They searched along the beach, among the honeysuckle and the tea-tree along the coast, trying to find the old woman, But she had wandered too far out of reach of their search. She thought within herself that her sons would not be able to make the canoes so quickly.

The three brothers said, 'Well, she might have died. We'll have to go back into the sea'. So they packed up and took to the ocean in the three canoes with the intention of returning to where they came from.

After they got a distance out from Yamba Head, the old woman arrived back at the camp they had left. She went up to the top of the hill and started singing out for them. And then she saw them far out on the ocean. She was trying to wave them back, but it seemed to be impossible for her to draw their attention.

So she was angry with them. She cursed the families and said to the ocean to be rough. As she cursed them and spoke to the ocean to be rough, the ocean started to get fierce. They attempted to continue on against the tempest, but they were driven back to the northern shore beyond Yamba. They were compelled to come in to land at the place which is now known as Evans Head.

They made the first settling place in Australia Evans Head. One of the sons returned to Yamba when the ocean was calm and found the mother still alive. She had lived on yams. They as how Yarnba got its name. Well, that word 'yam', it comes from a civilized word. It means 'sweet spud'. So that word alone will give you a clue as to where those first people came from.

So one brother went back to Yamba and brought the mother to Evans Head. When they settled there, in the course of time, they increased their families. One family race generated northwards on the Australian coast, one to the west and one to the south. As they were generating, they were keeping on extending, and they kept in touch with each other all the time.

They went on in that manner and eventually they became tribal races, and the first language of their origin we call Jabilum, that means, 'The Originals'. Tabulam is the word the white man made out of this word. The first language of these Jabilum was the Birrein tongue. And the second was Gumbangirr, of the Grafton tribe. Weervul is the Ballina lot. And Gullibul, that is between the two. Gullibul sprang out of the centre from Tweed Heads.

Story 3

The third account is from Ted McBryde, as told to Creamer in 977. It appears this has been influenced by recent hypotheses on the origin of humankind in Africa, and on lower ocean levels in the past, with extensive land bridges through the Indonesian archepelago and land-hopping by raft or other craft:

Way back in the Dreamtime, there was a family came, originated I suppose from Africa, and they came across country and in those days we believe that Java and New Guinea were all joined to Australia and they eventually ended up here.

They came by canoe and landed at Yamba ... The three brothers, the eldest one was Bundjalung, the second eldest was Gullybal and the third, the youngest fellow was Gidabal. Bundjalung, the eldest boy, he took up the Lismore to Byron Bay area to just below Kyogle. And then the next son, Gullybal, he took in this area here and the youngest man, he went on to the Woodenbong area. So that's where we originated from, as far as I know.

The Sacred Spring

Reference 14

This story was told to me by Ken Gordon, of the Bunjalung tribe. He is one of the last two fully-initiated men left on the north coast of New South Wales.

THIS STORY is a budgeram. When the old people said budgeram, they meant, "Away back from the beginning." In the beginning of the world there were three people. There were NgudjunguIIi, Buloogan and Gaungun. . . NgudjunguIIi is the boss of the whole world. He never dIes. Buloogan and Gaungun, they both died. Buloogan was the most handsome man in the whole world. Gaungun was the most beautiful woman in the whole world. Buloogan died, but he's supposed to come back some day. He's above all these wee-uns, the clever-fellers.

From the beginning, this land was one whole land from here to India. The aborigines used to go over and fight the Indians and come back again. The old people said that the people they fought had a kind of turban in their heads and that when they were fighting, you'd see this turban thing slip off and you'd see their long hair all fall down backwards.

There was a sacred spring in Queensland. No one Was allowed to go near it.

Once, when the aborigines wanted to go over to India to fight, there was one man who had two wives. He didn't want his wives to follow him to India. So he took his nulla-nulla and half killed them both. Then he went over and left those two women behind.

When the men were gone, these two women put their heads together. "Now, we'll go to the sacred spring," they said.

Well, they took their yam-sticks to that sacred spring. From the spring, one went digging this way and one went digging that way. "We'll keep going till we meet one another," they said. As they dug, the water from the spring followed them. Where they met, one water goes this way and the other water goes the other way. It is the roughest water in the world.

Well, these aborigines finished their war over on the other side. They started on their way back. When they got along a bit they saw just one mass of water.

This Buloogan was with them. He made the mountains and islands rise out of the water. Then, with their horror, the string that they pull out of their mouths, the clever-fellers took this cord and threw it from island to island. They crossed over this cord until they landed back in Australia. As soon as they came back they knew what had happened.

They blamed that man for beating up his two wives. These warriers came across those two women talking at the Australian Bight. One of the wee-uns, the clever-fellers, turned those two women into stone.

After that the aborigines lost touch with the outside world. They never went back fighting any more. This was in the beginning of the world.

In my language I am called marugun. That means an initiated man. I used to listen night after night to the old people telling about the budgeram. This story is the only thing I can remember out of the whole lot. I never forgot this.