What is "The Dreaming"?
Dreaming stories pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations. Through song, dance, painting and storytelling which express the dreaming stories, Indigenous Australians have maintained a link with the Dreaming from ancient times to today, creating a rich cultural heritage. In most stories of the Dreaming, the Ancestor Spirits came to the earth in human form and as they moved through the land, they created the animals, plants, rocks and other forms of the land that we know today. They also created the relationships between groups and individuals to the land, the animals and other people.
Once the ancestor spirits had created the world, they changed into trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or other objects. These are the sacred places of Indigenous Australian culture and have special properties. Because the ancestors did not disappear at the end of the Dreaming, but remained in these sacred sites, the Dreaming is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land.
Interpreting the Theme
When you’re interpreting the theme for the Tarra Festival this year, you’re not, by any means, restricted to the Gunaikurnai dreaming stories, though it would be terrific if you did reflect the traditional land owners.
Its important to be respectful of the traditional land owners in this area but you are free to interpret the theme as you wish. For instance you could consider what “The Dreaming” actually means to indigenous people – its about moving from a dream to reality or material form and as such the process of creation, and about the passing on of moral and cultural values. Not only historically but “everywhen” as the Dreaming is timeless. This idea exists within most spiritual and religious groups, indeed it exists within in each person as we move from our dreams to creating those as a reality guided by the values taught to us. So you could look at that the Dreaming from a gunaikurnai perspective, a more generalised indigenous perspective or even your own perspective.
The Port Albert Frog & The White Rock
Of Tidelek and Borun
Long time ago there lived this Giant Frog, whose name was Tidelek.
One day Tidelek was sick because he drank up all this water in the land.
The next day Tidelek felt a bit better but was feeling sad, for what he had done.
That day, Tidelek was walking along the shores of Port Albert thinking how he was going to release this water back into the bay.
A mob of Gunaikurnai people and animals saw him slowly walking in the bay. They wander over to him and they asked him what was wrong. Tidelek said “I am still sick from drinking up all the water, can you help me free it”.
The Gunaikurnai and animals put their heads together to think of what to do? They all agreed to do something funny! The Kangaroo went first and did a funny dance; everybody laughed except Tidelek.
A Gunaikurnai man went second and told a funny story; everybody continued to laugh except for Tidelek. The Eel went third and got up on his tail to wriggle; Tidelek thought the wriggle looked funny and began to laugh, he laughed so hard all the water came flooding out of his eyes and mouth creating this flood of water that went back into the bays. Many Kurnai/Gunai and Animals drowned that were caught in the flood; some were stuck on marooned forming islands. Borun was a Gunaikurnai leader and a magic man who had the totem of a black pelican.
Borun went out to rescue the others and left his wife till last; when he returned she was gone; she left her possum skin cloak sitting on a log and standing up looking like it was her waiting for him. To avenge the death of his wife; Borun painted himself up with pipeclay and changed back to a pelican to fly off; he was frozen to stone as it was against traditional law for any animals to have traditional markings. Now all the pelicans carry the white markings of the pipeclay which as made them now the colour of black and white. Borun now sits as a white rock in the catchments of Port Albert.
Listen to the story of Tiddalik
Who are the traditional land owners?Gunaikurnai people are the Traditional Owners of Gippsland. There are approximately 3,000 Gunaikurnai people, and their territory includes the coastal and inland areas to the southern slopes of the Victorian Alps. Gunaikurnai people are made up of five major clans, with the clan occupying the area around Yarram & Port Albert being the Brataualung.
The Story of the Southern CrossNarran 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.
Nargune was a cave-dweller who lived in the valley of what is now the Mitchell River. He had many caves, and should an Aboriginal go near him, he was pulled into the cave and never seen again. If he threw a spear munga Nargune, Nargune returned it, always wounding the black fellow. He cannot be killed!
Another cave he had was munga Lake Tyers; and no black fellow would dare to go near it. An Aboriginal woman once had a fight with him near this cave, but she disappeared, so no-one knows how the fight ended.
Nargune was like a rock; all stone except for his chest, arms and hands and no one knew what these were made of. He was always on the look out for black fellows in Gippsland and they were frightened of him.
Translated by Hollie Johnson for Arts Victoria
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 Superb Warbler or Superb Wren. All Gunaikurnai women are Djeetgun, the Southern Emu Wren.
Get in touch.