First Nations people say that this “country” always was, and always will be, their land. The also believe that they have been here forever.
Scientists are still to confirm if Homo sapiens evolved 200,000 years ago in East Africa or 300,000 years ago in Morocco, however recent archaeological studies have determined that they migrated into the Australian continent between 65,000 and 80,000 years ago. Or did they?
The story of Watsons Bay is also the story of Courmangara. It’s a story of European written knowledge and research and indigenous oral knowledge and evolution, it’s a story of two cultures and societies. For every western scientific explanation, there is a 65,000 year-old story, and they are both very similar and often the same.
14,000 million years ago the Big Bang created the universe and 4,600 million years ago, Galeru, the Rainbow Serpent created “Sahul” (the continent of a Australia, Tasmania and PNG).
As Galeru moves across the country, it raises mountains, ridges and gorges as it pushes its way to the surface of the earth. It is an immense creature, and inhabits all the deep stores of water on and beneath the surface, creating gullies and deep channels filled with water as it slithers across the landscape.
Some time later, Barnumbirr, the creator-spirit, guided the first humans, the two Djanggawul sisters and their brother, to “Sahul”. Barnambirr and the Djanggawuls lived on Baralku, the island of the dead. Barnumbirr rises every day into the sky as Venus and one day, after crossing the coastline, Barnumbirr flew across the land from East to West, creating a songline which named and created the animals, plants, and natural features of the land. He brought the two sisters and brother to people the land.
As they travelled in country, the older of the Dianggawul sisters gave birth to a child and her blood flowed into a water hole. Galeru emerged from the water hole and ate the sisters, however when bitten by an ant, it regurgitated the sisters.The Serpent was then able to speak in the sisters’ voices and taught sacred ritual to the people of that land.
These first people were the Yolngu of north-eastern Arnhem Land. Just as the people of coastal Sydney were called Eora by the early Europeans, both mean “people”.
The descendants of the Dianggawul siblings grew in number and following the laws laid down by Galeru, formed into a complex society. In time they spoke 12 different languages and belonged to two Moiety clan groups, the Yirrritja and the Dhuwa. . The clans of the Yirritja are the Dhalwa?u (Nu?burundi), Dhalwa?u (Narrkala), Gumatj (Gupa), Gumatj (Yarrwidi), Gupapuyngu, Madarrpa, Ma?galili, Munyuku, Wangurri and Warramiri. The clans of the Dhuwa are the Dätiwuy, Djambarrpuy?u, Dhudi-Djapu, Djapu (Gupa), Djarrwark, Gälpu, Golumala , Marrakulu, Ngaymil and Rirratji?u
The two Moiety are two parts of one whole. Each is responsible for the maintenance of different elements of their shared country. Within each Moiety, all people must support each other. To ensure strong bloodlines, marriages must be between clans of different moiety and wherever possible from as distant a geographic location as possible.
Skin names are given at birth and in sequences of 8, 16, 24 or 32. Members of each clan would memorise the relationship with other clans and moiety going back as many as 32 generations based on skin names.
The skin name is always given in sequence and in a matriarchal society such as the Yolngu, given by the mother to her children. For example a woman whose moiety is Yirritja and whose skin name is Gotjan, would name her first daughter ?arritjan. ?arritjan in turn would name her first daughter Ba?a?itjan. Ba?a?itjan in turn would name her first daughter Bu?anydjan. If Gotjan had a 2nd daughter, she would be named Ba?a?itjan and 3rd daughter Bu?anydjan. The three girls are not however regarded as sisters. Their sisters are all other girls with the same skin name and their parents, the parents of the other girls with the same skin name.
This means that a second daughter from one generation is regarded as a sister of a girl born in the next generation. Gotjan’s 2nddaughter, Ba?a?itjan, would be a sister to her elder siblings first daughter.
Similarly, the boys are given masculine versions of the same skin names in the same sequence (Narritj instead of Narritjan, Banadi instead of Banaditjan and Bulany instead of Bulanydjan).
This complex social structure ensured that both the bloodlines remained strong and that “country” was respected and maintained. It also meant every person was not an individual but responsible for the livelihood of many other people and they him or her.
Lyn Kelly in her book “The Memory Code” explains how she not only researched the techniques and practices of indigenous peoples across the world, but put the principles into practice and now uses it to memorise vast amounts of information. In relation to genealogies and totems, she writes, “There is one area of indigenous knowledge that I have failed miserably to replicate other than superficially. Genealogies are recognised as one of the most complicated data sets maintained in memory by oral cultures, recalled through song and a wide range of designs. Somehow, complex networks of relationships within tribes and between them are known. Every person belongs within the network and every kinship is understood. I have seen diagrams from studies done within Australian language groups where every member of the family is identified, from close relatives to those who are only distant kin. The lines crisscross the diagram, which the ethnographer described as a simplified schematic. I cannot imagine how memorising this tapestry is possible.
The research is indisputable, elders the world over do memorise intricate family ties. I know that part of the system involves objects decorated with patterns reflecting clan affiliations, such as the Australian Aboriginal weapons carved with geometric patterns that denote relationships and symbolise the ownership of specific tracts of land. Kinships serve to define land ownership, resource rights and, in some hierarchical societies, status. The genealogies also dictate who an individual may or may not marry, with most cultures banning close blood ties as marriage partners.” (1)
As the population grew, some of the new generation moved on to new country, maintaining the social structures but adopting new songlines and creation stories that applied to the new country.
In time, people occupied country right across the north of the continent and their creator was the Rainbow Serpent. They passed down their creation stories for over 65,000 years. In 2013 Bradley Moggridge, an indigenous hydrologist, was employed by the Northern Territory government to map groundwater. He began by going to meet with each clan across the territory and asking about their creation story. Joining the stories identified where the rainbow serpent entered the earth (water holes), where he travelled underground (aquifers) and where he emerged (waterholes). He produced a map that the NT government rejected on the grounds that it didn’t have a scientific foundation. He then proceeded to drill bore holes that did nothing more than confirm the accuracy of 65,000 year-old memories, passed down generation after generation.
Similarly, the Star Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters is one of the most widely distributed ancient stories amongst Aboriginal Australia. The songline for this story covers more than half the width of the continent, from the west coast to Uluru. The songline travels through many different language groups and different sections of the story are recognised in different parts of the country.
The story relates to the journey of the seven sisters that make up the star cluster known as the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. In central Australia, the Pleiades star group rises above the horizon soon after sunset and keeps a low trajectory above the horizon. Perhaps for this reason this relatively small star cluster takes on extra importance, as it appears to launch from the earth’s surface and make its journey in close proximity to the land.
The group of stars are the Napaljarri sisters from one skin group. In the Warlpiri story of this Jukurrpa, the sisters are often represented carrying the Jampijinpa man Wardilyka, who is in love with the women. Then the morning star, Jukurra-jukurra, who is a Jakamarra man and who is also in love with the seven Napaljarri sisters, is shown chasing them across the night sky. They are seen to be running away, fleeing from the man who wants to take one of the sisters for his wife. However, under traditional law, the man pursuing the sisters is the wrong skin group and is forbidden to take a Napaljarri wife.
So, the Seven Sisters are running away from the Jampijinpa man, they travel across the land, and then from a steep hill they launch themselves into the sky in an attempt to escape. But the Jakamarra man follows the sisters into the sky, travelling in the form of a star seen in the Orion’s Belt star cluster, which is also seen as the base of the Big Dipper. Every night, the Seven Sisters launch themselves from earth into the night sky, and every night the Jampijinpa man follows after them across the sky. (2)
The songlines of these stories have guided people to waterholes across the continent for over 50,000 years
According to western science, 65,000 to 80,000 years ago, the sea level throughout the world fluctuated by over 150 metres. Sometimes, due to various factors such as ice and tectonic movement, sea levels rose and fell. Jeffrey Dorale and a team at the University of Iowa have established that 81,000 years ago, the sea level to the north of Australia was higher than it is today. Within a thousand years or so, it was 7 to 30 meters lower. (3)
During that period around 81,000 years ago, between 200 and 300 people emigrated from the north onto the Australian continent. (4)When the water levels rose again, it cut off the route for more immigration. By 1788, over 700,000 people populated the continent, and all were and are related to the original two to three hundred.
In 2017, an archaeological dig in Kakadu established that artefacts including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads were up to 65,000 years old. (5)
Around the same time, archaeological findings, and geological and DNA research have indicated that not only have Aboriginal Australians been in Kakadu from as early as 65,000 years ago, but also in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia from 50,000 years ago, and the Flinders Ranges of South Australia from around 49,000 years ago. This suggests that the entire continent was populated over a 15,000 year period.(6)
The original 200-300 people would have had to cross short stretches of sea to reach “Sahul” in the far north west of the continent. They would have travelled along a chain of islands from the Asian continent, just as the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land have recorded in their origin story. 65,000+ years of oral tradition and western science tell the same story (7)
It is most likely that family groups broke away from their clan, when there were too many people to live by subsistence hunting and gathering on their country. They would have moved on to new “country”, where again they would establish a new relationship with the land, but still maintain contact with their original clan. The people moved across and down the continent over the next 15,000 years.
Over that 15,000 years there were some 600+ generations, or 4 or 5 generations every 100 years and they would have only needed to travel 25 km or less every 100 years to travel the 4,000 km from Arnhem Land to Courmangara Watsons Bay).
On the east coast, it is most likely that they moved to the east of the Great Dividing Range and then down the coast which was 20km or so further to the east at that time. They moved down the coast and up the river valleys into the mountains over that time. Their migration was so slow, that they would have had time to become part of country, but also to realise what their new country didn’t provide, and so they traded for plant seeds as well as other items when they followed their songlines back to their neighbouring clans. Today there are plants in New South Wales that share their DNA with those in Cape York. (8)
When they arrived at present day Sydney, they found a river valley that flowed from the valley across a plain to the coast 20km away. They settled in this river valley and on the banks of the Parramatta River, established a settlement that they occupied for tens of thousands of years.
In 2007, at an archaeological dig on the corner of Charles and George Sts, Parramatta, 20,000 items of charcoal, stone tools and other artefacts were unearthed. The previously oldest evidence of human habitation around Sydney had been found in the Blue Mountains (14,700 years), at Kurnell (12,500), and near the old Tempe House on the Cooks River (10,700). Furthermore, the artefacts were laid down over a period of 30,735 years give or take 400 years. That’s 30,735 years of permanent occupation of a crescent shaped sandy beach on the Parramatta River. (9)
Baiame created country, and country consisted of everything. Country is more than just “land”. Country is earth, mountains, hills, plains, deserts, rivers, lakes, seas, water, animals, vegetation, people. It is the ecosystem; with all elements interdependent on each other. He not only came down from the sky to create “country” but instructed all living things on how to behave to maintain “country”. All Nations (language groups), clans and family groups were given “laws” to follow, and incorporated them into their dreaming stories, songs, dance and art.
Baiami created D’harawal country, and the people were given stories to explain the laws. The stories have many levels of complexity, starting with stories for children which would be retold in more complex form until they instructed the people on reaching adulthood.
The D’harawal people, of whom the Birrabirragal were a clan, have been telling the following two stories about their “Country” for some 7,000 to 10,000 years. These are the basic stories for children, but as relevant today to adults of all ages and cultural backgrounds. When reading them, reflect on the fact that they describe dramatic changes to “country”.
Boora Birra The Story of the Sow and Pigs Reef
“A long time ago, when there was no evil in This Land, the sea was further to the east than it is today, and the place called Boora Birra stood high in the deep valley which it guarded. This valley was the home of the Parra Doowee, the Eel Dreaming Spirit. Now Boora Birra was a special place for women, who, when needed, carried out the ceremony called Butoowee there. Every child, when they reached a certain age, was taken to the Boora Birra where they were taught certain things, and received protection from any evil spirits which could enter them and cause them to do evil things. Because the land between the deep valleys and the sea shore was flat and easy walking, with plenty of food, The People preferred to live there, rather than in the highlands or the valleys where food was difficult to gather, and hunting was even more difficult.
The kangaroos and wombats came down on to the flat lands to eat the sweet grass and tender new shoots of the shrubs that grew there. They became fat and lazy and easy to catch. The People became fat and lazy, too. The sea shore was rich with shellfish, the rock pools along the shore teeming with fish, and the flatlands provided fruit and tubers as well. But The People not only became lazy, they also became forgetful. The men no longer honoured the spirits of the animals they hunted and killed, and they wasted much of their prey, eating only the parts they liked most, and leaving the remainder to rot away.
However, it was not only the men who forgot the laws and the ceremonies. The women, too, did not attend to their special duties. They no longer taught their children the ways of The People, they no longer paid their respects to the Earth Mother, or gave thanks for the food they received so easily. And they became so lazy that they no longer bothered to take the long walk upon the blooming of the Marrai-uo, up to the valley of the Eel Dreaming, where the great bare rock, the Boora Birra guarded the Parra Doowee, and where the special ceremony was performed that protected the children from the evil spirits that caused them to break the laws.
Without the protection of the ceremony, the children became vulnerable to the evil spirits, and they grew to manhood and womanhood without being taught the laws, and why it is necessary to obey those laws. They laughed at the old people who tried to tell them that terrible things would happen if they neglected the ceremony and the laws. And they formed themselves into bands that roamed the flatlands bringing terror to man and animal, young and old alike, destroying the gunyas of the old, stealing fishing spears and hunting weapons, and using them to fight the members of other bands. Gradually the older people and those young ones who still obeyed the laws moved into the Valley of the Parra Doowee, and the highlands beyond the Boora Birra, leaving the flatlands to the lawless ones.
But the lawless ones grew tired of tormenting each other and conducted forays into the valleys. The People heard them coming and would conceal themselves high upon the Boora Birra, and from this vantage point the People watched the bands of lawless ones roam up the valley, and they watched with trepidation as one band approached the home of the Great Eel. Long before this time of which we speak, it had been the custom of each warrior to take his turn to guard the home of the Great Eel, but with the forgetting of the ways of The People, this duty was left to one man, Kamarai, who remembered the old ways. He grew so old carrying out his duties that none of The People remembered him as a warrior.
Kamarai heard the noise of the approaching group, and leaving the meal of berries that he was enjoying, went to welcome his visitors. It had been so long since he had seen another of The People, he was concerned that he remembered the proper protocols. But his smile of welcome faded into a grimace as he was quickly surrounded by the lawless ones who laughed at his clumsy actions as he tried to avoid the jabbing of their spears. Finally, bleeding from many wounds, the old man fell to the ground. Meanwhile, in a deep pool in the river the Great Eel heard the commotion and heard the cries of help from his old friend. It swam up to the surface of the pool, and peered toward the direction of Kamarai’s cries. The lawless ones saw the Great Eel and threw their spears at him in fear as it pulled itself up out of the water. Its great body moved towards its old friend as the last spear of the lawless ones struck its tail. When it saw that Kamarai had died of his wounds, it cried out in grief and pain, and struck the ground with its great tail, dislodging the spear.
The Earth began to shake violently, and a great chasm opened up in the ground, following the fleeing lawless ones and swallowing them as they fled towards the flatlands. Then a great storm came in from the sea, and the waves crashed across the flatlands until they reached the cliffs that marked the beginning of the highlands.
The waves crashed against the cliffs, crushing those lawless ones who had not been dragged down into the depths by the Sea Spirits and dealt with in a suitable manner.
As the waters rose and invaded the valley, the Great Eel saw the women and children stranded on the Boora Birra, and it told them to climb into his back and it would take them to safety. “Let this be a warning.” The Great Eel said. “The laws of This Land must be obeyed, and the proper ceremonies must be carried out in the proper manner.” It set them down at the place called Banarong. “So that you will not forget this lesson, this place will remind you of what happened” And it gently slapped its tail on the ground so that its blood from the spear wound splashed over the rocks and earth. “This is the place where you will remember that the blood of many of The People was spilt because they forgot to teach the laws to the young.”
It then turned to look at the Boora Birra, slowly being engulfed by the waves. “And the Boora Birra will now be a place where the sea creatures take their children to teach them the laws of the Sea.” The Great Eel said. “But you may visit, safely, from time to time, so that you will remember why the laws must be passed on to the young.” “But because good lessons can always be learned from evil, this place will be safe for The People, to hunt and to fish, and live and teach the laws.” The Great Eel slipped silently into the water, and with a splash of its tail, disappeared beneath the waves. The People watched the waves, hoping for a glimpse of the Great Eel as it made its way to its new home. One of the children, a young boy, went to the water’s edge, then looked back at his mother and smiled. And spoke in a voice that was not his. “Until we forget again.” He said. “Until we forget again.”
Kollgul and how the Tarral’bai Came to Be
“A very long, long time ago, the Eel Dreaming Spirit, Parra’dowee, used to travel down the Great River of the Wirrim’birra to the Boora Birra for a meeting with his old friend, Boo’ambillyee, the Shark Dreaming Spirit. These old friends would often meet to discuss business, and the happenings of their Peoples. But this time, the perceptive Boo’ambillyee could see that Parra’dowee was much troubled and as she nudged a tasty morsel to her old friend she spoke.
“I sense that you are concerned, my friend.” She said. “Why do you not tell me, even if I cannot help you, the telling will make you feel better.
”The Parra’dowee nodded sadly. “I had not meant to weigh you down with my troubles, but I am deeply ashamed of something that I have done.
”Boo’ambillyee looked at her friend in great surprise. She could not imagine the Parra’dowee doing anything of which he could be ashamed, and she would have laughed out loud, if she had not seen the deep shame in the Eel Dreaming Spirit’s eyes. “How can I help?” She asked. Parra’dowee took a deep breath, he had not meant to show his feelings so openly to his friend, but then he realised that the Shark Dreaming Spirit, as with all sharks, had a very sensitive nose, and could smell emotions as easily as one can smell food.
“Many years ago, a young man whose name was Kollgul came down from the mountains to the swamps of Mull’goh. He seemed a sensible young man, who was eager to learn, who was polite, and respectful. He did me many favours, and in return, I taught him many things, more than I should have, without bothering to test his worthiness to learn these things.”
Boo’ambillyee listened silently as Parra’dowee told of a false magician who came from afar and lured Kollgul away from his home in the mountain above the swamps of Mull’goh, who told him of untrue things, of how he could be a great warrior, feared by everyone by using the magic that this false magician would teach him.
Kollgul believed these untruths and told a few of his friends who came to listen to the false magician tell of how Koll’gul was really a great warrior, who could claim all the lands between the mountains and the sea. His friends were greatly impressed, and followed him as he made his way down the Great River.
They were overjoyed and danced and sang as Kollgul caused the old ones to flee in fear of his magical tricks taught to him by the false magician, and as he and his friends marched down the Great River they were joined by others who had been exiled by their own clans.
But the false magician, although he knew of some magic, did not know how to stop the spells once they had been made. Thus, the lands were left spellbound, and unhabitable. Parra’dowee told Boo’ambillyee of how Kollgul had learned of Tarral’bai, the Place of Secrets situated under the Parra’woori, and he wanted to possess the secrets, so that not only The People would fear him, but all creatures, even the Dreaming Spirits.
Boo’ambillyee smiled, and Parra’dowee felt a chill of fear at the sight of those sharp teeth.
“Let him break my laws and I will eat him.” She said. “Slowly.”
Parra’dowee stared at his friend, then suddenly, he too smiled. “We must protect the
Place of Secrets.” He said. “But perhaps we can also trap the false magician, and
Koll’gul and his followers.”
Kollgul, the false magician, and his followers slowly made their way down the Great River, bringing fear to many of those who opposed him, and to those he could not bring fear he caused grave injury, or caused false accusations to be brought against them.
The People of the Sweet Water cried out to Parra’dowee to help them, but Parra’dowee told them to be patient.
Soon Kollgul and his band moved down to the Banarong where they found the Carer of the Well of Secrets trying to hide the well from his eyes. When she tried to protect the well from him Koll’gul grew angry and struck her with his bundi, killing the frail old woman.
When he found only water in the well, he threw her body into the hole so that no other would ever be able to drink from the well. This action not only angered the Spirit of This Land, it also angered all other Spirits that something that was so sacred could be desecrated.
Each of the Spirits hungered for revenge for this action, but Parra’dowee quieted
them. When there were times that the Spirits needed to take human form they drank from the waters of this well, gently they removed the old woman’s body and gave her the proper rituals, before becoming people and setting up camp right on the northern most part of the Parra’woori to wait for the arrival of Kollgul and his band.
It was not long before Kollgul saw their campfire and, accompanied by the false magician, entered the camp, fully armed. The Spirits feigned horror as the armed men demanded to know where the Place of Secrets was. They cried out loudly as if they were afraid, making so much noise that the false magician could not weave his spell. Losing his temper, Kollgul raised his spear to kill the nearest one.
At that moment Parra’dowee struck the Banarong with his tail and the earth shook violently. By the time the false magician, and Kollgul and his followers got to their feet the spirits had reverted to their natural form and disappeared.
Kollgul then knew fear. He knew then that he had broken many laws, and he knew that his punishment would be dire. He turned to the false magician. “Help me, this is all your fault.” He said.
But the false magician was also afraid. He saw that the Parra’woori was now separated from the land, where they had walked was now deep, swiftly flowing water. And swimming in those waters they could see the fins of many sharks.
On a small beach near the campfire of the spirits, the Parra’dowee came ashore, and smiled up at Kollgul. “You now have the Place of Secrets in your possession.” Said the Great Eel Dreaming Spirit. “Do with it what you will. If you can find it.” Then he disappeared.
Kollgul looked around him. The Parra’woori was now an island, an island on which there was not a tree large enough to build a canoe to enable them to cross the channel. An island where the only food was a few scrawny roots buried in the shallow soils. An island where oysters did not grow, where birds did not come to roost in the few trees, where only a few lizards lived. An island guarded by the children of Boo’ambillyee.
Kollgul had got what he had hungered for, The Parra’woori and the Tarral’bai, the Place of Secrets, but it would do him no good. He and his followers were trapped there, left only with two choices, to starve to death on the island, or to take the chance and swim across the channel.
One of his followers, a woman, whose name none remember, jumped into the water, and swam across the channel. They watched her as she swam, followed by the fins of the sharks. Finally she made it on to a rock on the opposite shore. They could hear her laugh with joy as she stood on the rock and waved to them. It was then that a huge shark, bigger than anything they had ever seen before, leapt out of the water, soaring over the rock, taking the woman in one single mouthful.
Kollgul and his followers stared in disbelief as the only sign left of the woman was a few spots of her blood on the rock.
Boo’ambillyee, swam across the channel to where Kollgul and his followers were waiting. She smiled up at them from the water. “I am very patient.” She said. “But I will dine on each of you.” Then she swam off, and disappeared beneath the waves.
Kollgul turned to the false magician and once again blamed him for all that had happened. Then he turned on his followers telling them that if they had truly believed in him, none of this would have happened.
For a long time they lived on the island, getting weaker and weaker, fearing to go down to the small beach for fear of the sharks. They had seen Boo’ambillyee leap from the water to take the Forgotten One, they were not going to risk the same fate.
One by one they died, until only the false magician and Kollgul were left. Each lived on opposite ends of the island, each never speaking to the other, but each cursing the other every day.
Then one day, Kollgul was standing on top of the cliff, watching the sharks swimming
around below him when he saw something. He quickly laid down on the edge of the cliff and looked over.
“The sign!” He cried. “The sign! I have found the Place of Secrets!”
It was then that the great form of the Boo’ambillyee surged up out of the water. Kollgul could only stare at those terrible teeth before they closed around him and dragged him down into the depths of the sea.
Nearby the false magician heard the fearsome scream. He sat down upon a rock on the highest part of the island, and there he died. His body rotted way, until only a black mark was left on the rock, to remind The People of what happens to those who make false claims.
After a while, Parra’dowee and Boo’ambillyee met once again to discuss business. When they were about to part, Parra’dowee turned to Boo’ambillyee. “I think it is about time that we returned the Tarral’bai to The People.” He said. “But this time we will ensure that none can misuse it.”
Boo’ambillyee nodded her agreement. Together they sang the song, and a great storm came.”
Copyright 2001. Intellectual Property of the Bodkin-Andrews clan of the D’harawal Peoples.
Soon the channel between the island and Banarong was filled with sand, and once more The People would be able to come to the Parra’woori for ceremony, and to tell the story of Kollgul and the false magician so that their children would know that if one tries to own something that is not truly his, then only evil can befall him. Or her. 4
Geologist have a different story and yet, the same story. The people who were living on the banks of the Parramatta River at Parramatta 30,735 years ago, and were still there at the time of the invasion, also witnessed the flooding of the river valley at the end of the ice age some 10,000 years ago, and the two stories above account for the initial creation of the harbour. The second even describes the waters rising so high that they cut off south head from the rest of Sydney, with the sea running from Bondi to Rose Bay. This accounts for this country today being sandy.
By the late 1700’s, there were around 700,000 people in Australia and between 5,000 and 8,000 of them lived in the Sydney Basin. Often, the people of the Sydney Basin are referred to as being of the Eora Nation. Eora means “here” or “of this place” and the people didn’t regard themselves as being a “nation”. In fact, there were many clans (tribes) and sub-clans of three language groups and their names were “of this place”; they referred more to the localities where the language or language group was spoken rather than ancestry. Around Sydney there were three main groups – Dharug, Kuringgai and Dharawal – each comprising of a number of smaller units called clans or hordes who claimed a common ancestry, have their own land area with its sacred sites. (10)
The Dharawal and Dharug nations are divided up into a number of clans (29?) who each live in a specific geographic area. The clan typically included 50 to 100 people, in individual family groups. They are Gadigal (Sydney), Wangal (Concord), Burramattagal (Parramatta), Wallumattagal (Ryde), Muru-ora-dial (Maroubra), Kameygal (Botany Bay), Birrabirragal (Sydney Harbour), Bediagal (North of Georges River), Bidjigal (Castle Hill), Toogagal (Toongabbie), Cabrogal (Cabramatta), Boorooberongal (Richmond), Cannemegal (Prospect), Gomerigal-tongara (South Creek), Muringong (Camden), Cattai (Windsor), Kurrajong (Kurrajong), Boo-bain-ora (Wentworthville), Mulgoa (Penrith) (8)
Also recorded as:
Cadigal / Kadigal – North Head to Five Dock Wangal / Wanegal – Iron Cove, Concord Burramattagal / Burramedigal – Parramatta Wallumattagal / Walumedegal – Milsons Point / Ryde Mura-ora-dial – Maroubra Kurrajong – Sackville / Portland / Kurrajong Muringong (probably Muringal) – Camden district Kameygal – Rockdale / Kyeemagh / Botany Bay Bool-bain-ora – Wentworthville Mulgoa – Penrith Birrabirragal – Watsons Bay / Vaucluse Bediagal – north of Georges River Toogagal – Toongabbie Cabrogal – Cabramatta / Fairfield Burruberongal / Boorooberongal – Richmond / Windsor Cannemegal – Prospect Gomerrigal-Tongara – South Creek Bidjigal – Castle Hill Cattai – Windsor / Middle Hawkesbury
Cammeraigal / Kameragal – Chatswood / Cammeray to Lane Cove River Terramerragal – Turramurra / St Ives / Terrey Hills. Carigal – Barrenjoey Peninsula / West Head Cannalagal – Mona Vale / Dee Why / Manly Goruaigal – Fig Tree Point Kayimai or Gayimai – Manly Borogegal – Manly area Gorualgal – Crows Nest / Neutral Bay Borogegal-yuruey – Bradleys Head
Dharawal Clans or Bands
Gweagal – Kurnell / Caringbah Norongerragal or Nongerragal – Menai / Bangor Threawal – Bong Bong / Southern Highlands Tagary or Tagarai – Royal National Park Illawarra – Wollongong(11)
“gal” meant clan or family and the first part of the clan name indicated their country or location. The people whose country was Cadi were the Cadigal or Gadigal.
As to where “Cadi” was is unsure. Some claim it was “Camp Cove” itself while others say it was Sydney Cove. Cadi however was also recorded as the name given to the tree grass plant (Xanthorrhoea species)) which was prolific between South Head and Sydney Cove. They cut sections of spear shafts from the grass tree stems and cemented them together with its resin.
The Birrabirragal were a sub clan of the Gadigal people. Their name was taken from their main summer place of habitation near the lagoon behind Camp Cove and near their women’s sacred site, Boora Birra (Sow and Pigs), so the Birrabirragal clan.
Among the invaders were many people who had names derived from their “place”. In my case, the name Crawford is derived from the Old English words “crawa,” which means “crow,” and “ford,” which means “a river crossing,” and indicates that the original bearer lived near a ford where crows nested.
Lyn Kelly “The Memory Code” pgs 74-75
Murray, R. and White, K. 1988. Dharug and Dungaree: The History of Penrith and St Marys to 1860. Hargreen Publishing Company in conjunction with the Council of the City of Penrith.