Life started when a creator woman called Warramurrungundji came out of the sea. She carried with her a digging stick and a dilly bag holding yams, waterlilies and other important plants. She planted the food and created waterholes in the ground with her digging stick.
She also created mountains and creeks, and left on the land her spirit children that she had carried in her womb. Groups of children were given different languages. From Warramurrungundji’s acts, new creator beings appeared. Other Dreamtime creatures began to weave the land. The fertility mother is also responsible for the seasonal changes that govern the country, the onset of rains, wind, and drought.
After completing her creative acts, Warramurrungundji turned herself into a rock. Forever within the landscape she created.
Long ago in ‘Dreamtime’ the earth was dark. There was no light, it was cold and very black. Huge grey clouds kept the light and warmth out and were so low that the animals had to crawl around.
The Emu hobbled low to the ground, the Kangaroo couldn’t hop, and the birds couldn’t fly higher than several feet in the air. Only the Snakes were happy because they lived close to the ground. The animals lived by crawling around the damp dark earth, feeling for fruits and berries. Often it was so hard to find food that several days would pass by between meals. The Wombat became so tired of being bumped into all the time, he dug himself a burrow, and slept for long periods.
Eventually the birds decided they’d had enough and called a meeting of all the animals. The Magpies decided that they would raise the sky by gathering sticks, and use them as levers to push the sky up. They pushed higher and higher until they gave the sky one last push into the air, and as it rose it split open and a huge flood of warmth and light poured through on the land below. The whole sky was filled with beautiful reds and yellows. It was the first Sunrise.
All the animals were overjoyed with the beauty, the light and the warmth, the Magpies burst into song as their loud warbling carried across the land, the Sun-Woman rose slowly and began her journey towards the West. Each morning when the Sun-Woman wakes in the east she lights a fire to prepare the torch that she will carry across the sky each day. And till this day when the Sun-Woman wakes and lights her early morning fire, all the Magpies greet her with their song.
Long ago in the Dreamtime everything was dark, there was no daytime.
Bohra the Kangaroo took Dinewan the Emu to be his wife and they were happy for quite a while. Then the Emu became very restless because Bohra only wanted to lay around all the time and sleep. And because the Emu is used to a lot of exercise she longed to stretch her legs.
So she began to complain about his laziness and then about the dark. Dinewan would fiddle with the leaves on the ground and the leaves would sometimes fall on his face and wake him up. Finally he said, come with me. So they went off into the darkness, stumbling along, falling over logs and especially scratching the Emu’s legs until the feathers around that area fell off.
Then they came to a clearing where Bohra said to his wife, wait here. And he begun to roll back the night until daylight came through and his wife began to run around, which is why the Emu is a fast and scaly legged bird.
Long ago in Dreamtime when the creator God Baiame, left the earth to live his far away land of rest on top of the Sacred Mountain, all the flowers that grew on the plains and stony ridges, and the trees withered and died, and none grew again in their place. The earth looked bare and desolate with no flowers to brighten it, and there were no bees for honey.
The people asked the Wirinuns (the clever ones) to go and ask Baiame if he could cover the earth again with the flowers, so it would be made beautiful again. The Wirinuns journeyed until they came to the foot of the Sacred Mountain, and began climbing. After 4 days they reached the summit and were greeted by the Spirit Messenger of Baiame. They told the Spirit Messenger they came to ask Baiame for some flowers to make the earth beautiful again, which will bring back the bees and give honey to their people. The Spirit Messenger lifted the Wirinuns into the Sky Camp where fadeless flowers never ceased to bloom, and told the Wirinuns they could gather as many as they could hold in their hands as they were good people, and had obeyed Baiame’s Lores of the Land. The Sky Camp of Baiame was a land of beauty, flowers blooming everywhere in such splendour as they had never seen before, they looked like rows of rainbows laid on the grass. The Wirinuns cried tears of joy as they had never seen such beauty.
The Spirit Messenger returned the Wirinuns to their people laden with armfuls of the blossoms from the Sky Camp, and told them the earth shall never again be bare of such blossoms and fragrance. The Wirinuns scattered the flowers far and wide. Some fell on the tree tops, some on the plains and ridges, and where they fell they have grown ever since. It is the work of the bees of Baiame from the blossoms of the Sky Camp to make Yarraga (the spring wind) blow the rain down the Sacred Mountain that the trees, shrubs and flowers may blossom, and the earth bees make honey.
Long ago in ‘Dreamtime’ all the earth lay sleeping, nothing grew and nothing moved. Then one day the Rainbow Serpent awoke from beneath the earth and pushed herself up to the surface. She travelled far and wide leaving winding tracks, and the imprint of her sleeping body. After travelling the earth she returned to the place she had first appeared, and called to the frogs to come out, the frogs were slow as their bellies were full of water which they had stored during their long sleep. The Rainbow Serpent tickled their stomachs and when the frogs laughed the water flowed out of their mouths and filled the tracks and hollows left by the Rainbow Serpent, creating the rivers and lakes.
Grass and trees grew with the land filled with water, and awoke all the animals. The Rainbow Serpent made laws the animals had to obey, but some were trouble makers, so the Rainbow Serpent punished the animals who broke the law, and became stone and were turned into mountains and hills never to walk the earth again. Those who obeyed the law were rewarded and turned into human form, each were given their own totem of the animal, bird or reptile from when they began, so the tribes knew themselves by their own totem. The Rainbow Serpent ruled that no man should eat of his totem, but only of other totems, this way there was food for all.
Back in Dreamtime all the bird tribes were the same colour, and that was black. One day this peaceful Dove caught his foot on a sharp prong of wood on a broken off tree branch. The Dove called out for help, and all the other bird tribes heard his cry and came to the place where he laid. The Dove was in great pain and his foot had swollen up, and the other birds gathered and provided shelter for him with their wings. Some brought water for him to drink and some bathed his foot with water. Except for Crow, who was in a bad mood and was angered by the attention the other birds were giving the little Dove.
Crow harangued the other birds and told them that they were wasting their time, the peaceful Dove was done for. The Dove’s foot was festering and swelling more all the time. But the other birds didn’t care what the crow thought, they decided they had enough of him and chased him away. Then the Galah had an idea, she rushed over and bit the Dove’s swollen foot with her sharp, hooked beak. The Dove cried out in pain and all the colours in nature flowed out of the Dove’s foot and splashed all over every bird gathered around. Some got only a little colour, some got one or two colours, but the Rainbow Lorikeet was splashed with so much colour he looked like the rainbow itself.
The Galah was splashed with rosy pink and grey, and the little peaceful Dove was almost drained of colour till he was a light mottled grey-brown. And so it was that all the bird tribes got their beautiful colours, except for the selfish bad tempered Crow who remains in his original black to this day.
A long time ago the frilled neck lizard had a nice clean chest but this was badly burnt which is why it is black today. Back in the Dreamtime when all the animals were people, there was an enormous flood and the river spread as wide as the eye could see.
The people had been stranded on a small, higher part of land but there was no food and they were frightened because the flood-waters were still rising. The clans gathered together and had a long discussion and decided that they had to cross the water to find better land that would provide food for them. The clever men instructed them to tie a smouldering fire stick to the chests of all animals before they commenced to swim so their progress could be seen. The clever men tried all the animals to get across the water but all without success.
All that was left was old GA NI, the frilled neck lizard. GA NI was very slow and slept most of the time. The clever men had to wake GA NI and tell him it was his turn to try and reach land. The clever men instructed old GA NI to light a fire when he reached land to let them know it is safe to swim across. GA NI told the clever men to tie a long firestick to his chest, a firestick made of gidgee because gidgee wood smoulders very slowly while the wind movement keeps it alight. The clever men laughed at old GA NI, but did as he requested. GA NI began his slow swim across the water, and they could still see the twinkling light, although it was getting smaller.
GA NI’s swim took all night, and when the clever men woke just before dawn, and looked out across the water, they saw to their surprise, a great fire blazing in the distance and knew that GA NI had found land. Their lives had been saved because old GA NI had been clever enough to survive the water crossing and light the signal fire. During the long swim, the gidgee firestick had slowly burnt away until it had badly injured GA NI’s chest. This left a charred, black scar on the chest of this brave frilled-neck lizard.
The clever men promised that whoever found land should become the most superior person in their tribe, and GA NI had saved their lives by showing them land with what remained of his firestick so all the animals swam over and joined him.
They decided to have a corroboree in his honour and all painted up and danced around this tired, old fella. GA NI was now the king of the lizards and would remain so forever. Since his epic swim, he has always been treated with respect by both animals and humans. Even today, frilled neck lizards are often seen standing up straight on their hind legs their heads held back with pride, and this displays the blackness on their chests, that was the reward for great bravery in the past.