Tully water story 1

The water story – by a Jirrbal Elder

This is a summary of the Jirrbal story. The Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the Tully region would like to ensure that they promote and share their land, language and culture to visitors from around the world and locally.  They wish to share the importance of their unique and different perspective of the country and how they see and read the land, in particular the Tully River.  Their connection to the Tully River and other tributary rivers in the local areas are seen through this “The Water Story”.

Once there was a time when the animals wandered the land looking for water.

They searched and searched but couldn’t find enough for even the smallest animals to drink. Bangarra (blue tongue lizard) was the Keeper of The Water, so Yuri (big kangaroo) went to him for help. Bangarra told Yuri ‘go and dig in that dry creek there.’ ‘We did that,’said Yuri , ‘and we found none.’ ‘Well,’said Bangarra ‘when I need water I go and chew the bulban (kangaroo grass).’

The Kangaroos went away and dug deeply around the roots of the bulban, until they became very hot, very cross, and very thirsty, but still there was no water.

The great thirst spread over all the land and all the animals gathered together to talk about how they could get water. There was Biyu (frilled neck lizard), Gujila (bandicoot), Midin (ring tail possum), Barngan (kangaroo rat), Gumbiyan (echidna), Gugara (black goanna), and many others. They had all seen Banngarra with a wet nose and knew that he must be hiding water somewhere.

They began to watch him closely but he was too clever for them, always checking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being followed. They didn’t know he kept the water covered with a smooth flat stone that fitted so closely into the earth that no dampness showed around it.

Then Yuri was sent up to Limestone Creek to find Galu (rainforest rat). Yuri asked Galu to follow Banggarra and find out what he could. ‘You’re quick and sneaky, you can follow Banggarra’ said Yuri to Galu. So the next time Banggarra went to his water source, Galu crept up behind him. When Banggarra looked over his right shoulder, Galu quickly jumped to the left. When Banggarra checked over his left shoulder, Galu quickly crouched down on the right. Galu couldn’t be seen because he looked just like one of the stones scattered on the ground.

When Banggarra got to the secret place of water and carefully lifted the stone with his yam stick, Galu rushed in and pushed the stone aside. There was a tremendous noise and water came bursting out of the ground and began flooding everywhere.

Then the kingfishers skimmed along ahead of the flood, carving out channels with their beaks to hold the precious water. The Tully River came down from the hills one way, the Murray river came down another way and the Herbert River flowed away behind the ranges until it came to the sea. The kingfishers kept on working until they had formed all the tributaries in the area, like the Jarrah, Marquette, and Banyan creeks. Of course, all the animals now had all the water they wanted and they told Banggarra that nevermore would he be boss of the water.