According to local indigenous dreaming, Baranguba (Montague Island) was a generous provider for the Walbunja People, as both a fertile hunting ground and spiritual meeting place. Sea creatures, birds and humans alike gathered here in great numbers for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. A highlight of any visit to Montague Island (Baranguba) is a walk and talk through the historic Aboriginal and European settlement sites.
Hanging Mountain is the geographic focus of a vast cultural landscape, and sacred and ceremonial sites occur throughout the region. Freshwater creeks, streams and rivers are the lifeblood of all communities and foods, medicines, shells, ochres, plant materials, stone and other resources were collected or hunted from a variety of places including rock platforms, rivers, mountains and rainforests. Traditional knowledge has been passed down through the generations and the collection of special foods, medicines and other resources from natural areas continues.
Aboriginal people travel vast distances to attend ceremonies that are often traditionally associated with an abundance of local seasonal commodities. Networks of ancient pathways used by Aboriginal people helped European settlers penetrate areas on the south coast and over the mountains to the west. The generosity of local Aboriginal people saved many early settlers from starvation as they provided fresh fish and oysters when supply boats failed to arrive.
Unfortunately, the loss of freedom to gather food and other resources from traditional areas, the destruction of sacred sites and wildlife habitats, the impact of introduced diseases, and many government policies had devastating effects on the lives of Aboriginal people. Despite this, Aboriginal cultural practices continue and there are some fascinating Aboriginal places to explore within easy reach.
Murramarang National Park and Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve
Murramarang National Park and Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve protect a variety of Aboriginal sites. Although many of these sites are not obvious, you may notice shell middens in some areas. Archaeologists have discovered large amounts of bone points and shellfish hooks indicating that the people of Murramarang had a specialised bone industry and fishing economy.
If you are travelling further north you may wish to visit Murramarang Aboriginal Area, the site of the biggest midden on the south coast. Informative signs about local Aboriginal culture occur along the walking track.
Broulee Canoe Tree
An ancient forest redgum near Broulee (on the corner of George Bass Drive and Broulee Road) is a potent symbol of Aboriginal culture on the south coast. On its trunk is an oval-shaped scar, left when an enormous sheet of bark was removed to make a canoe. Bark (from particular tree species) was used to make a variety of objects including canoes, containers, shields, boomerangs and the sides of huts. Trees carved with motifs such as geometric and figurative patterns are often associated with burials and ceremonial areas. All scarred and carved trees are extremely significant to Aboriginal people and are protected by legislation.
Hanging Mountain, in Deua National Park, is a distinctive geographical feature in the heart of an important cultural landscape. It was a beacon site where smoke signals were used to send messages and to help people navigate their way through the landscape. From the viewing platform, the sacred mountains of Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) and Biamanga are clearly visible and you can also see Baranguba (Montague Island) off the coast of Narooma. Hanging Mountain is located off Sugarloaf Road and is a popular stop for visitors who are travelling out to Bendethera.
Bingi Dreaming Track
The Bingi Dreaming Track follows part of the Dreaming track used by the Brinja-Yuin people. Dreaming tracks traditionally linked every place visited by local Aboriginal people, then extended to connect every place utilised by neighbouring clans. It is the belief of Aboriginal people that the Spirit Ancestors created Dreaming tracks in the journey of Creation across the land. The Bingi Dreaming Track takes you close to shell middens, stone quarries, knapping sites (stone tool making), campsites and fresh water sources. There are also beacon sites for sending smoke signals and lookouts traditionally used to spot visitors and schools of fish.
The Congo area was a major source of silcrete, used to make stone tools. Silcrete was widely traded throughout the region. The walk follows the beaches and headlands of Eurobodalla National Park from Congo to Bingie Bingie Point and is 8 km one way (3 hrs).
The Dreamtime Story of A Mother and Her Two Sons
In the Dreamtime, Gulaga had two sons Najanuga and Barunguba. One day they asked if they could go on an adventure out into the sea. Gulaga agreed that Barunguba could go because he was the oldest but Najanuga, who was too young, stayed near the water’s edge close to his mother’s side, and that’s where they remain to this day. These places are also known by different names, Gulaga is Mount Dromedary, Najanuga is Little Dromedary and Barunguba is Montague Island.
The area between Narooma and Bega contains some of the most significant Aboriginal places on the coast including the sacred mountains of Gulaga and Biamanga. Dreaming tracks traverse the area, ancient paths where people from the Monaro and the coast travelled vast distances to collect seasonal foods and medicines, perform ceremonies and trade important commodities.
Gulaga and her surrounding landscape have great spiritual significance to local Aboriginal people. She is a women’s mountain; the place where all things begin, where knowledge is gained and healing found. She is the spiritual mother who demands both fear and respect. Aboriginal guides unfurl the mysteries and stories that belong to this impressive sacred site.
Barunguba is the older son of Gulaga and is a highly significant place for the local Aboriginal people. It is a place of great natural resources and Aboriginal people would come here in bark canoes primarily to feast on seabird eggs. Important ceremonies continue to be performed here and the island is considered a men’s place.
Wallaga Lake and Murunna Point
Wallaga Lake is the home of Umbarra, the black duck – totem of the local Aboriginal people. Merrimans Island, in the centre of the lake, is the shape of Umbarra and has important Aboriginal stories associated with it. From Murunna Point an extraordinary cultural vista unfolds where the magic of Gulaga, Najanuga, Barunguba and Wallaga Lake can be experienced.