Dreaming tracks and travelling routes

“The Dreaming” or “Dreamtime”, as it is called in English refers to the creative era when the landscape was given form by the activities of Spirit Beings, the spiritual ancestors of Aboriginal people today. In the southeast coastal region, the focal Creation Beings were Biame and his wife Birrahgnooloo, who gave form to waterways, landforms, animals [including totems], humans, power to ‘clever people’ and the overarching Aboriginal Lore.

Rivers and valleys mark the route taken by Ancestral Dreaming beings. These routes are often called Dreaming Tracks. Along Dreaming tracks waterholes and mountains mark places where the ancestral beings camped and meet, for instance. These places are often referred to as ‘sacred sites’ and often relate to the availability of water and other natural resources. Some Dreamtime mythologies cover vast distances, traversing tribal and linguistic boundaries, whilst others are more localised and mark discrete territories. Through traditional ceremonies, usually involving songs, Aboriginal people describe, or retrace the routes travelled by spiritual beings in the Dreamtime past.

Aboriginal Lores relating to age, gender, intellectual capacity and genealogical position govern access to such knowledge. As explained by Aboriginal knowledge holder Lionel Mongta, ‘…our traditional knowledge has survived for 60,000 years, we must pass it on to the right people…’. As such, information pertaining to mythological significance associated with geographical features within the study area remains within the Aboriginal community and has not been detailed in this publicly available report.

However, with permission from the Aboriginal community some information relating to geographical features associated with the dreamtime past within the study area, can be named and the basic mythological description outlined.

Gulaga [Mt Dromedary], located immediately west of Tilba Tilba, is the place of ancestral origin for Yuin people. Gulaga itself symbolises the mother and provides a basis for Aboriginal spiritual identity, for both Aboriginal women and men. Gulaga had two sons; Najanuka [Little Dromedary Mt], the youngest, and Baranguba [Montague Island] the eldest. Both sons lived with their mother, Gulaga. When it came time for the eldest son to leave home, he was sent to where he is today, as represented by Montague Island. When it was time for the youngest son to leave home, Gulaga did not want him to go as far away as his brother, so she let him go as far as where he is today, as represented by Little Dromedary Mountain. Baranguba has water blocking him from reuniting with his mother. This is the case because he did not listen to his mother when he should have. ‘The moral to the story is always do what you are told’ [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

The mother Gulaga also had seven daughters. The seven sisters travelled to the north, away from their mother. When they reached Bood-Jarn [Hanging Mountain], they turned and saw their mother in the distance to the south; they could also see their brothers, Baranguba and Najanuka. When they past Bood-Jarn [Hanging Mountain], they turned around and could no longer see their mother. They cried as they walked along the Deua River and water holes were made from their dropping tears [Dave Tout 25.1.2005].

Travelling routes or walking tracks used by people are distinct, yet interrelated with the Dreaming tracks described above. Travelling routes exist along the entire length of the Eurobodalla Shire coastline, extending beyond the Shire boundary to the north and south. Such tracks also extend between the coast and inland creeks and ranges.

Although the purpose and existence of the travelling routes varies across time and place, they generally relate to food gathering, recreational activities, the ritual retracing of ancestral dreaming tracks [as described above] and meeting to maintain kinship connections, to fight, trade, undertake a ceremony or to exchange goods. Different sections of the coastal walking route were and continue to be used by Aboriginal people for different reasons at different times of the year. An individual’s place of residents, their intentions, their tribal affiliations and more recently, their property access rights effect the usage of such tracks.

Over the course of this study, Aboriginal informants offered an historic and contemporary snap shot of the use of such walking tracks, as described below.

During the 1940s, Harriett Walker walked from Wallaga Lake to Ulladulla with her parents. The journey took longer than one month. They camped and fed on fresh seafood along the way. “…We had plenty of food. …We kept walking north, and stopped to camp whenever we needed a rest or to catch up with families camped along the way…” Some of the places they camped include Tuross, in the bush on the point near where the Country Club is today; Bingie; Garland town, Moruya with the Davis, Duren and Brierley families, in their house on the flatlands, where Arthur Thomas dived for lobster at Moruya and exchanged it for tea and sugar; Durras Lake, in the bushes out of the wind. They were in no rush as there was no reason to return to Wallaga Lake in a hurry. When arriving at Ulladulla, they called upon the Narooma Taxi Driver, Stewart Arpa to pick them up and take them back to Wallaga Lake. They would trade lobsters, fish and bimbullas with Mr Arpa to cover the Taxi fare [Harriett Walker 11.4.2006].

During the 1950s Lionel Mongta walked from Wallaga Lake to Pebbly Beach with family. They fished, camped and collected bush tucker along the way. They walked along beaches and over headlands, at high tide, and around the headlands, at low tide. On another occasion, Lionel saw Ted ‘Gubbo’ Thomas in Sydney; he had walked there from Wallaga Lake [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

Tracks link fishing, hunting and camping grounds between Potato Point and Brou Lake. In this area echidnas, rabbits, ducks, swans, prawns, pipis, mutton fish [abalone], salmon, bream and black fish can be caught whilst red ripe bush cherries, ‘won-dharma’ [small long ‘maggot’ plant, grey when ripe], blackberries and gum ‘lolly’ [sap from the black wattle tree] can be collected. Jennifer was told to take what she needed, eat until you are full, and leave what remained for the next visit or for another passer by [Jennifer Stewart 09.11.2005].

Les Simon recalls his Uncle Syd walking one Christmas from Batemans Bay to Potato Point along the beach and bush tracks. The family was camping there over the summer holidays [Les Simon 03.11.2005].

Pedro Point is along the travelling route linking Moruya to Bingi Bingi [Georgina Parsons 14.12.2005].

We would walk from ‘the corner’, Barlings Beach, Tomakin through ‘little paddock’, over the Burrewarra Point headland, Guerilla Bay, and onto Rosedale. We fished and collected abalones and lobsters [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

As a child Keith Nye walked on many occasions from Barlings Beach, Tomakin to Rosedale, around the swamp, through paddocks, past ‘Burre’ Point. He and his father often swapped fish for butter or meat from Bill Sellick from Rosedale. In 1990 Keith Nye and his brother Andrew Nye walked from Durras to Maloney’s Beach chasing ‘patch mullet’. They walked over the scrubby headlands and along the beaches [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

During the 1960s when camped at ‘Chapman’s Beach’, located between Wimbie and Circuits Beaches, Lilli Pilli, Violet and her family would walk along the coast between Chapman’s Beach and Malua Bay, collecting sea foods at Circuit Beach, Lilli Pilli Beach, Mosquito Bay, Garden Bay, and around Malua Head to Malua Bay, ‘..Uncle Joe Chapman and Syd would take the kids.’ [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

Traditional walking tracks linked all the campsites along the coast including North Head, Batemans Bay to Cullendulla Creek and Corrigans Beach. The Yuin Walbunja tribal area extended south from the Durras, northern Batemans Bay area to Wagonga Inlet, whilst the Murramarang tribe extended north from the Durras area to Bendalong Point. Tribes met at boundary points before passing through the next tribal area [Les Simon 3.11.2005].

In winter, Aboriginal people from Cooma would avoid the snow by travelling over Gulaga [Mt Dromedary] to the coast, and return in springtime when it warmed up [Beryl Brierley 19.12.2005].

The Corn Trail is the shortest way down the Clyde Mountain; Uncle Syd talked about the corn trail. There is another track along the north side of the Clyde River, linking Shallow Crossing to Cullendulla Creek, Square Head and Yellow Rock, Batemans Bay [Les Simon 3.11.2005].

The corn trail is linked in with traditional walking routes, pathways created in the dreamtime past, connecting places together via water ways and ridge lines [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

The corn trail is a link between salt-water people and the ‘inlanders’. Bendethra is linked into the Corn trail [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

In the early 1980s William walked with his elders from Nerrigundah to Bingi and Congo. They called in to see relatives along the way, staying from anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks [William Davis 22.5.2006].

There are walking tracks, which follow the Tuross River and nearby ridges linking the coast to the mountain range. From Bodalla one track leads to Belowra following the path of the existing road that they made over the ancient travelling route. From Belowra the track heads to Cooma and onto Mt Kosciuszko, also along the present day road. At Mt Kosciuszko people would gather for the moth-hunting season, barter and undertake kinship / marriage exchanges. Another walking track links Gulaga [Mt Dromedary] to the Shoalhaven, via Nerrigundah and Wandella. This route also has links to Cooma and onto Mt Kosciuszko.

‘……….Walking tracks are similar to the pathways created by Biamban / Biambee, the God.……Everything comes from Biambee, the lore and all, …they talk to us today to give us lores and the language, place names…..it is all still going on, its not just in the past…..some walking tracks are more religious than every day bushwalking tracks, but they still get you from A to B….the tracks along the coast show you the easiest way to find food and a good place to camp. Other pathways lead you to ceremonial places, like the circular track starting at Mumbulla [Biamanga] Mt, to Gulaga Mt, to Hanging Mt, to Pigeon House Mt, to a place near Goulbourn, Cooma and eventually Mt Kosciuszko …….’’ [John Mumbler 24.5.2006].

Seasonal work was consistent with the traditional transient way of life for Aboriginal people. Entire families travelled up along the coast to main picking centres such as the Bodalla, Nerrigundah, Tuross River regions. Often families would hitch a ride with trucks on their way to the fish markets. One driver in particular, ‘Snowy Phantom always picked up koori families waiting for a ride….he went past twice a week….he was part of our travelling culture….’ [Mary Duroux 29.5.2006].

Excerpt from Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People, 2006. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.