Narooma, Wagonga Inlet and Baranguba (Montague Island)

Like the Clyde and Moruya Rivers, Wagonga Inlet continues to be a focal point for Aboriginal people’s connection to the area. It is used as a meeting place, a teaching place, a resource collection place and as a camping place. A number of pre-contact places have also been documented as well as mythological associations and present day connections relating to Baranguba [Montague Island]. The spirituality of the land remains, as does Aboriginal perceptions of the landscape.

Many places around Wagonga Inlet are significant to Aboriginal people including the ‘Old Wharf’ at the end of Wagonga Picnic Area Road, used for day picnics, oyster, scallop and fishing; ‘Shell Point’ mainly day use and ‘Paradise Point’ used for picnics and women’s gatherings to collect bush medicine and foods. Wagonga Local Aboriginal Land Council owns land at Paradise Point [Chris Griffiths’ consultation 16.3.2006 / Vanessa Mason 22.5.2006].

There was a road from Nerrigundah to Wagonga Inlet, coming out at the old wharf. ‘…….On our way from Nerrigundah to Wallaga Lake to go to a dance, we would stop for a feed of bimbullas at the old wharf. I was about 17 years old, so around 1946 …’[Georgina Parsons 6.6.2006].

Megan Patten recalls going to Wagonga Inlet, off McMillian Drive, with her grandparents. She was taught about traditional uses for the Mangrove. The family still lives in the McMillian Drive area today and utilise the resources in the vicinity [Megan Patten 29.5.2006].

There are ancient fish traps around Lewis Island, near the footbridge. There are shell middens along each side of Wagonga Inlet. My son found a grinding stone under the water at Ringlands Point, opposite Taylor’s Wharf. Governor Stewart, the two brothers Henry and Christy Stewart lived in the Wagonga Inlet area [Vivienne Mason 1.6.2006].

Forsters Bay in Wagonga Inlet is a traditional fishing place where oysters and bimbullas are collected [Vivienne Mason 5.1.2006].

Valerie Andy worked at the Narooma Cannery, Forsters Bay for two years during the mid 1950s [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Many koori people were working at the Narooma Cannery, at the end of Forsters Bay, including Bruce Ella and Lionel Mongta. Bream, flathead, salmon and kingfish were caught and canned here [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

Lionel’s great grandmother, Mrs Hunt from Braidwood, Mary Ellen Piety’s maternal grandmother is buried at the Narooma Cemetery above Narooma Beach. Mrs Hunt was married to Dick Piety I [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

As a child Ted Thomas and others camped on the Narooma Flatlands. In the area of Bill Smyth Oval, Narooma, there is a scarred tree and ochre quarry [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

There is an ochre quarry above the oval, looking over the Narooma flats. There are shell middens there too. Before my time there were koori people living all around the hills overlooking the flatlands. The old Koori people use to have foot races there, they raced for money [Vivienne Mason 1.6.2006].

Bar Beach, Narooma is another traditional Aboriginal place to fish; annual gatherings are held there. There is a burial at Bar Beach, near the quarry on top of that hill. There is a cut out in the cliff there.

“…….I was fishing with Wendy and Doug with six hand lines along Bar Beach. We heard a scream coming from up the hill. The scream came closer, closer towards us, then from under the ground. We grabbed the lines and buckets and got into the car. I have never been so scarred in all my life. A friend’s father lives in a house on the hill, near the burial ground. He has seen old black fellas walking through his yard…..” [Vivienne Mason 5.1.2006].

There is a male restricted area on Baranguba [Montague Island]. Merv has been to Montague Island for fishing and for ceremonial purposes, whilst Shirley Foster, his wife recognises that the island is ‘not my place’ and as such has not been there. Young male initiates are taken to the Baranguba for ceremonial purposes. Merv himself was initiated into the ways of Aboriginal Lore on Baranguba. The island is a place to teach young men cultural business. As Merv noted ‘…..women can’t go there, they might get sick if they do, or we could make them get sick……’.Merv has memories of his grandparents paddling to Baranguba in a canoe. Merv goes there now in a speed boat and was never permitted to go onto the island as a child [Mervyn Penrith 11.4.2006]

The northern end of Baranguba is restricted to men only. Women are permitted to go to the southern end of the island [Pam Flanders 11.4.2006].

Arthur Thomas took Valerie and her sisters to Baranguba [Montague Island] for lunch. They travelled there in a canoe. They caught a groper, lobsters and some muttonfish. They saw a wobby gong and left it alone. Valerie remembers Arthur’s grandfather dancing on the water’s edge to bring in the fish. When the fish came to shore he speared them [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

There are fresh water springs on Montague Island. There is no need to take water over there [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

The Wagonga people use to go over to Baranguba each year to collect muttonbird eggs. According to an old newspaper article, one time when the men and boys were returning, they had their canoes all tied together, a huge wave came and drowned the lot. All the women and children were waiting on the headland for them to return, but they didn’t [Vivienne Mason 1.6.2006].

Baranguba is associated with Gulaga and Nadjanuka; Baranguba being Gulaga’s eldest son. Many koori people know this story, although not many koori people have actually been to the Island [Chris Griffiths’ consults 16.3.2006].

‘…The whole of Montague Island is sacred. Women should not go there..’ [John Mumbler 24.5.2006].

Taken from “Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People”. View the full study

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