Tag Archives: Margaret Sharpe

The Black Dog Spirit of Fingal – Aboriginal Lore of East Coast Australia

The Ngarakbal Githabal are the ancestral aboriginal people of the most easterly land on the Australian continent….a landscape protected by their ancestral spirits…one such spirit is ‘Ineroogun’ – the Black Dog of Fingal Heads….arial fingal

The ‘accepted history’ books tell us that the Tweed / Gold Coast environs were established by the colonialists in the mid 1840’s…. this is a sanitised pro-crown ‘His’-storical view…..

The first Cedar getters [wood cutters] were claimed to have arrived by boat in 1844…commencing the indiscriminate ‘clear fell’ denuding of the Gondwana Super Forest from the Brunswick River, just North of Byron Bay and throughout the Tweed Caldera…However the oral traditions of the Ngarakbal Githabal indigenous Aboriginal people tell of this lands invasion beginning well before the 1830’s…The first white skinned invaders they say also arrived by sail boat…. but contrary to the contemporary history presented by government,  the traditional Aboriginal people – the Ngarakbal Githabal- tell of a prior arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s coming to Byron Bay and Fingal Heads…All pre-crown arrival has been eradicated from the authorised historical records… a prior arrival in Australia would nullify the Crowns claim of Terra Nullus as unoccupied lands….and this is not a popular political option…

portret_W_Blaeu-280x300Anyway, over one hundred years after the Portuguese-Spanish arrived, the first Dutchman to get to Australia was Willem Janszoon aka Jansz in 1606…… Not much is known about his early years, other than he was born in 1570, but what we do know is that he served the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which was a chartered company established in 1602 to carry out colonial activities in Asia…….  In 1603, he became captain of the Duyfken, which means ‘Little Dove’, and it was aboard this ship that he first sighted Australia while searching for outlets of trade near New Guinea…… Once he crossed the Arafura Sea, he travelled west and landed on the western coast of Cape York just near Weipa…possibly, following charts that had been captured from the Spanish

Jansz-mapJansz started to chart the area, thinking that the land was still New Guinea, but after finding nothing but swampy land and violent encounters with Aborigines, he decided to throw in the towel and return to Indonesia…..He called ‘his’ new found land ‘Nieu Zeland’, but the name didn’t stick and was used by Abel Tasman about 40 years later for New Zealand…which is located off the eastern coast of Australia.mmmmm……..Now, Aboriginal Elders are insistent that two Spanish landings took place in the ancestral coastal lands of the Ngarakbal Githabal people, on the east coast of Australia…One at Byron Bay and another at Fingal Heads…..Both are purported to be Spanish Shipwrecks which occurred at Suffolk Park south of Byron Bay, and on Cook Island, situated just off Fingal Headland

Fingal Headland is a beautiful place…its known as “Mynjung Booning”……… “Mynjung”, which is the Ngarakbal Githabal word for ‘place of’;  and “Booning”, which means Echidna …Place of the Echidna…… Fingal’s precise location is Latitude -28.199042, Longitude 153.571315fingal

Separating the Tweed River from the Pacific Ocean, Fingal is a narrow peninsula several kilometres long. It ends at the mouth of the Tweed river and on the opposite bank lies Queensland. . The peninsula north of Fingal village is known as Letitia Spit, a sand spit that has been slowly accreting due mainly to the construction of the river’s southern training wall – from rock quarried from Fingal

Aboriginal associations stretch well back into the dreamtime with anthropologists claiming that the area supported one of the densest nomadic populations to occur anywhere in the world. Skeletal remains of people estimated to have been around seven feet tall have been found on the Peninsula….

In contemporary times Fingal has been referenced as “Pooning”…most notably in the crowns geospatial lands records  for LAW, Land and Language are linked…..and the ancestral people understand that for its the same in traditional Lore – Lore,  Land and Language are linked – but,  the crown chooses to only recognise the name ”P[b]ooning”  for Fingal….[the ‘P’ and ‘B’ sounds blurr together  when enunciated…]…..

echidna2P[b]ooning” is the Ngarakbal Githabal name for the Echidna, or Australian porcupine…and the word P[b]ooning is attributed to Fingal Headland because of the rock formations that occur on the headland…. Spectacular basalt columns that resemble the spines of an echidna, and, the ancestral Ngarakbal Githabal people believe that the spirit of the echidna inhabits these headlands…Burleigh Heads located to the north also has similar formations and is also traditionally referred to as being a “Mynjung” [Place of] “P[b]ooning” to the Ngarakbal Githabal…and several other sites that this rock formation occurs in are too.fingal causeway by G Shlatter  (1)

Anyway……There used to be a large cave at Fingal, but it was blown up to form the break-walls of the Tweed River ….. For the Ngarakbal Githabal the cave site is the ‘dreaming home’ of a protective [supernatural] hairy man said to abide in that cave on Fingal Head and also a giant black dog whose story is linked to the creation of the McPherson Range…but the crown chooses NOT to recognise these ancestral Lores or that the Ngarakbal Githabal totemic ancestral name for Fingal is ‘Inneroogun’ – the Black Dog…..said to now roam the area, homeless….since the Cave was destroyed

fingal causeway by G Shlatter  (2)The columnar basalt lava flow at Fingal Headland extends underwater to Cook Island (named after Lieutenant James Cook who explored the east coast of Australia in 1770)…… The lava is thought to have come from the prehistoric Tweed Volcano and is known as “Lismore Basalt”; predominantly tholeiitic with occasional alkaline types…….. This unit is stratigraphically equivalent to the Beechmount Basalt in Queensland – west of the Lamington Plateau….which is also refered to by the Ngarakbal Githabal as being a “Mynjung” [Place of] “P[b]ooning”……

Now,…I need to include all this historical and geological stuff in order to explain how the Ngarakbal Githabal Bootheram Lore, Land and Language are linked, to geospatial lands records….and thus, land tenure.

The jointing, clearly evident at Fingal Head is caused by contraction: as lava cools from the outside toward the centre, shrinkage cracks develop, usually forming hexagonal patterns (the shape of the columns is attributed to tensional stress). These columns are vertical because the lava cools from top to bottom when the flow of lava is horizontal

Just before the turn of the century, the Department of Public Works blasted and quarried the massive basalt caves of Fingal Head….and in the process they desecrated the ‘djuribil’ [sacred site] of the Ngarakbal Githabal……. During the1950’s and 60’s sand miners cleared and destroyed not only most of the littoral rainforest which blanketed Letitia Spit but also numerous burial sites, including at least one of the former massacre sites.

All of this destruction occurred during the crown occupation process when the ancestral peoples were being systematically relocated to policed reserves…moving them further and further from their ancestral lands….and due to their legal status as being Flora and Fauna up until the success of the Civil Rights ratification in1967, the blood-line to country descendants of the ancestral people of Fingal have remained dispossessed….however, their Bootheram [Dreaming] Lore survived and was even used to save the Fingal area from massive development…which I’m getting too…

Fingal has historically been coveted as a beachside development site since early occupation but has always managed to remain protected…This protection was largely because of the Ngarakbal Githabal Aboriginal recording the totemic significance of the area and having their language embedded into the geospatial lands records by the crowns first Surveyor’s under order of the old Queen, Victoria.. …Lore Land and Language are linked, so the surveyors used Ngarakbal Githabal language on the original maps…..but, since the advent of Native Title in Australia, the crown is none too happy that the ancestral dialects of the ancestral people are on the geospatial records [the maps]…seemingly because the language attribution [of Ngarakbal Githabal] is the evidentiary material required to claim Native Title ….so, it’s much simpler for them to reclassify it to Bundjalung…change the language classification changes the tenure….it’s an old formula applied globally….

Anyway…back to Fingal…..Throughout the seventies the residential community of Fingal continued to make land claims over Letitia Spit despite the fact that they had no legislative basis on which to rely….. None of these claims were successful [ the residential community not being of the ancestral bloodline of Ngarakbal Githabal country]…Then, after the introduction of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1983, the residential community linked together with other local groups to form the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council and immediately lodged new claims over the Spit as well as other pieces of Crown land at Fingal……as a government entity the Aboriginal Lands Council were able to circumvent the non-bloodline prerequisite – write new laws that enabled development …So, In 1986, the Aboriginal lands Council and the Department of Lands negotiated ‘a deal’ in respect of the Spit……The residential community agreed to withdraw all but a small portion of their original claim in return for the Department instituting a Plan of Management over the remainder, aimed at ensuring the land’s protection for future public use….To their credit, the Local Aboriginal Land Council went to some expense in preparing its submission on the Plan of Management…… However, once the claim was withdrawn the Department refused to proceed, and instead commenced researching potential development options…..Of note is that over the subsequent decades several fresh land claims have been made, and like the initial claims,  none of which have included the Ngarakbal Githabal…and;  subsequently, none of the claims were successful…..since then, the geospatial records linguistic attributions have seemingly been stealthily and steadily changed to Bundjalung….

Developers, Ocean Blue Club Resorts Pty. Ltd., posed the first big threat to Fingal They negotiated ‘a deal’ with ‘the department’….planned to build an international hotel on an important dreaming site and remnant littoral rainforest, a luxury marina on a protected wetland area, and a 400 townhouse /condominium complex in place of the existing village. Both the hotel and marina site were Crown Land and zoned as either public open space or for environmental protection….. At the same time, the Public Works Department commenced a feasibility study into the possibility of cutting a new entrance to the Tweed River through Letitia Spit to make a “Super Harbour”…. If approved, the Department intended to pay for the construction work by selling the remainder of the Spit to private developers…… One firm, Adco Constructions Pty Ltd expressed interest in acquiring the land and put forward proposals for around one billion dollars’ worth of tourist and residential developments….. Such intensive development was considered necessary to absorb the sixty million dollar cost of river works.

In order to prevent development of their ancestral djurebil [sacred site] the Aboriginal Lands Council contacted the Ngarakbal Githabal knowledge holders for help…they needed the ancestral Bootheram Lore to save Fingal…..

Now;….The first pro-aboriginal recordings of the Aboriginal significance of the area were made in 1950’s by Mildred Norledge from Kyogle – endorsed by Professor Elkin…She recorded the Ngarakbal Githabal Bootheram from Elders such as Mr James Morgan; Dyraaba Tribe – west of Lamington Plateau…and Mr. Joe Coolhum; Mebbini Tribe – Tweed Heads…These two gentlemen had spoken about their ancestral custodial Lore as their intrinsic contribution to the Civil Rights Campaigns to free their people from the crowns ‘non-human’ status…..They are two more of the Ngarakbal Githabal ancestor Heroes who showed the crown, through their Bootheram, that they did indeed have their own cultural ‘religion, and did not deserve to be legally classified as Flora and Fauna…

The next wave of recordings commenced in the late 1970’s by Anthropologist Howard Creamer for the National Parks and Wildlife Service Aboriginal Site Survey Team…Howard was instructed to identify ancestral knowledge holders within the community…one of the Cultural Elders whom he interviewed was Mrs Milli Boyd of Woodenbong, who was the daughter of Mrs Charlotte Williams [nee Brown] as part of the governments Aboriginal Site Survey Team of National Parks and Wildlife Services…….This information was then used to obtain further interviews of Mrs Milli Boyd [nee Williams]….principally Dr. Margaret Gummow [building upon the work of Anthropologist, Howard Creamer and Linguist, Margaret Sharpe]….This cultural evidence was then used by the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Lands Council to launch legal action, and a subsequent corruption investigation, in regards development at Fingal Heads…

And these are the cases in which the Ngarakbal Githabal ancestral cultural information was used….Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council v The Minister Administering the Crown Lands (Consolidation) Act and the Western Lands Act & Ors [1990] NSWLEC 67 (19 June 1990)…and TWEED BYRON LOCAL ABORIGINAL LAND COUNCIL v. THE MINISTER ADMINISTERING THE CROWN LANDS ACT [1995] NSWLEC 220 (14 December 1995)…… “By Notice of Motion filed in Court on 23 October 1995, the Tweed Shire Council seeks to be joined in pending Class 3 proceedings involving a number of land claims made by the Applicant pursuant to the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act 1983 (the Act) at various times between 4 January 1988 and 27 March 1992, in respect of various parcels of land having an aggregated area of some 300 hectares situate on the coast line at Fingal in the Shire of Tweed near the New South Wales-Queensland border”…..

……“The Independent Commission against Corruption [ICAC] has yet to release its report and has so far made no findings, but the evidence presented to it has graced the front pages of the metropolitan newspapers for months. Evidence before ICAC revealed that Ocean Blue had paid large secret donations to both the Labor and National parties at times when, as the respective Governments of the day, they were considering Ocean Blue’s application for Crown land at Fingal. The Administrator of the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council alleged that an officer of Ocean Blue had attempted to bribe him into furthering the company’s interests. Lawyers from the Department of Lands claimed that they were misled in leasing the quarry site to the wrong company and both Wal Murray and Ian Causley declared that, had they known what they do now about Ocean Blue, they would have refused to deal with them. Whether or not the Ministers were in fact aware of the donation is an issue on which the ICAC has still to make a finding”….Andrew Chalk

And it was the Ngarakbal Githabal ancestral cultural information which won the case…..and Lore was recorded in LAW….

…..“To my knowledge, there are four recordings of this [Mt Warning] song in existence, all performed by Boyd. The first was recorded by Howard Creamer of the NPWS as part of a project concerning aboriginal site protection. I recorded the second performance in 1985 in relation to my PhD research on Bundjalung and Gidabal songs [Gummow 1992]. The Linguist Margaret Sharpe recorded the third performance in 1989 in connection with a project funded by Aboriginal Legal Aid concerning the environmental impact of land and land rights at Fingal Head. The Fourth was recorded on video in the early 1980’s by Lorraine Mafi Williams. In an attempt to preserve traditional material, Mafi-Williams produced the film Eelarmarni [sic] in 1988, which featured Boyd explaining some of the mythology and singing several songs from the area.”…[Gummow;1985;7A   Barwick-Marett-Tuntill 1995:121-131; Tweed Byron Aboriginal lands Council v Tweed Shire Council v the Minister for Crown Lands; and the ICAC INVESTIGATION into North Coast Land Development ]

The following information is based on recordings made in 1989 by Sharpe, speaking with Mrs Milli Boyd [nee Williams] who had learnt the Ngarakbal Githabal Bootheram Lore’s from her Elders… It comprises part of the mythology of the area [Sharpe 1989].

Mount Warning is the shape of a Turkey’s head, and according to Aboriginal people in the area a spirit being called Wollumbin, a wild turkey, lives inside the mountain. Wollumbin owned two dogs, one male and one female, which are associated with Mount Warning and Fingal Head…..One day the dogs were chasing a kangaroo along a ridge. They chased him from Fingal Heads over to Boonah near Beaudesert in Queensland. They eventually came to water and the dogs drank than lay on the bank. Two young girls from a nearby camp came to get water, saw the dogs, and went back to the camp to bring more people down to the river. After spearing the two dogs, they put them on a pole and began cooking them over a fire…….Wollumbin had followed the dogs and knew they had been killed. He flew down onto the flat where the dogs were being cooked and caused a wild storm. The people left to find shelter from the storm. Wollumbin took the dogs off the fire, wrapped them in bark and carried them back to Mount Warning. As he flew across the country, parts of the dogs’ bodies dropped onto the ground below and formed part of the landscape. He went back to Mt Warning and placed the dog’s bones in the water. One dog was placed in the Tweed River near Mt Warning and the other was placed at Fingal Head. It is believed that their spirits protect the Ngarakbal Githabal people in this area from strangers…..Today, at the Tweed River, Ngarakbal Githabal people can hear the dogs bones creaking….

The two Ngarakbal Githabal gentlemen, Mr. Joe Coolham; Mebbini Tribe – Tweed Heads and Mr James Moran; Dyraaba Tribe, told their ancestral Bootheram Lore respectively……. of the Two Dogs, Burrajahee and Ineroogun…. and DHUNGURA NGARIAN which in Ngarakbal Githabal is the name of the Pelican Dancing Ground…. Bootheram Lore must never been changed…it cannot be transferred or claimed by another….for it tells the Lore of their ancestral estate, and within it, embodies traditional morals and values for the people to follow…

The first Lore is “DON’T BE GREEDY”…the story of Burrajahee and Ineroogun teaches that Lore….. To claim or steal a Lore opens it up to corruption and contamination…and, unsurprisingly, that is exactly what unfolded………..

……”As always there is a good deal more to the story. The best parts – the intrigue and maneuvering, the anguish and joy, and above all the people – are most wisely kept for late nights around a fire on Dreamtime Beach, where, well out of earshot of the defamation lawyers, a group will be sitting waiting for the snapper to bite. They will be remembering and they will be laughing, because in 1989 they all did something which they didn’t really think was possible….”…..Andrew Chalk – in regards to the Aboriginal Lands Council court case….Ash

To this date the Ngarakbal Githabal descendants have never been recognized or included in the governance of their ancestral estate by the crown systems….Their culture continues to be appropriated and twisted by those who do not understand the Bootheram and its teachings…the ignorance of the current system thrives on greed, but, the ancestral ‘djurebil’ protection of the Black Dog is indelible, and it’s been written into LAW….

If you would like to read Joe Calhum’s Bootheram of the Two Dogs – you will find it on my website at this address….and if you would like to receive more of these blogs then subscribe to my newsletter [its free] and you will automatically receive them in your email…..Hoo Roo

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