Chapter 2: The Country is a Story...
|Nhunggal country as it may have looked before European arrival||Kurrajong tree with fruit||Narran lake with islands of grass||Narran River - dry and muddy these days|
|Shell midden at Narran Lake||19-mile plains as it may have looked before European arrival||Baayames Track – now hidden under debris||The Big Buurra ground|
The Nhunggabarra were 'the people of Nhunggal country', an area between the Narran and the Bokhara rivers on the border of south Queensland and northwest New South Wales. The word originates from nhungga, a tree that is common in the area. It is an evergreen tree with bell-shaped flowers and it was a very important resource for the Nhunggabarra, who used every part of the tree.
To the Nhunggabarra, almost every place in Nhunggal country had at least one story connection. The most sacred sites were not necessarily visually significant and they did not they generally contain material traces of Nhunggabarra culture. The intangible features were the focal point.
During the course of any one year the people would revisit most of the sacred places and simultaneously recount the stories. The spiritual powers were accessed by performing the sacred ceremonies that were associated with the place while on site. Links to the spiritual powers were also provided by the corroborees – light and entertaining learning events that would have been performed on almost a daily basis. The Nhunggabarra stories linked together to form travel routes, which we have given the name 'learning tracks'. Combined, the learning tracks became a tightly knit, geographically based 'narrative map', which defined for every Nhunggabarra person what 'Nhunggal country' was. One's 'country' then, was the physical manifestation of the underlying stories. Nhunggal country began where the stories began and it ended where the stories ended.
All people in all the communities took part in the Big Buurra. Every man, woman and child was present and each had a role to fill in the re-enactment of the story. I try to imagine what it would have been like to be taking active part in an event lasting for so long. It must have been so emotionally and spiritually charged, and it would have defined and clarified for everyone what it was to be a member of the community and how all the communities were linked together. The persistence of anecdotes about the Big Buurra to this day shows that the events left everybody with an everlasting memory.