Chapter Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10

Chapter 2: Learning the Story – the Education System

From a visit to the Initiation site

Big Buurra Ring At Initiation Site Tex Draws Initiation Site in Sand
Tex in the Big Buurra ring at initiation site Tex draws a map of the Initiation site in the sand

K. Langloh Parker, who lived in the area in the late 1800s, describes in her memoirs how the initiation ground was still prepared up to the 1870s or 1880s:

They cleared a big circle, round which they put a bank of earth, and from the circle was cleared a path leading to a thick scrub; along this path were low earthen embankments, and the trees on both sides had

the bark stripped off, and carved on them the various totems and multiplex totems of the tribes. Such carvings were also put on the trees round the Bunbul, or little Boorah ring, where the branches were also in some instances lopped, and the trunks carved and painted to represent figures of men, amongst whom were supposed to be the sons of Byamee's wives.

Carved Tree Carved Trees
One of the few carved trees still preserved in the area The Initiation site was surrounded by carved trees, which may have looked like these

The carved trees are long gone, but parts of the old track are still visible, and Tex and I follow the remains of the stone rows towards the second, much larger circular area. This is where Tex's ancestors and the other young boys would have come, walking between rows of their relatives and the invited communities standing on both sides of the track behind the stones. There once were maybe more than 1000 people here – screaming, laughing, making jokes and crying out the names of the boys with the intention of distracting them and making them look up. This was the first test.

The Journey of Knowledge

The star in the middle of the painting symbolises that the Nhunggabarra boy was sent out to find new knowledge, with each point of the star indicating the direction to one of the communities, which are represented by circles of dots. The little pouch in the centre was carried around the back of the boy's neck as protection on his journey.

The four sand goannas represent the learning that came from animals and the fact that Nhunggabarra law comes in fours. The kangaroo and emu at the bottom of the painting represent two of the law totems, and also indicate which gender should be killed and how they should be cut up and distributed among the community.

The leaves represent Nhunggal country and the U shapes contained in the two top and two bottom circles represent the different ways of showing respect to different communities. The 'hat'-like symbol and U shapes in the upper-right circle represent all the Nhunggabarra ceremonies.

The kangaroo bottom left is 'x-ray' painted to show that the valuable knowledge is deep within. The leaves are gum tree leaves. The red dragonfly (top centre) is part of the initiation for girls. From her they learned the cycle of life. The symbols in the upper-left circle represent the three women performing the greeting ceremony, with the digging stick and the plant that was used as a woman's headdress.