Uncle Micklo Jarrett shares the Gumbaynggirr Sea Dreaming story of Gaggal (the sea)

Uncle Micklo with the ‘gaggal’ in the background.


NEWS Of The Area is working with members of the local Gumbaynggirr community to share culturally significant stories about the history of the area, its language and its people.

This week, we asked Uncle Micklo Jarrett about the totem of the Gumbaynggirr people.

‘Gaggal’, or ‘the sea’, is this totem.

Uncle Micklo said that, “Gaagal to Gumbaynggirr people brings the whole group together as one people.

“Because Gumbaynggirr people lived over 6000 square kilometres.

“Back in the day it was hard for them to walk all this distance.

“They were united by the fact that they all knew the Gaagal, the sea, was their totem.

“They belonged to this thing, they did ceremony in this ocean.”

Uncle Micklo explains that Gumbaynggirr families have different totems, and many of these belong to the gaggal.

These include the gurruuja (whale), the yanggaay (shark), and the yugiirr (dolphin).

Gumbaynggirr women would go out to the waves and dance to pay homage to the sea.

They did this all along the coast, out where the waves were breaking.

The Gumbaynggirr have passed down stories about when the ocean was far far out, 120km out to the east.

It is said that when the ice started melting approximately 18,000 years ago and stopped melting approximately 7,000 years ago, the sea came up on land which previously had no ngaarlu (water).

The Gumbaynggirr also have stories about why the sea came up.

Uncle Micklo shared one of these with News Of The Area.

“The Ngambaa people walked out of sight and left behind two jiinda (sisters).

“A mopoke man was hiding in the cave and went to them and said he wanted to marry the youngest.

“The oldest jiinda (sister) was the strongest and she said no, you have to marry me.

“He did magic on them and put them to sleep.

“Then he left.

“The older jiinda, who was stronger, fixed herself up.

“She healed the younger jiinda and sent her into the bush to find honey, water and sap from a vine to put into a bowl.

“Mopoke came back and demanded again to marry the young jiinda, the older sister refused this and he drank the potion they had made.

“The mopoke man turned into an owl and flew away.

“The older jiinda sent the younger jiinda to find two sticks, which she bought back.

“They sharpened both ends and made the first ganay, the woman’s digging stick.

“The older jiinda then told her jiinda ‘get your digging stick and hit the ground, saying Ngaarlu-wa, ngaarlu-wa, which means turn to water.

“They said giduur-a which means turn to sand.

“The older jiinda went south, and the younger went north.

“That is why Gumbaynggirr believe there is strong gurriin (wind) from the wanggaalay (south), because the older jiinda was stronger.

“This is the way they created the gaagal (sea), going south and north all the way around Australia and then meeting up again in Scotts Head.

“The two jiinda then ascended into the sky and became part of the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) constellation of stars.” Uncle Micklo said.




The view of the ‘gaggal’ from Shelley Beach.

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