Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Justine Dillon

This resource is related to the following Learning Areas –

And responds to the following Enquiry Questions –

Q7.Significant totems or symbols recognised by the Kombumerri people.
Q20.How did the Kombumerri people respect the environment?
Q26.What were the spirits and gods significant to the Kombumerri people?
Q36.Were there farming or cultivation techniques used by the Kombumerri people?

Resource transcript –

Utmost respect for the environment for the Kombumerri people. We have… we value fauna and flora as much as we value our family. They are family a lot of the time. We are those people that say hello to the trees, that are waving and… looking fresh and healthy. Oh, hello, look at that beautiful tree. Even walking up through this campus is delightful because of all the native species lining the path. It’s gorgeous. I used to go to this campus and there was some native vegetation but it’s definitely gone up in a lot more from the local species. It’s beautiful to see. That’s something we value is our green spaces. Conserving them. They’re places we would meet, have picnics, have our talks, family discussions. We need the trees for the shade, our oxygen, to bring our fauna into them, so, you know, we have something to hunt too. We keep our trees up to bring in the fauna but we never took too much of the fauna. We knew never to take the whole feed source. You take one, or enough for the family group so that the source replenishes. You never take it all. You just take bits and pieces. And that goes back to how we would spread the ginger. We’d chew on the little ginger pellets and spit them out as you go and that’s how they propagated up everywhere around the coast and there’s lots of other species that would have been produced from us, traditional owners, walking around and spitting them out and leaving it on the lands in other ways. So, yeah, there’s… so much respect for the environment. I think there’s a lot of fauna-like relationships with our traditional owners. Like, I have an affinity with, at the moment, a kookaburra, he’s been my protector bird since my dad passed. At my property, when I enter, I see him at the tree and he’ll follow me tree to tree all the way in. Lead me in and then lead me out every time. I’ve been told we have protector birds and the one you see the most is probably your dominant one. Our main totem is the wedge-tailed eagle. So, when I see him, I say, “Oh my god! It’s exciting, that’s my totem.” It’s our biggest totem, our biggest person… like, to us it’d be our most respected Elder looking down on us. Flying around keeping an eye on us. Whereas the littler birds probably other family members but, you know, people have their affinity with other animals, more marsupials and mammals they might relate to. I have a few totems and I tell other people you’re not secluded to one totem to your identity. I’ve got fresh water and salt water blood so… I have a couple of totems. I’ve got my fresh water animals and my inland animals from working on the Gold Coast but then I’ve also got the ones along the coast line, my dolphin and Kabul, The Carpet Snake which connects us with Straddie and the dolphins but I’ve got my echidna, I’m always wearing my totems, somewhere. Dolphin… well it’s whale tail ears… but I encourage most of my family, you know… find your strength in your totem and they will appear to you when you need that strength or you’re seeking that validation that you’re on the right track, you’re on the right path. And I’ve actually told a lot of my friends that have started work with me, particularly the girls. They’ve been having green tree frogs come and visit them and they’re posting pictures and I’m like, that’s really cool. They said, “Why?” I said, “Cos from my Kombumerri perspective that’s my Elders coming to say hello to you and letting you know as a non-indigenous visitor to our country that they’re okay with you. That they’re at peace and that you’re on the right track for our people, for our country.” And when I told my girlfriend that she started crying because she has about 3 or 4 big giant green tree frogs visit her every night since she started working with me. And, she’s had a troubled past and not the best history and her life’s turning around and she’s found her confidence. She’s just striving and I think a bit of that cultural support from us has really… even though she’s not indigenous, she’s blossoming because she knows… she said she feels like our ancestors are taking care of her and her kids too. And that’s lovely because we want people to feel that level of protection that we have. It’s something that we always feel is overarching, it’s just there. I explained to them after The Matrix and Avatar came out, I’m like, It’s like The Matrix when I’m away from Country too long, I’m disconnected from my matrix and when I come back it’s like I’ve plugged back in. I’m getting my recharge, I’m refuelling and then I’m good to go again. And I tell them the same thing about the Avatar movie how they connect their things to connect to the flora and fauna. I said ours is much the same but we don’t have a little connecty thing. Ours is all spiritual connections that, yeah, people have affinities with that flora and fauna and they use that as a sign, as their belief system. They might not believe in a Christian deity like most people do, they might believe in their spiritual Dreaming, 100% just take that on board and look for all those totems around them. My brothers got different totem to me. My dad had… my dad always had whales was his big ones while mine was more a dolphin but I was… my whole totem growing up was possum. A little possum. Everyone in my family calls my poss-possum and some of ‘em still identify me with that and I still very much love possums but I think mine have changed as I got older. Those relationships… like birds are more my thing now. I’m always looking up for the birds cos when we growing up every funeral I went to, you know, everyone looks at the grave when they’re going in the ground, I’d always look up and I’d always see a bird flying over, right over the grave. And, I’m like, I wonder if that’s their spirit and that’s something I believe in and I like to wish maybe that was them flying off, their last goodbye over their people. It’s quite beautiful for me to believe that. The last time that happened was at Straddie. My uncle passed and a wedge-tail went over and the boys did a surf-out, paddle-out for him at Point Lookout and the wedgie, the whole time was circling above them and diving around them and for all of us that day, hundreds of us, that was… he was there with us or someone in his line was there with us. Telling, you know, he’s at peace, he’s moved on and he’s still around, kind of thing. So, I don’t know, there’s things we take out of those totems we see and sometimes they’re lovely to have that thing to hold on to. I see my Kookaburra, there’s my protector bird, you know, keeping an eye on me.