Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Uncle Graham Dillon OAM

This resource is related to the following Learning Areas –

And responds to the following Enquiry Questions –

Q3.Aboriginal symbols used in traditional maps and artworks.
Q7.Significant totems or symbols recognised by the Kombumerri people.
Q65.Which plant materials or animal products were available to the Kombumerri people that assisted them in the creation of clothing, tools and other items? (types of trees used in this area)
Q66.What were the main implements use for hunting and gathering? Were the Kombumerri people assisted by other animals in the hunting process?
Q70.Traditional foods – meals, rituals, eating times?

Resource transcript –

We’d be just like any other clubs or sporting venues. They’ve all got badges, even the schools have got badges. We’ve been… It’s a mark of identification really. Knowing who your totem is. And when I was growing up down along Brighton Parade which is right next to Gardiner Island, where my great-grandmother Warru was buried, there used to be a bird. I was about eleven or twelve and I noticed this bird always hovering along the cobbler’s pegs in the mangroves. We came to acknowledge that as a family totem because it was there and when it was there plenty of crabs and fish and everything. When it wasn’t there, you knew, it wasn’t a good season. So, we’ve come to respect birds and animals with regard to totems. Another one was Ummunjin, U-double M-U-N-J-I-N. Ummunjin, which is the huge sea eagle, rusty, white and brown, and you knew… but you knew that when the sea mullet were on the run, travelling up from the south, that it was going to be a good season because he’d be hovering over and he never ever swoops down, when the sea mullets are there. He never swoops down on the front because they’ll scatter. Always at the back. We were taught that. Ummunjin was a good symbol for us. Neerung [Nyarahng], important. My uncle had neerung, which is a shovel nosed shark, was on his boat. Symbol was on his boat. Gumbabah comes from the word gumbo. Gumbarbah… suffix… Gumbarbah. Gumbo, or like Kombumerri. Madjirbah. That –ba is there and that indicates that place, that area. So, each represented a symbol of being, of existing with our people. Put it that way. And, Gumbabah was gumbo. Gumbo, G-U-M-B-O, was a long worm… about that long and he lives in the rotted woods along the riverbanks, right? I once saw my mother when I was about ten, eleven or twelve and I went into the kitchen, old wooden stove and she looked at me and she said, “Son, do you know what this is?” and she held up this long worm and I mean long, about six to eight inches long. I said, “No, mummy.” She said, “That is a… it’s a tree grub, right. jabam.” And I said, “What are you going to do with that?” She said, “I’m going to cook it and eat it.” So, she put it on the stove, like they do and they throw it on the fire and then she ate it. She said, “Do you want a piece?” I said, “Aw, no, I don’t think so.”