Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Justine Dillon

This resource is related to the following Learning Area –

And responds to the following Enquiry Questions –

Q1.Indigenous family structures and roles and responsibilities.
Q2.Commemorating special places and talking about their significance in the past and present.
Q26.What were the spirits and gods significant to the Kombumerri people?
Q30.Are the local significant cultural sites still used by the Kombumerri people?

Resource transcript –

So there’s those areas and then the women’s area so we’ve got the women’s birthing place at top of Burleigh Mountain Jellurgal um I haven’t been there since I was to Berleigh Mountain since I was probably 15 when my grandmother first took over she managed Kalwun at the time and started the tourists … the local tourist center there. Going up the top of the mountain when I was a child is my last memory going up there. I do hear a lot of feedback from my family now and the wider community that it’s polluted with cigarette butts, broken bottles, people doing lewd behavior and acts up there. And I’m like I want to go up there and take my children to share our women’s birthing area and look at the view and, you know, was this the place our women, you know, once a month they would have all synced up. Did they come up here for their that time of the month? They come up for birthing. You know did they stay up here the whole time the women were giving birth? Or wait for the last, you know, trimester? We’re not really sure. We’re trying to piece that together but I think, yeah, it would definitely have to do with syncing up the women’s cycles together and heading up there away from the men. And with the pregnancy. So when their due to have the babies I’d say that’s probably … they’d make that trip up the mountain, um you know, to see if their baby was strong enough. They were strong enough I guess. So there’s that place … there’s a couple of other areas women’s sites that I know so the indigenous protected area I took over. The boys had it declared for 15 years as a men’s area and they never invited us women out. They used to have events and parties and we got limited invitations. Like and to the point they had us that strict and scared that we would stay in the car most of the time, we’ll just go “We’re not coming, whatever it’s men’s area”. Until I took over the job from my father and my brothers and I did my research into other Aboriginal communities outside our area because we’ve lost our culture, so I thought maybe our brothers and sisters can help me fill in gaps. And it turns out all freshwater sites in every other tribe are predominantly women’s areas. Because we’re the hunter-gatherers. We’re the ones down getting the weaving ropes ready in the water. Washing all the seed that we collect. Using the cycads to, you know, toxin to get the poison the fish and bring them in out of the creek. So um so I ended up telling the boys and my uncles and I petitioned to them. And as it started out as a joke, I said “I think you guys got it wrong, that this is a women’s area” and they’re like “No no no” and then after two years of my work on site with the girls because I only had an all-girl crew as well We had flora and fauna pop up that we hadn’t seen before. We had animals running across in front of us. We’d see all these animals. None venomous. Like we never got injured. We’ve got no injuries for the last four and a half years. No spider bites, no big falls, no bad things happening really in any of our lives because we’ve all summarized as a team us girls we’re giving back to Country and Countries taking care of us. I’ll tell them like, “Do you guys feel like something’s watching us out here?” they said “Yeah” but it’s not a bad feeling. I said “I do too” and I feel like it’s our .. my people keeping an eye on us. We’re women taking care of country giving back. Ripping out the weeds or planting trees. We’re monitoring the water. We’re moderating the … all the fauna that’s running around the site trying to um protect and conserve them and boost their numbers. And we just want to bring back the natural asset and it’s thriving out there. All our ideas and grants we’ve gone for we’ve been successful. Yeah we’re kicking goals and we’re pretty proud of ourselves. So um .. but that legend says that the women’s spirit … the women’s dreaming spirit, uh creator spirit, when she goes in the freshwater creek, her it will her hair will appear as algae. The first few weeks I took over we had an algae bloom completely take over the creek. And we were freaking out going “Oh my god, the creek’s disgusting and yep gross”. Then we read that legend. If you follow up the algae all the way to the top of the creek she’s supposed to appear in a form of an animal spirit .. and they said the main animal spirit she appears in is dragonflies. And we were like “Oh my god” because there’s been abundance of dragonflies while we were working in the creek they’re landing on us. They’re flying around all the red and the blue ones and we love them. Then when we read that we said Oh she’s been … the creator spirit’s been around us the whole time, watching us, keeping an eye on us, you know, we’re protected out here and it’s a special place for us. And we don’t close it off to the boys, we’re not like them, we invited them all out to come and help and um try and engage them and we’ve opened it up to the wider community now too and we’ve got more interest than ever with people wanting to be members, wanting to help on weekends, it’s just fantastic and yeah, I think that um our spiritual guidance, we got it right direction and we’re getting the support we need so it’s good. I think we explained the Nerang River Love Story um that’s that’s a women’s business story and particularly the Blundell women own that story from Auntie Hilma. Um yeah we’ve got like our weaving is women’s business, there’s the … we’ve got our own dancing style and songs that are separate to the men’s as well. You know like the men’s you um will use the didgeridoo and clapsticks more. Whereas we would use like, branches to tap on the ground or to make sounds and just differences and those kind of things. Our clothing different like they can get away wearing a red lap lap. Us girls here are a bit more modest, I guess and we like to just wear a singlet and maybe a little red skirt or something. But I mean a lot of us, we don’t have our song and dance on the Gold Coast. We’re trying to find it with our lost language and create our own songs out on country in the women’s area. Mainly hunting and gathering, showing people our bush tucker skills. You know we know how to identify our native bush tucker plants and how to extract the food parts from the edible parts or how to mix them with something else to make them edible. Yeah there’s different parts, like a lot of the men, they know the fishing side and the hunting the bigger animals. But there is a lot of us women with our Straddie family that are also keen fishermen also. But I’d say they’re more turtle hunters dugong, not the women, that’s the men’s business as well Women along the coastline along with the pinky being severed, if that wasn’t to identify them as a married woman, they were one of the fishermen women. They were the one of the women that are allowed to go out with the men fishing um if they had that severed. That’s one of the stories there’s there was two meanings for that cut off pinky finger. They were either married or they’re allowed to go out fishing with the men because not all the women are allowed to. So yeah, I don’t know there’s lots of different little things. I guess it’s just case by case when it comes up be like “Oh I can’t do that because that’s the men have to do” that kind of oh yeah.