Woiwurrung: The Durrung of the Yan-yan
In my lalal’s day, there were no supermarkets. The Birrarung Yaluk was their ‘supermarket’ providing the natural resources for the survival of the Wurundjeri gulinya. The yaluk is like veins in Biik, winding and turning, bringing to life everything it touches, giving our gulinya fresh baan, duat and bundabun to hunt as tucker. We camped close to yaluk for this reason.
Many years ago in the ‘Dreamtime’, there was a yan-yan who asked Wirrirrap to give him special skills and power to be a great hunter, to provide tucker and help for Wurundjeri gulinya. Wirrirrap looked into the durrung of the yan-yan and believed him to be sincere, so Wirrirrap granted the yan-yan his wish. The yan-yan became the greatest hunter the gulinya had ever known, even better than his mama and lalal.
As time went on the yan-yan became ngabun-bambunya and thought only of himself, and did not want to share with the Wurundjeri. He became a buladu gaang yan-yan. One day he was in his gurrong yana fishing, where Badger Creek meets the Yarra River along the boundaries of Coranderrk. When he came to a fork in the yaluk, he thought to himself, ‘Which turn will I take?’ He decided to take the left fork of the yaluk. Then from nowhere buladu ngurndabil and djirringu appeared, and the yaluk became very rough from the murnmut, and tipped the yan-yan into the yaluk. He was so bambunya that he would be swept downstream he asked Wirrirrap for help.
Wirrirrap appeared and said to the yan-yan, ‘Just like the fork in the yaluk, as in life, we can choose which way to go. When we go the wrong way, and think only of ourselves, we become ngabun-bambunya. Alternatively, we can take the right fork, be humble and share with the Wurundjeri and remember that every one of us is of value to the world.’
There was a great clap of ngurndabil. Wirrirrap turned the yan-yan into a dulaiwurrung and said, ‘You have become ngabun-bambunya and a buladu gaang yan-yan thinking only of yourself. Like the dulaiwurrung, you can’t tell the front from the back. As with the fork in the yaluk, you have to make the decisions for yourself.’
‘From now on you can swim the yaluk as a dulaiwurrung to teach you respect for Wurundjeri, to be humble and to keep the culture alive.’ That is why the dulaiwurrung looks like it does to this very day.
Told by Aunty Doreen Garvey-Wandin
Woiwurrung word list
bambunya afraid, frightened
birrarrung Yarra River
buladu great, big
buladu gaang Greedy ‘big nose’
gulinya men, people
ngabun-bambunya bold, arrogant ‘not afraid’
Wirrirrap magic man, traditional doctor
yana go, going
yan-yan young man