Mid-North Coast: Birrugan - Southern Cross story (in the Yarning Circle)

Michael Jarrett (Gumbaynggirr) tells the story of Birrugan (Southern Cross) in a cave on Valla Beach near Nambucca Heads
Cultural Narrative: 

Father gave us the land

Baabagu ngurraang ngiyaanya wajaarr

in the Dreamtime.


Every part of the earth is sacred.

Marraalgundi julu-gurray yarrang jaagi

We are a part of the earth

and the earth is a part of us.

Ngiyaa yaarri julu marraalgundi marraal julu ngiyambandi



Ngaya yaam gunganbu garlaway barri nyaagaygu gala wunaa dawaarra

I am a friends and I belong, I have come back to see you but don’t be angry.

Yaamagay nganyundi barramarrany gunganbubiin gala wunaa ngalgirra

This is my family and friends but don’t harm us

Yaam nganyundi wajaarr nginundi wajaarr

This is your land and this is my land

Ngiiaabarr gunganbuwala

There for lets be friends

Bigaa yaalga yaarri juumbu

Smoke take away the evil

Darruy maani yaarri juumbu

Smoke bring back the good


Birrugan is the Southern Cross.

Birrugan is the Southern Cross.

Up in the north

of Gumbaynggirr territory,

right to the northern part

of Gumbaynggirr territory,


up near Grafton,

there's the Clarence River.

Birrugan and Mindi lived in the north.

They got along really well.

Birrugan hunted kangaroos and wallabies.

Their eyes were closed

and they were easy to catch.

Mindi owned the yam fields

and he used to get lots of yams.

One day, Mindi was only

bringing back a few.

Birrugan and Mindi argued about

not sharing. They had a big fight.

So the next day when Birrugan

went out to his hunting ground

where the kangaroos and pademelons

and wallabies were

Mindi followed him out,

sneaked out behind him

and after Birrugan had killed a couple,

he left and Mindi stayed there

and done some magic on his kangaroos

and wallabies.

He went, "Yoo, yoo, yoo!"

and opened up the kangaroos'

and wallabies' eyes.

So the next day when Birrugan went out

they saw him coming

so it was hard for him to catch.

So he went back in

and he talked to Mindi

and they had the biggest argument

about... He knew Mindi had done it.

So the next day when Mindi went out

to his yam fields,

Birrugan sneaked behind him

and after Mindi left, Birrugan put lots

of rocks on top of his yam fields

and built a peak called

the Glenugie Peak

and it's up near Grafton, up near

Coffs Harbour, Glenugie Peak.

So when Mindi went out the next day

and saw them, he come back,

and him and Birrugan

had the biggest fight,

they were fighting, fighting, fighting,


Mindi started running down

the Clarence River.

Birrugan caught him

at a place called Tyndale

and struck him

and he fell into the water.

And when he fell into the water,

Birrugan went "Muniimba",

"Turn to rock".

A relative saw what happened

and run back down south

and they challenged Gumbaynggirr people

for a war.

So this fight, this war, was happening

at a place called South West Rocks

in the...they call it Arakoon

but to Gumbaynggirr people

it's Marrgaan.

So the battle was going on down there

and Birrugan was still up north

but Gumbaynggirr people

were getting smashed down there, right?

So they sent for Birrugan to come,


because he was... (SUCKS IN BREATH)...

you know, powerful and tall

and muscular, a warrior.

Anyway, he started walking down

to come down for the battle.

He walked along the beach.

He saw two sisters on the sand

at the beach getting pipis.

He left them, then he come down

to Valla where we are now,

to his favourite boomerang tree

and made boomerangs and spears

and nulla-nullas.

Before he left,

these people down south sent six

clever people up to try and kill him

before he can get down there,

the ngaluunggirr .

They come in the forms of snakes

and all these ants, to try and get him


but Birrugan killed them.

One got up the tree

and let a spear come down

and hit Birrugan right on the shoulder

and all the blood went all over Birrugan

so he pulled the spear out

and smashed it and he killed him

and then went across the creek

to his mother's camp

where Gawnggan was camping.

He put magay on their camp and told

his mother, "If that magay falls

"then you know I've fallen in battle."

Then he left her

and went across the creek

and then he painted up again

and then he went to a place

called Wirriimbi,

down near Nambucca Heads,

just south side of Nambucca Heads.

He cut a canoe there,

put it in the Nambucca River,

went across to a place up near

Macksville called Gumma

and he went across there,

then he went down into the battle

and when he got into the battle,

he started smashing the enemy, eh,

smash, smash, smash!

The old people down there

were so scared

that one of the clever people

from down there went into a cave

and called on the ancestors

to give him the power, the knowledge,

to kill Birrugan.

Birrugan had been hit in the shoulder.

And then he went back down

and said,

"He's got a weak spot.

Aim for his shoulder."

They threw the spear up

and one went down and hit Birrugan.

When Birrugan fell, the magay fell,

made a big hole in the ground.

His mother knew that he had fallen

in battle

so she painted all herself up

like a brolga.

And she went across the creek

and she went back down into the battle

and she saw that they were trying

to keep Birrugan alive.

But Birrugan passed away.

When she got there, she looked at

the enemy and said, "Balawunga."

Balawunga is a tea-tree,

Balawungala is "turn to tea-tree".

So she turned all the enemy

into tea-trees.

They buried Birrugan and put

all these rocks on top of him

and built a tomb.

So when they finished building the tomb

she turned herself into a brolga

and danced around his tomb.

Every year the old people used to say

that Gawnggan used to come back

and dance around the tomb.

And all them tea-tree are still there

and his tomb is still down there too.

And then the two sisters come down

and got Birrugan out of the tomb

and went down south

to a place called Seals Rock.

They went across to the island

and they made a ladder

out of myrtle tree

and ascended into the sky,

the three of them,

and the two sisters became

the two pointer stars

and Birrugan became the Southern Cross.

So when we look up at the sky,

and we look at the Southern Cross,

we look at Birrugan and the two sisters.