As part of our 2019 NAIDOC Week Assembly our youngest students (Kindergarten to Year 4) told the Wiradjuri story of biladurang (the platylus). We’d like to thank Mrs Leanna Carr-Smith, a traditional owner of Wiradjuri Land in Bathurst for gaining permission for us to share the story with you.
Biladurang Dreaming Story
In the Gudjiin (good-jean) the time of the Dreaming, God’s creation; there lived a family of ducks on the Narran Lake near Walgett NSW in (Gamilaraay, Yuwaaliyaay and Yuwaalayaay) Country. The ducks swam freely in these waters and their bellies were always full from the bountiful food that the Narran Lake provided to them and all of the other animals that called this beautiful place their home.
There were lots of duck families and they all lived happily there. The Elders, like they did in all other communities, set rules and expectations for the ducklings to keep them safe and out of harms way. To make sure they were always doing the right thing.
The ducklings all knew where they had to swim. They had to stay in groups and let the auntie’s and uncles know where they were at all times. This was how they looked after one another.
On the other side of that large lake, lived the bigun (big-oo-n) the water rat, he was mean and nasty. Bigun was a scary looking creature that wandered the lake alone. He was a lonely creature.
From his side of the lake, he would watch the ducks swim around, wading through the lilypad’s and diving for fish. His plan was to steal a young female duck away from her family and make her his wife.
One very hot day, one of the young female ducklings, Gaygan (g-ay-garn) went swimming with two of her friends.
“Gaygan, quick, it’s getting late and you know what the Elders say! They warned us about that sneaky water rat Bigun, quick, it’s time to swim back to the ngurang before the sun goes down other wise that nasty water rat will come looking for us”, they said anxiously.
Gaygan, refused to leave, “No, I’m not coming, you go without me, I want to stay on the lake a little bit longer and soak up the last of the sunshine”.
Not wanting to disappoint the Elders and break the rules of the flock, Gaygan’s friends, paddled furiously across the water returning to their ngurang(ng-oo-rung), their nest.
Gagayn, enjoying her long and relaxing swim, waded out to the middle of the lake, when she felt something grab her. “My goodness, what was that!, she said as she turned and expected it to be one of her friends playing tricks on her. But she was wrong! She looked behind to see ripples in the water and a large shadow swimming just beneath the surface of the lake. Up pooped his head! It was bigun (big-oo-n) the nasty water rat.
Gaygan knew she was in trouble. She felt immediately that she had made the wring decision and screamed for help.
“Help! Help! Somebody help me!”, her voice echoed across the water but no-one heard her. Her friends were long gone. She struggled with Bigun as he dragged her to his cave on the otherside of the Narran Lake where he held her hostage in his cave. “Please let me go, let me go back to my flock”, Gaygan tembled.
“I will never let you go little duckling, you will stay here for ever. You will keep my company, you will be my wife”, replied in a stern and unwavering manner.
Gaygan layed awake through the night and she sobbed as she made promise to herself, “I will never disobey my Elders again, if only I could break free from this mean and nasty water rat.
For many months he kept her hidden from her family and Gaygan began to lose hope. She prayed and prayed for Creator God to help her escape to be able to return to her home.
Gaygan noticed Bigun (big-oo-n) water rat was very tired. He curled up in his home, off the edge of the river bank and went to a deep sleep. Gaygan waited for a long time to make sure he was not ready to wake up anytime soon. She waddled slowly and carefully out of his home, making every effort not to wake him. She glided queity into the water and when she got far enough away from Bigun that he couldn’t hear her, she began to flap and paddled as fast as she could to the other side of the lake where her family were waiting for her.
“Gaygan, Gaygan!, they quacked, relieved to see her. They were all very glad to have her back with them. “Come over here in the reeds and make your nest near me!”.
Gaygan made her nest, laid her eggs and sat on them waiting patiently for her babies to hatch. A few weeks later her babies were born.
“Gosh they’re ugly”, one of the friends exclaimed as she observed Gaygan’s babies moving about the nest. Rumours spread around the flock about how different Gaygan’s babies were from the other ducklings.
“Hdustasteful chatter filled the camp, “they are not pretty and yellow like my babies, one duck said. They have brown fur instead of yellow feathers said another one.” The rucus reached the Elders where they were told about the odd appearance of Gaygan’s babies. “Their beaks are larger and more rounded than the other ducklings and their tails are the same shape as their beaks. They have spurs on their two back feet! We can’t swim with them!”.
Gaygan felt sad as she realised that there was no place in this flock for her and her babies. All of her friends and family did not understand why they were different.
“Gaygan”, whispered on of her closest friends. “You need to leave quickly!”. The Elders are planning to take your babies, you have to get out of here!”, she alerted. Gaygan knew her babies were different, but she loved them all the same so she decided she needed to get them away so where they would be safe.
She swam down the river system through many countries, her babies following; Gamilaroi, Ngiyampaa, Wongaibong, eventually coming to Wiradyuri country. Gaygan swam along the Wambuul (Macquarie River), where she started to notice that the water was very cold. She ended her long journey at a waterhole known as Flat Rock just outside of Bathurst Gaygan was exhausted and couldn’t swim any more. That night, Gaygan died, the water was too cold and the environment was too different from what her body was used to.
Luckily, Gaygan’s babies thrived. Their furry bodies allowed them to live in the colder waters and they grew up and spread out across the river systems in the Central Tablelands and The Blue Mountains.
Today, they still swim with many of their offspring in these waterways.
This Dreaming story belongs to a number of different Aboriginal nations that each share and look after a particular part of the story. The Yuwalaraay, Ngemba and Gamilaraay people focus on sharing the lessons of the beginning, bringing attention to the importance of community looking after one another and following the rules set down by the knowledgeable ones to care for community and look after the children.
As Gagan travelled, she left parts of her story for Aboriginal clan groups along the river system to learn and care for. She eventually ended up in Wiradyuri country where her resting place is.
When God made man, he placed him in the garden to look after it and protect it. These stories are part of God’s plan and teaching. Responsibility was placed on the peoples of this land, to look after it, protect it and care for the lore that God placed over the land, plants and animals. God was in the land and God was with the Aboriginal people of Australia. He continues to live on today through the stories that have been kept alive by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We are grateful to be able to share with you the creation of God’s creature- Biladurang the Platypus.