Stories in Jiwarli 16

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 20th May 1985. There is information about Jiwarli spelling here.

Joe Butler and the poison

This story is about an incident which happened to Jack Butler’s younger brother Joe Butler when he was young. Joe was making poison out of the ground up seeds of barambu ‘acacia’ which he planned to put in a small puddle of water to stun birds (this was a traditional method of catching birds for food). In the midst of this activity he was called to eat a meal and he failed to wash the poison off his hands. Joe was very ill as a result and almost died.

Seeds and pods of acacia

Marrgara yinha nganaju. Yinharru banhalu gumbinha guwardidhu. Yinha warlbara warrgamurringu mayangga. Yini ngunhaba walybalawaridhu George Roberds. Gumbaja ngunhi garlibagarnu jumaburradhu wirdamurdudhubarambuwu burrarnu yurlurlarnu walangunyjarriyi wirndubinyararringu. Bayalbarru burrarninyja ngulubayurlurlarnu. Babarru yindilgarringu. Guburnmarru wandharrgarringu dhugudhugu. Ngurndira ngunhaba dhana ngabanhu. Dhanggulurringu ngunha ngurndajarru. Banhalu yananyja babarla barlurarniru dhurubulanguru barlgarralarru. Malhu bunggarninyja. Baba barlurarnilgarringu. Walangu ngunha gumbira ngunhirruba babawu bajarnu. Warrirru walangulu ngunha bajalbuga dhurubula. Gumbaja ngunharru jirriljibarnu walanguwu dhurubula. Ngunhirruba bajalga baba wandharninyjalu barlgarrala. Bayalba nguluba nhanyanyja ngunha biji walangu. Gumbaja ngunhaba marajagarru ngurnuba galamarnu murlimurlirnu marajaga. Yanararringu yindirugundidhu ngunhiba. Ngurrudhu ngunha julyu mirranyjarru. Ayi! Yanamarnigayi nhurra dinarlagayi dhigaru. Warrirru banhalu mararru bundhanyja. Bayalbandhurru ngunha yananyja dinarla dhigaru. Ngurnubadhu ngunha yananyja murlimurlirninyjalu marajaga. Gumbaja birruwurru dhigarnu. Ngunhabadhu birruwadhu ngunha barambudhu marangga ngula banhalura. Dhuranggarrinyja dhigarninyjalu birruwu. Ngunha dhanagarrirru ngurndaja jamidhubirruwa ngunha guburndurarninyjabarndi. Balingurru gumbaja ngunha wardawardarringurru galarru dhindhalwarigundirru. Yanyjadhu ngunha ngurru gumbaja bundharnu babajagarru barnawu bulhuwarnirnu. Bayalbandhurru bagalyarrinyja ngunhaba juma. Ngunha dhanagarrirru ngurndaja birruwadhu. Julyudhu ngunha yananyja jugururru ngurluba. Wanggirarringurru. Warri nhurra yanararri barru nyulirringu wirda nhurra ngurndirangu. Gurlga binyanyjarru ngurrunggu nguluba.


This is my brother, that I am going to tell you about. He is living here in Onslow now. He was working in the south on a station where there was a white man whose name was George Roberts. My brother was living there at Cullabookana Bore as a young boy, crushing up acacia and making powder in order to kill birds. So, he crushed it and made powder. Next he poured water on it. Then he put on a hot cooking stone, and left it to soak. When it was cooked he went to get some water from the cattle trough on the flat ground. He dug a hole and filled it with water. The birds would come and sit there and drink the water. So they wouldn’t drink the water in the trough, he frightened the birds away from it. Then they would drink the water that had been put on the flat. He saw there were a lot of birds. Then he sat there, going like that with his hand, stirring the poisoned water with his hand. He went to pour the water in the hole he had dug, but one of the old men called out: “Hey! You come here first to eat dinner!” My brother didn’t wash his hands but just went to eat the dinner. He went straight away after having stirred that water with his hands. He sat down and ate some meat. The ground acacia husk was still on his hands. He became affected after eating the meat. The ground up husk had been left on his hands after he put hot cooking stone on it. He vomited and shook like that, as if from poison. Another old man bathed his head with water, cooling him down. Then that little brother of mine became better. He left that husk alone. The old man went and threw it away. He said: “Don’t you go again and be a nuisance, boy!” That old man scolded him.

Jiwarli blog word cloud

A word cloud is a picture showing the number of times different words appear in a document or on a website — the size of the words and their distance from the centre show how frequently those particular words appear. Here is a word cloud for all the words used so far on this blog:If we just look at the Jiwarli words used on this blog we get this picture:

Notice that the most common words in Jiwarli are:

ngunha             ‘that’

ngunhaba         ‘that particular one’

Bulhabayara     ‘name of a god’

ngadha             ‘I’

wanggaja          ‘said’

gumbinha         ‘is sitting’

gumbaja           ‘sat’




Finding Jiwarli stories

This blog contains a growing number of stories in the Jiwarli language told by Jack Butler with English translations by Peter Austin and Jack Butler.

The stories are now categorised into types, so if you’re interested in a particular sort of story then you can find them by clicking on the links under Categories on the right-hand side of this page (scroll down to see the list).

The main types are:

  • Stories about animals, that tell about gurrbirli Plains Kangaroo, madhanma Hill Kangaroo, wiyanu Rock Wallaby, jiribarri Echidna, birrbilyanggura Rock Python, and migalyaji Bat
  • Stories about birds, that tell about gajalbu Emu, jindijindi Willy Wagtail, gabagurda Spotted Nightjar, dharrarrayilba Western Bowerbird, ngalyardangura Mountain Butcherbird, jilinbirrira Mudlark, bilyarndi Galah, ngarnawarra Little Corella and bardurra Turkey
  • Reminiscence stories, that tell about events in Jack Butler’s life
  • Traditional stories, that describe what happened ngurra bularalaburra ‘the time when the earth was soft’

Please feel free to leave a comment if there is any particular story that you enjoyed reading.

Stories in Jiwarli 15

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 16th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.


This story is about jiribarri Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), a spiny ant-eating monotreme. When disturbed, Echidna curls up into a ball, using its spines to protect itself. Echidnas were traditionally hunted for food, and Jack explains that if they found an Echidna the old people would talk to it, and tell it to uncurl so that they could give it chest cicatrices. These are scars cut across the chest of initiated men as a sign of knowledge. Notice that there is a story similar to this Jiwarli one called Text 18 “Anteater’s Law” on pages 53-56 of Carl Georg von Brandenstein. 1970. Narratives from the North-West of Western Australia in the Ngarluma and Jindjiparndi Languages. (Australian Aboriginal Studies, 35) Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.


Echidna curled up

Nhuguramardudhu ngurrunyjarri julyumardu ngunha nhanyaardu jiribarrinha buniyanha. Jiribarri ngunha jagubarlarrirarru. Ngurndirarri jagubarlarru barnajibi ngunha warrirru nhanyabuga. Ngurrunyjarrilu yarnararnilaardu ngurndabuga ngunha jagubarla. Wanggirarringu. Yarnararrima nhurra. Ngadha nhurranha murrurrba manara. Ngadha nhurranha murrurrba manara. Gunyarnurru ngunha gumbanhu. Jiribarri ngunha gurlganyundhurru yarnararrira. Yarnararrira barnarru dhanggalbuga wurunggu wirndubinyangurru birrurru yanararri dhigaru.


The knowledgeable grey-haired old men used to see Echidna going along. Echidna would curl up now. He would lie curled up and you can’t see his head. The old men used to turn him over onto his back so he would lie there curled up. They would say: “Lie on your back. I’ll get you cicatrices. I’ll get you cicatrices”. They would tell him lies now. Echidna would open up and lie on his back pleased. He would lie on his back and then they would hit him on the head with a stick, and kill him to go and eat the meat.


Stories in Jiwarli 14

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

The Bowerbird

This story is about dharrarrayilba Western Bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata). The male builds an elaborate bower out of sticks in order to attract females. The bower is decorated with white and green objects, including fruit, berries, pebbles, shells and bones. Post-contact objects like buttons or pieces of glass may also be collected. The male advertises his bower with a range of calls, imitating other birds and animals, as well as various other sounds, and performs dances for females who come to inspect the bower.

The story begins with some brief remarks about traditions associated with the Bowerbird, who is said to have been hit on the head. Jack says that the Bowerbird builds a bingu ‘hide for game’ and shows his children how to stalk game from it. He then goes on to reminisce about a time when he saw a Bowerbird. He was hunting and killing dingoes with a white man when they heard a sound like pups whimpering; on investigation it turned out to be a Bowerbird exercising its extraordinary imitative powers.

Western Bowerbird looking out from his bower

Dharrarrayilbanha nhaalu ngulha barna budhirninyja. Ngadha ngarlarrinyja ngurnuba biyalgu. Barnadhu ngunha guwardi gumbinha malhumanda. Guwardidhu ngunha gumbinha warrirru warndija wamburradhu barnanggadhu. Ngunhaba barlgarrarru yirraradhu barna. Nhanyaardu ngunha. Barlunyjarriyi ngunha gumbirarri manangu yirranguwu yajinanyjarriyi. Yajinawu gumbirarri manangu ngunhirruba wandharrgarringu barnumbaladhu bingungga. Ngunha bingu wandharninyja. Bingu wandharninyja wirlga ngurndira. Yanararri ngunha ngunhibadhu. Ngadha nhanyanyja bingu wangginiyala madhangu gurrbirliyi wardawardirarringurru. Binyararringu gurrjardajaga bingunggangurulu. Yanararringu ngunhaba nyumburru ngurlubanhanyanggu bingungga wardawardinggu ngunhiba bingungga wirlgangga gurrbirliyi binyararringu madhangu. Barrundhu ngurnuba gumbirarringu gurlgayirnu gumbiniya birdibinyangu yirranguwu wurndalgarringu birruwu. Jumardidhu ganyararringu barnumbala ngunhiba nhugurarniru nhugurarniru ngunhiba. Nyumburru ngunhi yanararri. Garndindi yanararri ngarramarri. Nyumbudhu yananyjarru barlunyjarriyirru wandamalgarringurru nhugurarnirnu jumardiyi barnumbawu. Ngunhirru ngurndira ngunha mardamarda yajinanyjarridhu gayanugujila juwirijagarru barlunyjarridhu wanda manararringu. Ngunha wilybu ngunha yanyjadhu barlgurninyja ngurndabuga gayanuguji. Ngunha gumbirarri wandamarnu wandamarnu. Barlu wandamalgarri ngunhaba ngurndira. Gayanurru gayanurru ngurndira. Ngurnubarndibadhu yanararri ngulagayi. Ngunhaba barrundhu barlirrirarringurni bundhurrbarnilgarringurru. Bundhurrba ngurndira gayanura barlunyjarri. Yanararri ngunhaba wandhala ngulha. Ngadha gumbaja ngurndanhu malungga windmill ngurndanhu malungga dinnerwu dhigarninyjalu. Ngurndanhu gumbaja ngadha gurlgayilgarringu you gnow wandhagala yinha waya madhanma or gurrbirlidharrbayi wayangga. Waya ngunha galarrirarri [liiin]. Ngadha warndija nhanyanggu. Warri gajalbu. Bambandhi gumbayi gurningu. Nhaanha yinha wayangga gumbinha dharrbanhu. Ngurndirarri barrundhurru. Barrundhurru ngunhaba waya [liiin] galababaju waya wandhagala ngunha waya gurrbirli dharrbiniya wayangga. Ngurndirarri. Ngurndirarri barrundhurru. Barru ngadha gurlganyurringu gumbaja nhanyangu yirraragurrira yarnara ngurndanhu. Nhanyanyja bayalba yinha dharrarrayilbagumbiniya wangganhu. Yanyjadhu. Ngaliju walybala dhudhuwu gurningu nhambarawu. Yananyja jinamarnu jinamarnu barlungga gurlarnu yirrabirdila warrgalarringurru gurlarnu. Ngunha walybala ngadhala wanggaja. Have a sbell made. All righd. Ngadha gumbaja all righd. Dharrarrayilba ngunha yirrarabarndi yananyjarni ngunhirruba wurungga gumbayi. Ngalijuru warri nhanyanyja ngunha dharrarrayilbanha. Gurlgayilgarringu jumardi ngunha nhambara ngadhidharriya galarringu [nnnn] dhurndarnu barluwu. Yinha walybala ngadhala wanggaja. Whad’s dhad? yinha jumardi nhambara gumbinha yirrara ngunha. Yinhaba ngalijuru gurlgayirninyja ngadhidharriyawu jumardiyi nhambarawu dharrarrayilba gumbiniya ngararajarnu nhambarawu jumardiyi. Ngadha wanggaja ngunhilaba walybalala. Yinha ngalila dharrarrayilba wangginha. Ngunha yirrarabarndi yananyjarni. Ngaliju gurlarninyja ngaanygurrirarringu yirrara. Bayalbandhurru gurlgayilgarringu nhambarawu ngadhidharriyawu jumardiyi. Yanararri ngaliju nhanyanggu. Bayalbandhu mulgurlarninyja jumardinha nhambaranha. Walybaladhu ngunha dharrbanyjarru walhungga jumangga. Wiinggarnurru gumbirarri jumardiyi nhambarawu barna gujirnurru.


Something hit Bowerbird on the head. I forget that story. His head has a hole in now. Now he lives with no feathers growing on his head. His head is bare on top. He used to look about. He got stones, stone knives, berries. He got sweet food to put there in his hide. He put down a hide, he put down a hide and lay in the gap. He goes there. I saw a hide; the old people had talked about how he looked over it for hill kangaroos and plains kangaroos. He was going to spear them with a spear from the hide. So he goes in and hides, to look at them in the hide, to look over the gap in the hide to spear plains kangaroos and hill kangaroos. Sometimes you will hear him making a sound like cracking stones to cut meat. He will carry his children there to his place to teach them, to teach them there. They go along there hiding away. They go in a line, one behind another. Bowerbird would go along hidden to separate stones according to their size and colour, teaching his children. Red berries will lie on one side, separated from the stones with a mark. He piles up another lot of leaves on one side to lie down on. He separates them, and separates them. He separates the stones and will lie down. They lie down one by one. After that he goes somewhere else to collect more things. Then he comes back and makes a heap. A heap of stones will lie there on one side. He goes somewhere or other again. One time, I was lying in the shade of a windmill after having eaten dinner. I was lying there and heard a sound like, you know, how fence wire goes when a hill kangaroo or plains kangaroo goes through it. The wire went like this [liiin]. I got up to look. It wasn’t an emu. I couldn’t find anything. “What is going through the wire?” I thought to myself. I lay down again. And then again the wire went [liiin] like that, how a wire goes when a kangaroo goes through the wire. I lay down, I lay down again. So I lay there thinking, looking up while lying on my back. Then I saw this Bowerbird singing. “Here’s another one”, I thought. A white man and I were looking for dingoes. We went looking for tracks, climbing up the ledge on the hill, crawling, and climbing. The white man said to me: “Have a spell mate.” “All right” I replied. I sat down alright. A Bowerbird came from above to sit there in the tree near us, but we didn’t see the Bowerbird. Next we heard baby dingoes crying going like this [nnn], scratching the rocks. The white man said to me: “There are baby dingoes up above us there”. Then we heard this sound of baby dingoes crying, but it was a Bowerbird imitating baby dingoes. I said to the white man: “This is a Bowerbird talking to us”. It came from above. So we climbed up and rested at the top. Then we heard baby dingoes crying, and we went to look. Next we came across a baby dingo walking along near a cave. The white man went into the small cave. He pulled the baby dingoes out and bashed their heads.

Stories in Jiwarli 13

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Halley’s comet

This story dates from the 19th or 20th April 1910 when Jack was living at Glen Florrie Station (see map below) and at nine years old had already begun riding horses and doing yard work on the station. One night, he saw what he describes as a star with a long tail cross the sky. It was so bright that kangaroos could be seen crawling on the hills near the station. According to Jack, the white stockmen said the light was so intense that they could count the sheep in a mob they were looking after. What Jack describes is the passage of Halley’s comet 75 years previously. As Elizabeth Howell reported on in September 2017, “[t]he comet’s pass in 1910 was particularly spectacular, as the comet flew by about 13.9 million miles (22.4 million kilometers) from Earth, which is about one-fifteenth the distance between Earth and the sun”.

Photograph of Halley’s comet 21st April 1910, from Harvard University’s Southern Hemisphere Station in Peru (, accessed 2020-07-26)

Ngunhaburra gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu. Ngurnubarndidhu ngadha gumbaja. Yananyjarni barlirringu mimburndadhu mayangga. Maajaru ngunhiba. Barrundhu nhanyanyja gundhardijaga bardara ngula. Ngunha bardaradhu wardandu gundhardidhu nyirnda jirndinggarru ngurndiniya. Gumbaja jurunggagundirru nhanyangu madhangu warrgalarriyawu barlungga yirrara. Jirrilmarringurru gumbaja ngurrunyjarri. Nhaanha ngunha ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru warndija. Nganggarnu. Gumbaja ngunhiba jurunggagundirru gardajula nhanyangu gurrbirliyi madhangu barlungga warrgalarriyawu babarla. Gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu ngurrunyjarri julyunyjarri gurlganyurringu. Nhaanha ngunhabadhu. Nhaanha ngunhaba ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru murlgurrinyja. Bayalbarru ngunhaba. Gayanura ngunhaba gardajula. Yanyjala gardajula gurninyjarru ngurrunyjarri. Aa wandhawurru ngunhabadhu yananyja gundhardijaga bardara.


I was there after that. After that I was there. I came back to the house at Glenn Florrie. The boss was there. Then I saw a star with a tail there. The tail of the star was here in the sky in the east. You could see the hill kangaroos crawling on top of the hill as if it were daytime. The old men were afraid. They said: “What is that for us? This is the first time it appeared”. They didn’t know. You could see in the night as if it were day the kangaroos crawling on the hill towards the water. After that the old grey-haired men thought: “What is that? What is that to us? This is the first time it turned up”. That was it. That was on just one night. On another night the old men looked for it. “Oh where has that star with a tail gone?” they asked.

Stories in Jiwarli 12

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

The Earthquake

This story comes from when Jack and his younger brother Joe were children travelling with their mother and step-father along the Henry River in Jiwarli traditional territory. It describes an occasion when there was a loud noise, trees and the earth shook, and water, together with the fish in it, was thrown out of the waterholes in the river. At the time, no-one knew what had happened, and Jack found out later that it had been an earthquake.

According to information from the Seismology Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, a major earthquake (of approximate magnitude 7.5-8 on the Richter scale) took place at 07:18 GMT on 19 November 1906. The earthquake was centred at 22° S and 109° E, which is off the North-West Cape of Western Australia. Jack’s story takes place at marndaangu, Mundong Well (see map), which is located at approximately 23° S and 115° E. Jack described the earthquake as coming from the north and heading east — this fits well with advancing shock waves from a point off North-West Cape. A date of 1906 also matches Jack’s description, as he and his brother are being carried by their parents, though Jack is described as a ‘little bigger’, suggesting that he was able to walk. In 1906, Jack would have been five and his brother Joe was three. A date in late spring or early summer is also suggested by the fact that the family were travelling, there was water in the waterholes, and there were jalgunungu (bardy grubs, Trictena atripalpis) in the river gum trees. It seems highly likely then that this story is an eye-witness account of the 1906 earthquake, recalled almost eighty years later.

Apart from its historical interest as a first-hand account of an early Aboriginal experience of an earthquake, the story is also interesting for what it tells us about the daily life of the people at that time. The country of the Jiwarli was occupied by white settlers starting in the 1860s; Glen Florrie Station (mimburn), where Jack spent much of his early life, was established in the 1880s. Aboriginal people were conscripted into the pastoral industry as labourers, but they seem to have maintained much of their traditional lifestyle outside the demands of the white economy. Apart from the presence of a buri, an introduced European metal axe, the story describes a purely traditional journey. Other descriptions of his childhood from Jack support this. It was not until the 1920s, when Aboriginal people were rounded up and forced into the pearling industry, that the traditional cultural and social system was irreparably disrupted. Jack was unable to be initiated because ‘the whites had buggered it’, although he did repay the debt in the traditional manner to the man who would have initiated him if the ceremonies had not ended.

Bibijungarla babujungarla mimburnbarndi yananyja gardawurru gawarilari ngurndayi yarrgiyala jirlirra baba ngurndiniya jirlirra. Jumagudharra ngalijunha jimbinggalgurniya. Ngadhadhu barngamurdurru. Ngurndayi ngurnubarndibadhu mirninggadhumirdulyula yardingga. Mundurru yanararri warlbari yardinggamanda garlgaranydha ngunhi marndaanguwagarala yardingga. Nhanyanyja ngalijuru jumagudharralu gurrurdula yinha nyirlbu biji gurrurdula. Babujudhu ngadhala wanggaja. Ngadha gurlalga. Ngunha bayalbandhurru gurlarninyja ngunhiba wurungga burijaga jinyjiyi wandharnu jalgununguwungurnu nyirlbuwu. Jalgunungu ngunha yinidhu nyirlbu. Gumbirarri jalgujaga manangu wiinggarnu. Barrundhu babuju wanggaja yirraradhu. Gurlgayinha nhaanha ngulha bunarni yaburru. Nhugurru bunarni nhaanha. Nhaanha ngulhadhu. Nhuguwirlarrinyja ngunha. Barrundhu ngunha wuru wardawardarrinyjarru. Babuju ngunha julyu gurrgabarninyja yalhanggarru ngaliju jumagudharra ngadhiiniyarru yugarringu wardawardarriyarru wardawardalgurniyalarru. Gurlgayilgarringu barlunyjarrirru wiliwilirriyayirraranguru barlunguru. Gumbirarri ngurnuba gurlgayirnu buniya ngula wardandarirru ngunhaba. Nhaanha ngulha. Nganggarnuburra ngurrunyjarri. Baba ngunha ngurndiniya juma. Ngunhaba yananyja ngula wardandarirru. Nhanyararri babangga. Babadhu ngunha ngularru jugurninyja. Wardawardarrinyja ngunha yalhadhu. Nhanyararri bunyjinyjarrinha. Ngunhirru ngurndinha yaribirlila barlgarralarru.


My mother and father went directly west from mimburn Glen Florrie Station to camp at Yarrgiya claypan where there was water. They were carrying us two children on their backs. I was a little bigger then. After that we stayed at Mirni on the Henry River. In the morning we went south along the river to the fork there at Marndaangu. We two children saw lots of bardy grubs in the gum trees. My father said to me: “I’ll climb up”. Then he climbed up there in the tree, cutting steps with an axe, to collect the jalgunungu grubs. Jalkunungu is the name of that grub. He was getting them with a hook and pulling them out. Then my father called out from above: “I can hear something coming in the north. Something is getting close”. We didn’t know what it was. It got close, and then the tree shook. My poor old father jumped down to the ground as we two children stood crying, and the ground was shaking and we were being shaken. We heard rocks rolling down from the hill up above. We sat listening to it going towards the east. We didn’t know what it was. The old people didn’t know then. A little water was lying there in the river. That thing went east now. We looked in the waterhole, and the water had been thrown out there. The ground had been shaken. We saw the bunyji fish that were lying out on the river sand in the open.


Stories in Jiwarli 11

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 21st May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Jirriwiny and the Rock Python

This story comes from when Jack Butler was living on Rocklea Station in Western Australia, probably in the 1930s. It concerns a man called Jirriwiny who was out hunting one day and saw the tail of a non-venemous snake, which Jack called Rock Python (probably Stimson’s python (Antaresia stimsoni) which is found in this area), sticking out from a cave. Jirriwiny pulled on the snake but it pulled back, so he bit the tail of the snake, which turned around, and he was able to grab it’s neck to kill it.


Stimson’s python

Yagarabaju ngunhaba birrbilyanggurawu. Wiinggarninyja nguluba walhungga. Wiingganmararnigundidhu. Nguluba birrbilyangguralu ngabaju wiinggarninyjarru yurrurru walhurla. Nguluba gundhardirru bajarninyja. Nhanyararri barna ngunhiba banhalurarru. Nguluba mamarninyjarni wurrgalbarru gubiyalgarringu wirndubinyangurru.


He was truly brave with rock pythons. He was pulling one out that was in a cave. It was just like he might have pulled it out, but the rock python almost pulled him into the cave in turn. So, he bit the tail of the rock python, and it turned around. You could see the head of the snake right there next to him. Then he grabbed the snake’s neck to strangle it, killing it.

Stories in Jiwarli 10

Today’s post presents the final traditional story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 19th May 1985 and explained on 20th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Gardumayi and the Wajarri

This story deals with the southern neighbours of the Jiwarli and the Warriyangga, who are the Wajarri people. It describes a battle which is said to have taken place in ancestral times between the god Gardumayi and the Wajarri. At the end of the battle, after much loss of life, Gardumayi declared that Mount Augustus should be the boundary between the two groups and the Wajarri should not extend north of this border. Mt Augustus is located in the Mount Augustus National Park and is a highly visible monocline that stands 1,106 metres (3,629 ft) above sea level, and about 860 metres (2,820 ft) above the surrounding plain. It covers an area of 4,795 hectares (18.51 sq mi).

At the time of first white settlement, the Wajarri practised the male initiation rite of circumcision while their north-westerly neighbours, such as the Jiwarli, did not. Other cultural aspects differed between the two groups also — you can read more about the culture and society of the whole region here.


Binyarrinyja ngula ngunhaburra garduburradhu ngurra bularalaburra. Ngunharru ngunha gardumayi. Barlu ngunha gumbinha. Yugarra ngunha barlunyjarri. Binyarrinyja Wajarriyi mandhardawu. Wirribuga warndijarni wajarri. Gardumayidhu wanggaja. Binyarrira ngandhurru. Wirndubinyanyja wajarrinyjarrinha. Wandindhi ngunha ngurndinha bundhurrba guwardi.


They fought one another there at the time of the ancestral beings, when the earth was soft. That was that god Gardumayi. There are now rocks there; rocks are standing up. They fought the Wajarri. people. Many Wajarri tried to come up here. Gartumayi said: “We will all fight one another.” So, they killed the Wajarri, and they are all lying in a heap as rocks today.

Stories in Jiwarli 9

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 20th May1984 and explained on 20th-21st May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Bulhabayara and Emu

This story deals with the god Bulhabayara who is cooking gajalbu Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) in a pit in the ground filled with hot ashes. While Bulharapaya went off to have a sleep, Emu is stolen and taken up into the sky. Bulhabayara discovers this because he sees a fly going up into the sky. He goes up into the sky on a gurlurr, a special type of cloud. The thief with the emu calls out for him to open his mouth in order to receive the gaadharri ‘emu gizzard’, which is considered to be a delicacy. When Bulhabayara opens his mouth the thief throws down a hot cooking stone (usually placed inside an animal to cook it) which goes into his throat killing him. The Emu remains in the sky today as a constellation (outlined by dark areas of the night sky, not by the stars). You can find out more about the Emu Constellation and how to locate it in the Southern Hemisphere sky on this website.

Emu Constellation


Ngunhaba ngunha Gajalbu ngarringga wandharninyja jirndinyungulu nguluba. Yawardamayi Bulhabayara Gardumayi. Bulhabayaralu ganyanyja birru ngunha. Mujiyarninyja Gajalbu ngarringga gambarninyjalu. Ngunha yananyja ngurndanhurru gumbayi. Gururrirarringu. Yanararringu ngurluba ngarrirla. Yirraradhu ngunha wurunggu ngarri galarnirninyjarru. Wuru ngunha dharrbarninyja ngardingga Gajalbula ngarringga ngurndiniyala. Jigalbalgarringurru. Bambarru gumbaja jigalbarnu. Wurudhu ngunha banyjinyjarru. Wuru ngunha banyjinyja mardurarru. Ngunhabadhu warninyja yarnararru. Ngurndaja ngunhaba gurlganyurringurru. Nhaanha yilu wandharninyja nyirnda ngarringga gajalbubarndila. Nhanyararri yuwirru buniya yirraragurirrarru gurlaniya wagararriya yuwi yirraragurirra. Nhanyangu ngurndirarri. Aa ngunharru ngunha Gajalbu ganyanyja jirndirlarru yirrararlarru. Gurlarninyjarru ngunhaba gurlarrbala barnumbala. Bilanagundi gurlarrba. Jirndinyungurru ngunha. Gurlarninyja ngunhaba. Gurlarninyja. Gurlarninyja. Ngunhaba gajalbujaga birrujaga wanggaja. Yirra dhaarrima nhurra. Gaadharri yinha ngadha nhurrala jugulga. Ngunhaba gurlganyundhurru yirra dhaarrinyja. Guburnmarru jugurninyja dhugudhugu. Gambarninyja ngunhaba wurrgalba wirndubinyangurru gardulyanha. Ngunharru gumbinha. Gajalbu gumbinha guwardi jirndingga. Gumbinha nhanyiniyala ngandhurralu wandinggundhi. Guwardi ngandhurralu ngunha wandinggundhi nhanyanha gumbiniya yirrara. Ngunhaba ngunha ngurndinha. Gumbinha ngunharru. Ngandhurranha nhanyanha burlugujilu ngabajulbu. Gajalbu ngunhaba yurnubarndi ngurrabarndi ganyanyja. Ngurra bularalaburradhu ngula Yawardamayilaburradhu ngurnumalulaburra. Yini ngunha biji nganamarnu. Ngadha ngarlarrinyjarru yininyjarriyi. Ngarlarrinyjarru ngadha yiniyi ngurnuba Gajalbuwu mujiyarninyjabarndiyi. Nguluba jirndinggarru wandharninyja. Ngunharru ngunha gumbinha guwardidhu. Bayalbarru.


Long ago, Bulhabayara the god put Emu in the ashes to cook. Yawardamayi, Bulhabayara and Gardumayi are the names of the gods. Bulhabayara carried the meat to cook it in the ashes. Someone stole Emu after Bulhabayara had put it to cook in the ashes. Bulhabayara went to lie down. He woke up and went to have a look at the ashes. On top of the ashes he went like this back and forth with a stick. He inserted the stick into the Emu lying in the ashes. He went to lift it up, but he couldn’t lift it. The stick broke; the stick broke in the middle, and Bulhabayara fell onto his back. He lay there thinking: “What has he put here in the ashes after taking the emu?” He saw a fly going up, climbing, and flying up. Bulhabayara lay down on the ground looking. He said to himself: “Oh, now that emu has been taken up into the sky”. He went up on his cloud, his gurlarr, which is like a cloud. He is a god. So he went up, he went up, he went up. The one with the emu meat up above called out: “Open your mouth! I’ll throw the gizzard to you.” Bulhabayara felt pleased and opened his mouth. The thief threw down a hot cooking stone and it burned that poor fellow’s throat, killing him. That is how it is. The Emu is in the sky now. It is there where we all can look at it. Now we all can look at it sitting up above. That is it lying there in the sky. It’s sitting there now, and looking at us below in turn. The Emu was carried from this place. The earth was soft at the time of Yawardamayi and that group of gods. There were many names for them but I have  forgotten some of their names. I have forgotten the name of that one who stole the Emu. He put it in the sky, and that is why it is sitting there now. That’s the end of the story.