At the Northern end of Numbunghi beach, where Grant Hill runs down to a rocky shoreline, is the place we know as Wunga. In the very early days, two sisters lived there and their names were Bindah, the shoulder, and Djarruga, the scrub hen. Although the two sisters lived alone, Djarruga was heavy with child, causing her much shame. So one day, she said to her sister: “Come sister, we must go and look for a munga, a husband, so that there is a father for this little one. It is time for us to travel.“
Setting out, they crossed Karpa Creek, passed through Jedjinji and when night forced them to camp, they built a shelter for themselves at Numbunghi. Next day, they went on again until they came to the beach at Julgie. Here, they were in two minds which way to go – one wanted to go back along the beach towards Wungu, the other wanted to go South towards Russell River. Djarruga, however, was determined to continue her search for a bimbi, a father, to her child, so calling Bindah after her, she set off.
Darkness found them at the foot of the hill going over to Buddabadoo, Gungunji it is called and they found shelter under a large overhanging rock at the base of the hill. There they slept around a small fire until the morning. With the sunrise, Bindah, who was very hungry, was impatient to set off, but Djarruga called to her to wait. “Wait, sister”, she called, “I am going to paint. I won’t be long.” So she took a piece of red ochre, mixed it with some blood to make it permanent, and there on the roof of the rock where they had slept, she painted a design representing a shield and a spear. “Because I have mixed this paint with blood,” she announced to her anxious sister, “my painting will last for years and years. Generation after generation will see my work for I have mixed the paint with blood and that will make it last forever”. The design can still be seen on the face of the rock which today is known as the Shield Rock. It does not bear any direct resemblance as suggested in the story, for this is the painting.
By now the child had been born and his mother had given him the name Numbai. So now the three of them continued on their way, crossing the creek and setting out to climb the mountain. As they did so, they saw in the distance two young men, out for the day’s hunting.
“Quickly, let us hide,” said Bindah. So taking the little boy with them, they ran and hid behind a large bush. The two men advanced steadily until they came upon the tracks of the hurrying women. “These are women’s footprints,” one observed, “let us try and find them”. When they came upon the hiding women, the men called softly to them, urging them not to be frightened. Acting shy and timid, the women emerged and they all gradually fell into conversation, talking of the road they were taking and why they were out alone. At first, the men, who were both unmarried, refused to believe that Djarruga and her sister were seeking husbands but eventually they were convinced and agreed to take the two women for their wives.
Djarruga’s mate wanted them all to return to the Russell River but Bindah refused to go that way, and while they debated where they would go to live all four started to grow feathers and turn into scrub-hens. Little Numbai, who had grown very fast and was now big enough to get about by himself, alone refused to join them. “No”, he said, “I will go back to my country for I want to hunt in the country that belongs to me”. Accordingly, Numbai left the others there and journeyed back to the people whom he’d met beside Karpa Creek. By the time he arrived, he was a fine stamp of a young man and when he spoke to the people they wanted him to be their leader. Before agreeing to this, however, Nambai went back to Buddabadoo to farewell his mother. He bid goodbye to them all but his aunt, Bindah, changed her mind and she and her husband chose to stay with her nephew. She offered to provide for him but he declined. “No, you are my mucha, mother now. It is for me to look after you, not for you to look after me”. So Numbai swore an oath to his new mother that he would look after her and from that day on, the aunt and uncle so one of our children have more power and control over the child than his true mother.
Then they all bid farewell to each other. Numbai, Bindah and her husband made their way back to Karpa Creek again. People from all around came and made Numbai their leader, but Djarruga stayed behind. She stamped her foot on the ground, saying, “I shake off all the dust of this place. I will leave the last dirt here and never come back”. The Djarruga, the scrub-hen, spread her wings and flew off, closely followed by her husband. They flew over the range to a hill now named Walsh’s Pyramid, near Gordonvale which we call Bundadjarruga, the nest of Djarruga the scrub-hen. There she and her husband stayed and made their mighty nest.
From: P.C. Griffin, ‘Yarraburra, Myths, Legends and Rock Paintings of the Yarrabah Aboriginal Reserve’, The Humanist Press, 1967, pp.26-29
Traditional Owner of Djarragun