birding-aus birding in Arnhemland, pigs.

To: "birding Aus" <>
Subject: birding-aus birding in Arnhemland, pigs.
From: Goodfellow <>
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 99 07:17:45 +0930
Hullo All
Just returned from a trip to Kudjekbinj.  To the uninitiated (in more 
ways than one) this is an outstation in NW Arnhemland, about 150 kms east 
of Oenpelli, across the Goomadeer River and near Table Hill which is 
marked on some maps.

The outstation is very well set up, and run by my two older sisters 
Esther Maralngurra and Miriam Nganjmirra, bothin their late sixties.  
These women not only take care of the country but they look after young 
relatives whose parents are alcoholics or who have been in trouble with 
the law.  Both are master weavers of pandanus mats and baskets.  
Unfortunately they don't have a vehicle which makes their work quite 

The country is dominated by tall stringybark forest with patches of 
monsoon forest, pandanus and paperbark woodland around the numerous 
springs many of which are Baby Dreaming (Yawk Yawk).  There is escarpment 
there as well with waterfalls and plunge pools.  It is beautiful wild 

I attempted a bird list but as most of my time was taken up discussing 
various issues with my relatives, fishing, collecting of pandanus leaves 
and colour, I didn't get very far.  

However birds included Common Bronzewing, Grey Butcherbird, 
Yellow-throated Miner, White-throated, Brown, Dusky and White-gaped 

 A couple of highlights which have nothing to do with birds; my eldest 
sister gave me another name - Lawangkurr.  Secondly we caught and killed 
a pig.  

Nothing special some might say except for the way we went about it.   The 
hastily conceived plan was that I throw my cast net over the young sow 
which had been cornered by the dogs, and my friend Sue rush in with 
Esther's metal digging stick and stab it.  Then we'd both throw ourselves 
on the pig and hold it down.

The first bit went well.  However when Sue went in for the kill the metal 
rod bent (the skin is really tough). I'll never forget the look on her 
face!  I thought about jumping on the pig while it was entangled in the 
net but one of the dogs worrying its hindquarters had also been caught, 
and I feared I might be bitten.  Anyway we had no time to think further 
for the pig charged me.  I fell flat on my ba ck in the mud the pig only 
feet away.  Sue charged to my rescue with her bent rod while I fended the 
porker off with my feet (thank heavens for steel-capped gumboots and 
close friends) and an old pandanus log.  It turned and ran, the dogs and 
us in hot pursuit.  In the end my husband Michael beat it over the head 
with an ironwood branch, Sue and I joined in, and that was the end of the 

We carted it back to the others who prepared a bed of hot coals in the 
sand.   Esther removed paperbark from nearby trees all the while singing 
to our dreaming so that the Baby Spirits would know we were there and 
understand what we were doing.  Meanwhile the gutted pig was filled with 
red hot stones.  The  paperbark went on top of that, and then sand.  It 
took less than an hour to cook.   

Pigs are everywhere.  They do terrible damage to these beautiful springs. 
 They muddy the water so that fish that have evolved to live in clear 
water die.  They damage the roots of trees and eat the fruit that falls 
from them so that the trees cannot regenerate.  Consequently they affect 
birds and other wildlife.  And now there is another threat.  A mining 
company is putting pressure on my senior sister to give them permission 
to mine, and consequently creating divisions among the Ngalngbali (our 
clan) mob.

On the way back to Oenpelli we met a 4WD that had blown a tyre and 
careered off the road into a tree.  A group of Aboriginal men came across 
the young occupant standing weeping and in shock by the side of the road. 
 Although going to a one-day ceremony and having a long way to travel 
they immediately detached their trailer and sent their car back to 
Oenpelli to get help.  Some were trying to comfort the woman and her baby 
while others were struggling to get her vehicle mobile when we arrived.  
I couldn't help but think she couldn't have been better looked after if 
she had been on a city road.  
Denise Goodfellow (Lawungkurr Maralngurra)
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