How the water got to the plains story explanation

This is where we used to come every year for our holidays. It was called One Tree and the one tree was a wynnum which is called a pandanus. We would camp up on top of the knoll here and the horses were always on a string down in the gully. And we would sit up there in the early morning, wrapped in our blankets, and we’d watch the sun rise. And we’d listen to the birds as they sang and welcomed the sun as it came up.

This was a very important place to my sister and I, because it was here that we learned all the little stories from the early, early days. These stories were actually the education system of the people, the Butchulla people.

The children who lived on the island here, I’m not talking about ten years, twenty years ago, I’m talking about a couple of thousand years ago see, they had their different social commitments. The children here were used to such a tremendous amount of water around about them, so the time would come when the family would have to go west, not only for trading. So the family would pack up and, for the first time, the children were taught that they had to look after water while they walking.

There were certain places through the journey were permanent waterholes, such as the Womi waterholes, Banban Springs and on a particular trip, right out to Cloncurry, the children learned that not all the places were like Fraser Island where there were plenty of creeks and lakes and on the mainland there were rivers, any amount of water. So for the first time, they learned to save water and to use only what was in their eel-a-mun, or their water-carriers. Then they would come out onto the plains and see these beautiful billabongs and the first thing they would say, ‘How did the water get to the plains?’

And so, the story, the first story, is always about the land when it wasn’t finished. We have the people living on the mountain and one side towards the sea was beautiful and they didn’t worry about the back side. It was just a dry, empty plain. And this is how the children of this area learned that not everywhere in Australia is there an abundance of water.

(Olga Miller. Fraser Island, Queensland, 1997)

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