Welcome to Our Country

The Eastern Kuku-Yalanji nation includes several warra (clans) including the Kuku-Nyungkal and the Jalunji-Warra.

Kuku-Yalanji language is a living language, spoken throughout the area.  Eastern Kuku-Yalanji country is diverse and includes ancient rainforest, coastal mountains, expansive valley areas, coastline and reef and is approximately 70,000 hectares in size.  Kuku Yalanji homelands are included in two World Heritage listed areas, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Wet Tropics. Watch Welcome to Country

Ngujakuramun

Ngujakuramun, (Dreaming) is the foundation of Kuku-Yalanji life and society and is reflected in the ongoing connection with bubu (land) and jalun (sea). Ngujakuramun, refers to the ‘creation period’ where the ancestors created the world and established the laws for bama.   Ngujakuramun, connects bama to Country and to each other.

Bama 2019 by Daniel Gordon. Acrylic on Driftwood. NMA Collection

Seasons & Traditional Foods

Camping, hunting and collecting bush foods is a part of everyday life in Wujal Wujal.  For thousands of years, Kuku-Yalanji have used their knowledge of their environment to hunt and harvest local foods.  This includes an intricate knowledge of the weather cycles, which have been categorised into five seasons:

Kaba is the wet season, from late December to March

Kabakababa is the winter rain season, from April to May

Buluriji is cold season, from June to September

Wungariji is hot season, from October to November

Jarramali is the stormy season, from late November to the middle of December

Bama also use ‘indicator plants’ to know when to hunt certain animals or collect edible plants.  For example, when the yumba (common wattle) and yurrun (Deadfinish Wattle) are flowering it is time to catch the ngalkun (mullet) as they run upstream to lay their eggs.

When the jilngan (mat grass) is in flower, it is time to collect the jarruka (Orange-Footed Scrub Fowl) eggs which are delicious.

The jun jun (Blue Ginger) flowers indicate that it is time to hunt the diwan (Australian Bush Turkey).

Diwan (Australian Bush Turkey) 2019 by Davina Nunn. NMA Collection


Davina & Shanna fishing at Cowi Bay 2018

Traditional Stories

Wujal Wujal Waterfalls

As told by Doreen Ball

A long time ago there were two birds, Jaka (Friarbird, Leatherhead) and Kurkumbay (Butcher bird) who were walking down to the Wujal Wujal crossing.  When they reached the crossing Jaka said to Kurkumbay “yundu bunday ngayu dungay bada bubu ngajil, you wait here”.

Kurkumbay had another idea and wanted to go down to a place called Lundin (Thompson’s Creek)

Jaka said again “no, garri ngayu kaday ngayu kaday garri ngulinga minya, there’s a kadarr (kangaroo) in the ground oven, kurrma yo.  You need to look after the meat cooking. Yundu bunday, just sit down and wait”.

But Kurkumbay did not want to wait and watch the food cooking and said, “no if you won’t let me come over to the other side of the crossing, I will cut that Lawyer cane!”.

Jaka said back “no you are not going to do that!  You need to stay look after the minya (food). Kurkumbay started to argue “no I want to kaday (come) as well”.  Jaka started jurbu (dancing) on the other side of the crossing.  Kurkumbay who was still on the other side and start to walk over.  Jaka again told Kurkumbay that she could not come over to her side of the crossing and to walk back to the camp and sit down.

Kurkumbay was holding the Lawyer Cane and said to Jaka, “I’m coming over now, nyayu kadayda!”.  Again, Jaka said “no, you need to stay and watch that minya (food)”.   Kurkumbay was getting angry and decided to cut the Lawyer cane and bana (water) came gushing out.  Kurkumbay swore at Jaka “ngumunka jumbunya”.  Suddenly, the kadarr (kangaroo) sprung out of the oven.  The two birds started swearing at each other, and they then walked down to somewhere near Lundin.   That is where the two sisters at Nyalba Bulal (Mt Peter Botte), let the bana (water) run. That is how we got water and the waterfall.

The Roaring Megs

As told by Doreen Ball

At the Roaring Megs Waterfall there is a sacred women’s’ place. There is a special basket with a baby in it at this place.  Men are not allowed. It is a place where men have accidents if they go there.  That is why we always tell men that they are not allowed, only women. Julbu Julbu is a women’s sacred site.  White men have not been listening to us and there have been nine or eleven accidents that have occurred.  Sadly, the last accident was a woman who went the wrong way.  People must listen to our law.  The two sisters who look after this place are the boss of the waterfall.

Rockpool near the sacred Roaring Megs waterfall.

Wujal Wujal Falls 2021

Jarruka

Scrub Hen Story as told by Wujal Wujal women

Courtesy of Tellin’ Country a State Library of Queensland initiative.
Bana Wuljaljiku Janjanay

The Bana Wuljaljiku Janjanay (forever there is water) video was made by Apunipima Cape York Health Council in collaboration with Wujal Wujal Community about the importance of bana (water).

This video also includes the Wujal Wujal Waterfall Story as told by Doreen Ball.  Yalada!

Video courtesy of Apunipima Cape York Health Council

Mili (Stinging Tree) 2019 by Sonya Creek. Acrylic on Rainforest Driftwood. NMA Collection

The Mili tree can be found in the rainforest surrounding Wujal Wujal and holds special significance for local Bama.

 Language

Kuku Yalanji Words

Have a go at pronouncing the following words!

Bana – meaning water/river
Yirriji – describes the waters running between Wujal Wujal Falls and the Wujal Wujal Bridge
Balji, Ngunyin – dilly bag
Bama – Yalanji, Nyungkul & Jalunji people
Baral – tracks (animal), trail, road
Bilngkumu – saltwater crocodile
Bubu – a person’s Country, land
Diwan – Australian Bush Turkey
Dulngku – reef
Jaka – Friarbird, Leatherhead
Jalun – sea
Jarruka – Orange-Footed Scrub Fowl
Jurbu – dancing
Kadarr – kangaroo
Kalka – spear
Karrangkal – coral reef
Kiju – mud crab
Kunjuri – shield
Kurkumbay – Butcher Bird
Madja – rainforest, scrub
Marrakan – canoe
Mayi – food
Mili – stinging tree
Mirru – club
Ngalinga – Two of us
Ngalkun – mullet
Ngujakura mun – Dreaming, or the creation period
Wakay – sword
Wankar – necklace
Warrma, Yalkaka – ceremony, corroboree
Yalada – ok, alright, welcome
Yalmba – beach
Yurrun – Deadfinish Wattle

Learn more about the Kuku Yalanji language!
IMAGES
Artwork © remains with the Artist
© Bana Yirriji Art Centre. Photography Edwina Circuitt