Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake has this week been given its traditional Boandik name – WarWar – with artwork and signage explaining the iconic site’s significance to the local Aboriginal people, unveiled to the wider community.
In partnership with SA Water, the Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation, Boandik community artists and Elders, as well as several local school students have spent the past several months painting four panels which tell the story of Craitbul, the giant Boandik ancestor. These floor to ceiling pieces are now on display inside the Blue Lake pumping station.
SA Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan Coordinator Sarah Smith said and recognising and acknowledging the lake’s name and story is a step towards revitalising culture and reforming the community’s connection with Country.
“WarWar means ‘the sound of many crows’ and reflects the crow Dreaming of the Boandik people, who are the Traditional Owners of the Mount Gambier region,” Sarah said.
“We want to work with Traditional Owners and all Aboriginal people across South Australia to share stories like this and shape the broader community’s understanding of Aboriginal culture.
“It’s important for people to appreciate that connection to Country is both ancestral and ongoing. One of the best examples of this is the continued significance and necessity of water to life.
“As the body which manages numerous water sources and the distribution of drinking water across the state, we are acutely aware of the importance of making sure it’s safe and clean for the people it’s supplied to.
“We use modern scientific knowledge and the operation of various infrastructure to achieve this. Tens of thousands of years ago, the same theories were applied by Aboriginal ancestors, just using different tools.
“Aboriginal people have been living sustainably on Country for a long time, demonstrating traditional knowledge of land and protecting and maintaining sites of significance like waterways, ensuring they’re available for future generations.
“Respect is what underpins these practices, and respect is a key focus of our Reconciliation Action Plan that we’re committed to delivering in all areas of our business and ongoing work with Aboriginal communities.
“There are stories and lessons to be told, listened to and learned from, and we want to continue building awareness of these within our own workforce and the wider population.
“The new signage at the entrance to WarWar – the Blue Lake – has been placed next to the existing information markers, and I think this is a perfect symbol of how we can achieve positive steps towards reconciliation – together.”
The event in Mount Gambier is one of several activities and initiatives SA Water is involved in this week across the state, as part of National Reconciliation Week. This includes a cultural tour, language and dance workshops for staff, the display of Aboriginal artwork in SA Water’s Adelaide headquarters, inclusion in the STEM Aboriginal Student Congress and the unveiling of artwork along a section of above ground pipeline in Port Lincoln.
The story of Craitbul
The Revival of the Boandik language has brought the reawakening of Craitbul the giant Boandik ancestor.
In the time of the Dreaming, long before anything came into being, lived a giant ancestor named Craitbul who travelled around Wepakangara (south east) with his mala (wife) and pulatj kungi (two sons). The great ancestor of the Boandik lived with his wife and two sons near the oven he built. His oven was called Beleter (Mount Muirhead). They would catch fish from the Glenelg Yaru (river), hunt and gather their food to cook on the oven. Craitbul longed for a safe place where he and his family would not be tormented by the evil spirit, Woor.
While sleeping in the night they were awoken to the haunting sounds of the bullin (bittern heron) warning them. In fear they fled because the evil spirit, Woor, was near. Craitbul and his family found a new place to live and Craitbul built another oven. This oven is called Parreen (Mount Schanck). They were settled, until one night came the same haunting sound of the Bullin warning them again of Woor.
Craitbul and his family gathered their things once more, determined to go inland away from the ngamath (sea) for it appeared that the evil spirit, Woor, could not exist far from ngamath. They left their empty oven and travelled to Berrin (Mount Gambier) where they set up another camp, free at last from the evil spirit, Woor.
Craitbul built another oven, but this time something very strange happened. Mysteriously, water come rushing up from the bottom and extinguished the wurnap (fire). He built another and the same happened. Craitbul had now built four ovens - Warwar (Blue Lake), Ketlamalpe (Valley Lake), Yattonlu (Leg Mutton) and Kraweratwari (Browns Lake).
Craitbul and his family finally settled in a cave on the side of Berri’s Peak where they had full view over all the mraat (land). When came time for them to die they mounted a spear. Craitbul’s wife sat on the point, Craitbul sat on the end and their two sons sat between them. The spear carried them into the heavens where they can be seen in the night skies.
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