header photo

Stories from the

Goolarabooloo - Looking after Country

The story of the two sisters

As retold from Paddy Roe by Frans Hoogland

Two sisters, Naji people, spirit beings, who regularly come out of the ocean, on the beach, what is today "Reddel Beach" in Broome. They come from the reef and 'dry up' on the beach, then they look around.

One day, they are back on the beach and look for Njarri Jaari (native bush onion) - small bulbs in the sand, to eat. While they are busy digging, a bushman - one man living alone in the bush, no other person, only him - he sees the sisters, wel he never seen anybody else, and never women. So he is curious, but at the same time he knows that they are not from this world. They are still spirit beings, who can go and out.

Being human and curious he goes towards them. The sisters never seen another person either and freeze until he touches them, and at that moment they cannot go back to their world.

He gives them smell.

The sisters turn themselves into rocks and their spirits fly away in form of birds - white cockatoos, which fly away east, inland, until they see a big open field where they land. As soon as they touch the ground, they turn into women. A younger woman and an older sister.

They feel hungry and look for Njarri Jaari, as it is their last memory. The sisters split up. One goes one way, and the other the other way.

The older sister finds a large field of Njarri Jaari. Being greedy she thinks, how to keep them all to herself. So she tells her sister to make a fire (well, you can eat them raw or cook them).

The younger sister does not know how to make fire, so she tries everything: hits rocks together, tries different wood, until she finds one tree. Mekanine. From this tree, in a sawing motion, she makes fire. First time. She is very happy.

But while she was trying to make fire, her sister was thinking how to keep and eat all the onions herself. So she looked around, until she found a tree. Lirrigin. From this tree, she pulled the bark and made the shape of a snake.

A big long one. Where the mouth was, she put four sticks, upright, for the teeth.

When the younger sister came happily running towards her sister, she saw the big snake form on the ground. She tried to jump over it, but no luck. Then she tried to go under it, but no good. So she sang out 'sister, big snake, cannot come to you!'

At that moment, the two sisters and the snake went up into the sky. So today we can see them, at time when you can find the Njarri Jaari, the sisters are each a star on either side of the Milky Way.

The bushman, who had broken his own law by touching the two sisters, tried to run away but could not. He became very heavy, so he shed his heaviness into a rock formation. Then being much lighter, he tried to go further. However, he realised he had to punish himself. So he sat down, in meditation posture. As such he changed himself into a rock wallaby so he could have life, but had to be always worried to become food for animals and people.

over the campfire

Bugarregarre Stories

Bugarregarre stories, or stories from the Dreamtime, are about co-creation of forms of life, and teaching of proper behaviour and punishment.

Those stories have different levels: public ones to all the men, women and children, and a level only for initiated men or women.

Two Sisters

This picture illustrates the story of the two sisters, who came ashore to look for Njarri Jaari (bush onion). Unfortunately they were defiled by a bushman and turned themselves into rocks while their spirits took flight in the form of white cockatoos.

Learning about proper behaviour and punishment

The two sisters are known today as Njarri Jaari Bungu (onion woman) - the greedy one and Wally Bungu (fire woman) - the good one.

The sisters gave us: Wallu (fire), Njaari Jaari (bush onion) that you can find during Barrgana and Wilburu seasons), the two rocks, Ngakalyalgas (white cockatoos), smell, body and greed, the trees Mekanine and Lirrigin, the snake, the stars, the Milky Way (which is the snake between them).

The bushman is teaching about behaviour and punishment and showed, through meditation, how to change.

This is all public, You know (it) is for everybody: Children, women, anybody. See, this is the thing they used to tell us: Story, and we know.

Paddy Roe