Australian Aboriginal

Bunna Lawrie - Aboriginal WhaleDreamer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For many years it has been my wish to see a whale up close and, if possible, to look into the eye of the whale. On Friday night Tony and I had the honour to sit with Aboriginal elder, Bunna Lawrie, a man who has not only looked into the eye of the whale many times but has had such a deep relationship to the whale that to speak of this creature is like speaking of his family. Because that is what the great white whale is to Bunna, it is his ancestor.

"It’s my duty also my people’s duty to carry out that story and that songline of Jiddara the great white whale which goes for something like 350kms across from the Bight, from one end to the other. The journey is the creation that created man and sea for our people. Our Mirning people and our stories evolved from the creation of this great white whale, which came from the great Milky Way in the stars above them, and the seven sisters. Our responsibility is to share that story and to look after the country.” Bunna Lawrie

Bunna Lawrie is a traditional lawman and medicine man and direct descendant of the Mirning aboriginal Whaledreaming tribe originally from Miranagu, located at the Great Australian Bight in South Australia. I first came to know about Bunna years ago through his music with the band Coloured Stone in the eighties. They had a hit with the song Black Boy in 1984 and I remember watching the video with fascination because unfortunately we had never seen many Aborginal bands on television. The chorus of Black Boy included the line 'Black boy, black boy, the colour of your skin is your pride and joy' the whole song was a really revolutionary statement at that time.

Bunna Lawrie welcoming Nahko at the Bentley Blockade - photo: The Tree Fairy

And so on Friday night I got to hear Bunna sing live in the home of our friend Judy O'Donnell of Traveller's Amulet and this time Bunna sang in his own language about his people, his land and in particular, the whaledreaming creation stories. These stories are ancient and we are all so lucky that leaders and elders such as Bunna are sharing them, opening these mysteries to people outside of his tribe. These stories make up the songlines that are vital to his people and to the preservation of the whaledreaming lands. The Mirning people are unfortunately still fighting for native title to the coastline that is their ancestral homeland. In 2008 an amazing documentary was made called Whaledreamers - I encourage you all to seek it out. It focusses on Bunna's tribe and also whaledreamers from indigenous tribes from all over the world gathering to honour and sing in the whales at the site where Bunna's ancestors had held this ceremony for thousands of years.


Bunna and his people are still fighting to regain full access to these sacred sites and are in the process of readying a Sea Claim that he hopes in the future will allow the ancestral tribe of those lands to gather and hold ceremony and to also open a centre that will help to educate visitors. He spoke of holding journeys where he would lead groups to walk the sacred songlines of the Whaledreamers over a 10 day period, living off the land and walking the creation stories. That would be such an amazing and incredible gift - walking in that ancient, magic story.

Bunna carries the ancestral medicine of storyteller and he shared the ancient creation story of Jiddara, the great white whale and the Seven Sisters. I was taken back to writing this post about meeting these ancient star beings last year. I felt excited. The words that Bunna was sharing seemed to be tapping into something I've been wanting to write about but had been unable to express. In particular there was one word that really stood out to me: 'mirinjirra'. This is the Mirning word for the sound of creation. When the  the land and sea and creatures were being birthed and made and sung into the world. I have found that almost every culture has their own word for this sacred act. In gaelic it is called 'oran mor' - the great song. I have been wanting to talk with artists about how we create a sacred vessel, how we enchant what we create with intention and love. When I spoke to Bunna about this after his storytelling he agreed to sit down and talk with me more about it and I am over the moon about this new weaving.

We are so lucky in Australia to be living in a land with the most ancient and wise culture and we are being given the greatest gift when elders such as Bunna offer to share their dreaming with us. If you ever get a chance to hear Bunna Lawrie speak or sing, please go along, it's time for us to listen and learn. These stories have never been shared like this before and they are being shared now that so that we can build community and come together to honour and protect mother earth and her creatures. Thank you so much Bunna Lawrie for opening your heart and your sacred creation stories to us and thank you Judy for weaving this gathering in your home.

I still hope, one day, that I will receive the gift of being able to look into the eye of that incredible being, the whale. To look into the heart of us all. It is said that to do this, you are forever changed. Photographer, Bryant Austin has based his work on this phenomenon - here is a link to Eye of the Whale. Perhaps in this magic moment of meeting eye to eye we are at once awakened and also invited into the deepest dreaming of all - the dreaming of creation.


thank you

Welcome to Country Ceremony in Belgrave
Wurundjeri Elder and Educator Uncle Bill Nicholson and family

Yesterday Tony and I attended the Survival Day gathering in Belgrave to celebrate the survival and spirit of Aboriginal people and culture. Thank you to Wurundjeri elder, Uncle Bill Nicholson and his family for welcoming us to Country. And thank you to artist, Safina Stewart, for 'Heaven Came Down' and for taking the time to share your stories with us. 

The Wurundjeri via

The land that Belgrave Survival Day falls upon is part of the Wurundjeri nation that lived here for tens of thousands of years before the colonial settlers re-named the area Belgrave in the late 19th century.
The Wurundjeri country covered a huge expanse of what is now metropolitan Melbourne: from the inner city to the Werribee river; south east as far as Mordialloc creek and over to Healesville. The Wurundjeri nation spoke Woi-wurrung language and were part of the wider Kulin nation comprising five language groups.  Two social totems governed Wurundjeri: the Crow (in Woi-wurrung Waang) and Bundjil the Eagle Hawk.
Many Aboriginal nations were named after specific geographical features of their land. The wordWurundjeri is derived from the Woi wurrung word Wurun referring to the river white gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) and Jeri is the grub that resides within that specific (ribbon gum) tree.
The Wurundjeri clan that inhabited the Melbourne area would often spend the summer months upon the banks of the Yarra and its tributaries. In winter, they would often head to the Dandenong Ranges (known as Banyenong) to make use of its timber for firewood and shelter. Wurundjeri divided their year into seven seasons rather than the familiar four. The arrival of a new season was based on the onset of a natural event such as the blooming of wattle or the first appearance of the blue wren.
For more information about the Wurundjeri nation, please contact:
Koorie Heritage Trust at 295 King St, City on (03) 8622 2600 or

Wurundjeri Tribe Land Compensation Cultural Heritage       
 E:  P: (03) 9416 2905 

Heaven Came Down by Safina Stewart
of Maulag Island, Torres Strait and Wuthathi Country, QLD
'Bunjil, the wedge tail eagle, 

represents the One who formed and gave life to all creation'