Saturday, 30 August 2014

Swamp Wallaby - Buruell

In early morning light, a small wallaby, fat and healthy, trims grass. Very shy, they camp down at the creek during the day and only come up to feed when I stop wandering about at night and the house becomes quiet. Today this wallaby is called a swamp wallaby - partly because they are found around creeks and wetlands - but also because early white settlers claimed the meat was tainted from that environment. 

In 1897 Hobson recorded in the Sydney Mail:
"There were said to have once been 13 different tribes, with as many dialects, between Kiama and Nowra. Mr John Brown, of Brownsville, who went to the South Coast as far back as 1829, tells me they were usually in bands of 70 or 80. For food they relied on fish, wallaby, paddymelons, opossums, and so forth. The waters still teem with fish and the ranges with paddymelons and wallaby, but the old-time hunters have gone."

The pessimism of the article did not match reality on the ground. Today, there are many who proudly count Yuin speaking people among their ancestors.  Some are forthright in their views, acerbic in their comments and ruthless at any hint of paternalism - qualities that will serve us all well as they become thought leaders.

I would like to give the first people name for this wallaby - this fellow deserves a real name. The records I have tell me that, in Yuin dialects, this included Baral, Bhurrar, Budalima, Buruell (Black), Djenbella, Palahua (Red), Waru, and Wulban applied to wallaby.  It is possible that Buruell is the right name - swamp wallabies are sometimes referred to as Black Wallabies.  

Carrying a baby in her pouch, she is capable an amazing burst of speed.  She has decided to make her nest in a couple of overgrown bushes at the back of the farm.

Peter Quinton
August 2014

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