Aboriginal Culture - Dreamtime Stories

Why the stories are told

told by Aunty Beryl Carmichael

My name is Beryl Carmichael and my traditional name is Yungha-dhu.

I belong to the Ngiyaampaa people, come from the Ngiyaampaa nation and the area we're in now belongs to Eaglehawk and Crow.

I'm a storyteller as well and all the stories have been handed down to me by my people. I am now custodian of about twenty-eight stories.

The stories are a wonderful and a valuable tool, an education tool in teaching our children. The 'Dreamtime' stories as they are referred to today, we didn't know that there was such names for them. Because when the old people would tell the stories, they'd just refer to them as 'marrathal warkan' which means long, long time ago, when time first began for our people, as people on this land after creation.

We have various sites around in our country, we call them the birthing places of all our stories. And of course, the stories are embedded with the lore that governs this whole land. The air, the land, the environment, the universe, the stars.

The stories that we are passing and talking on today, we are hoping that, some way, it will help our people-and our children, our young people in particular-to get a better understanding about the lore that governs our lives today.

No matter what we do, there is always guidance there for us and the guidance comes through in the stories. And the direction that we are giving to our young people on how we expect them to grow up. How to listen to the old people, but also, never to be disobedient. We must never be disobedient; we must always obey the instructions of our old people and people in authority; always do the right thing; never be greedy; never be a thief and so on.

So all these little things are embedded in the stories to our children. That's why the stories are so powerful as an education tool when we're teaching our young kids. We must always refer back to the stories because they're the ones that's going to give them the guidance that they need today.

Stories of the Dreaming - Introduction

Storytelling is an integral part of life for Indigenous Australians. From an early age, storytelling plays a vital role in educating children. The stories help to explain how the land came to be shaped and inhabited; how to behave and why; where to find certain foods, etc.

Gathered around the camp fire in the evening, on an expedition to a favourite waterhole, or at a landmark of special significance, parents, Elders or Aunts and Uncles use the stories as the first part of a child's education.

Then, as children grow into young adults, more of the history and culture is revealed. Adults then take responsibility for passing on the stories to the following generations. In this way, the Stories of the Dreaming have been handed down over thousands of years.

All the storytellers you will meet on this site are active in keeping the stories alive and passing them on the next generation.

These are stories of the history and culture of the people, handed down in this way since the beginning of time, since the Dreamtime.

In the Beginning was the Dreaming

Wandjina made Earth and Sea and everything. He gave Man to live in this Earth, for this World, this Tribal Country.

In parts of the Kimberley Region of Western Australia exist the homelands of the mighty Wandjina. Painted mainly with red, yellow and black lines over a white background, their outline figures stand out boldly from their resting places. Their strange, piercing eyes give a haunting appearance to their faces, which line certain cave galleries.

The Wandjina control the rains and the pattern of seasons which replenish the resources throughout the Kimberley:
This is Wandjina. There was a time when this Earth - he made Earth and Sea and everything. This is Wandjina - he made people. Wandjina is Wandjina. He gave Man to live in this Earth, for this World, this Tribal Country. He put the Wandjina in the cave for him to remember this Wandjina, to follow his laws, to go about the right ways ...

Aborigines believe that the Wandjina give rain. Then it says that the Earth is hot and that it breathes; the Earth it breathes, it's a steam blow up, and it gives cloud to give rain. Rain gives fruit, and everything grows, and the trees and the grass to feed other things, kangaroos and birds and everything.

With the completion of their earthly tasks, each of the Wandjina turned into a rockface image. There, the Wandjina spirits continued to live. It is possible for new life to emanate from the figures adorning the cave walls - to re-enter the physical world as unborn children.
Such places are sites to which local Aborigines have a deeply spiritual attachment. Not everyone can go there. For those without the right to enter, they are very dangerous places:

Although the paintings represent the bodies of the dead Wandjinas, the spirits of the Wandjinas live on in much the same way as the Aborigines believe the spirits of human beings continue to exist after their death.

These Wandjina have considerable powers and the Aborigines are careful to observe a certain amount of protocol when they approach the paintings, fearing that if they do not, the spirits might take their revenge.

This protocol normally consists of calling out to the Wandjinas from several yards' distance, to tell them a party is approaching and will not harm the paintings ... Should the Wandjinas be offended, the Aborigines believe that they will take their revenge by calling up the lightning to strike the offender dead, or the rain to flood the land and drown the people, or the cyclone with its gales which devastate the country.

The Australian Aborigines speak of jiva or guruwari, a "seed power" deposited in the earth. In the Aboriginal world view, every meaningful activity, event, or life process that occurs at a particular place leaves behind a vibrational residue in the earth, as plants leave an image of themselves as seeds. The shape of the land - its mountains, rocks, riverbeds, and waterholes - and its unseen vibrations echo the events that brought that place into creation. Everything in the natural world is a symbolic footprint of the metaphysical beings whose actions created our world. As with a seed, the potency of an earthly location is wedded to the memory of its origin. The Aborigines called this potency the "Dreaming" of a place, and this Dreaming constitutes the sacredness of the earth. Only in extraordinary states of consciousness can one be aware of, or attuned to, the inner dreaming.
--Faces of the First Day:
Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime
by Robert Lawlor
The Australian Aborigines believe that long, long ago the earth was soft and had no form. The features of the landscape were created as the result of the heroic acts of ancestral spirits, who often assumed the form of animals. The origins of land shapes—mountains, deserts, and water holes—echo these events, which the Aborigines refer to as Dreamtime. For at least fifty thousand years, the Aborigines have maintained the traditions of Dreamtime through stories, music, dance, art, and ceremony. And in the land around Kakadu, this tradition is honoured today.

Animal Dreaming:
by Paul Morin


Acknowledgement: The dreamtime stories used in this website have been accessed from website: