Warm and wet season

When the weather warms and the wallum wildflowers start to flower ngurooingan is here. The arrival of the yaway (northerly winds) and the return of the red-backed wren with his mates and their newly fledged chicks means it is time to burn according to traditional patterns and practices.

Milbi (Sea turtles) are easy to catch as they are busy mating and can be found floating close to the surface or basking in tidal creeks during times of rest. Hunters would walk the mudflats or dive for milbi and catch them by hand, not ganay (spear). To protect the breeding population and ensure enough food for future years, females were not taken. If the Butchulla ate turtle eggs, it would only ever be in small numbers to preserve the species, and the remaining eggs and nest were re-covered with sand and allowed to hatch.

Gagar (Echidna) is easy to catch at this time of year because he is busy looking for a mate, and many waruee (Lace monitor) can be found looking for eggs and baby birds to eat. Waya (Wallaby) Guruman (Kangaroo) and are plentiful and provide much meat for everyone, although guruman were only found on the mainland, not on K’gari.

On the mainland ngurooingan is the best time to catch male mud Nalwar (Mud crabs) which will be hiding in holes hoping to attract a mate. Female nalwar must never be killed or eaten. She is protected because she ensures plenty more crabs are born and there will always be enough food for the people and animals.

Ngurooingan is a good time to collect dhippi’nu bang (bird eggs) especially from naar (Black duck) nests, although it is Law that you take only what you need and never take too many eggs from one nest.

This is also the season when the biting midges and mosquitoes are at their worst so you have to burn birri (Mangrove) leaves in the campfire, tie leaves of Sandfly bush (Zieria species) to your legs and arms or even paint your whole body with mud to protect yourself from irritating bites. Badtjala people know that the wisest way to avoid being bitten is to avoid the mudflats during hot and still days and always walk along the front of the mangroves.

Ngurooingan is the season when many bunbun (fruits) are available in the narang (forest). Midyim (Austromyrtus dulcis) are abundant on K’gari in early ngurrooingan and then for the following few months on the mainland. They are a delicious sweet and refreshing snack and are much loved by ghundus (children). Plum pine (Podocarpus elatus) and Peanut tree (Sterculia quadrifida), wuumbay (Fraser Island apple or Acronychia imperforata), wongal (Geebung or Persoonia virgata) and bidjal (Pigface or Carpobrotus glaucescens) are just some of the delicious local fruits available at this time of year.

In the water dulara (Summer whiting) are abundant. Badtjala people made canoes from bark and they also constructed rafts by tying sticks together and laying paperbark across them. This was perfect for fishing and gathering shellfish in the calm bay waters.

Cones from the Bunya pine’s coastal cousin, dundardum (Queensland kauri pine or Agathis robusta) will start to fall to the ground and this is a sign to get ready to leave K’gari before the arrival of the big gumari (rain) and barung’ganj (storms).

The Bunya Bunya festival held in the Bunya Mountains (every third year in the middle of ngurooingan or mid-summer) was a huge celebration and sharing time for many tribes from south-east Queensland. Marriages were made, disputes were settled, and trading and sharing of resources took place, especially of the abundant banya (Bunya pine or Araucaria bidwillii) fruit. The Butchulla left the island before weather and tides made it difficult to do so. After the festivities of the Bunya Bunya Festival, the Butchulla returned to their homeland, followed soon after by those from the west who had hosted the Bunya festival. The “Feast of the Fish” was a reciprocal sharing of Butchulla food and culture during the abundant walai-walai djau season. In years when the Bunya was not mass-fruiting, the Butchulla moved between K’gari and the mainland making use of the calm and protected waters of the bay and the abundant local food supply.