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Turtle Underwater, Australia

Turtle Underwater, Australia

Peter Hendrie—Photographic Print
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Wayambah's tribe had settled the area around the billabong long before he was born, so he and his two younger brothers were well acquainted with its dangers, the most serious being the mass of tangled weeds below the surface.

In spite of their parents' warnings not to go to the billabong alone, they constantly disobeyed them, and were often punished. However, the punishment didn't have much effect on them, as they continued to disregard their parents' wishes.

Their father, although admiring their spirit, could not allow them to continually show such disrespect, but could think of nothing that would solve the problem. Punishment was not the answer, he knew, so what to do? One night whilst sleeping, he was visited by a spirit that told him to make them a canoe. "You mean that I should reward their disobedience?" he asked the spirit.

"Make them a canoe," the spirit repeated. "It is the only way to solve your problem." The next day the boy's father cut bark from a tree and built a canoe as instructed. Then he gave it to Wayambah. He told him that when he returned from a hunt he would take him and his brothers to the billabong and teach them how to use it.

Sadly, Wayambah was far too impatient to wait for his father, so he hefted the canoe onto his back and bid his brothers to follow him to the billabong. However, when they arrived there, Wayambah tried to lower the canoe into the water, but it was stuck fast to his back and as hard as rock. Then he turned into a strange looking creature that slowly sank to its hands and knees under the weight of the heavy canoe and toppled into the billabong. Then when his brothers entered the water to help him they were turned into fish.

And that is how the wayambah, or turtle, was created.

Burramadagal clan of the Dharrug tribe

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