Katrina smiles and places ochre on the back of my hand as a Welcome to Country. Her blue eyes are unusual for indigenous people. The Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre is called after the mountain here in the land of the Yugambeh people. They love their country and its stories, and Katrina is my guide.
The coastal rainforest is the last on the Gold Coast. Under its canopy there’s a cutting of ochre. It’s for painting, dance, and insect repellent. Through the brilliant green trees there’s the magically transparent blues of perfect water. It’s the Tallebudgera Creek, meaning good fish.
When the tiny white flowers of the paperbark tree bloom, it’s sea mullet season. Pandanus palm leaves grow to weave fishing nets. Once a net was made that stretched the full width of the creek, and men in canoes went to the darker blue and rounded the fish. Katrina likes to look out and imagine all the canoes there once more.
She tells the dreamtime story of Jabreen the giant. His honeyed fingers are the basalt formation above us. Then she jumps and laughs, she thought she heard a snake.
Away from the sea is a gully with mossy rock caves. Katrina stops and says to listen. In her hush even the sound of the surf is silent. This place is bountiful with bush medicine and protection. It’s a birthing place for women only. Be still and you can hear the memory of a thousand generations.
There’s a 4,000-year-old midden, and the dreamtime story of Gowanda. He was very dark with a white beard, a famous dingo trainer who returned to the creek as a dolphin.
Today a group of children swim in the crystal winter water, oblivious to the Aboriginal fish trap beside them. It was made hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years ago.
Katrina’s pop was a Scot named Eckhardt. That’s where she got her blue eyes. Jellurgal gave up some of its secrets today. Visit there if you like to dream.