Girambit ‘Saltwater’ with its natural beauty and waterways has always been a sacred and spiritual place. It is the home of the Birrbay ‘Biripi’ people and it is a place of healing.1
For people who lived at Purfleet Mission during the 1900s, Easter and Christmas at Girambit provided much anticipated opportunities to leave the mission’s confines to holiday with family. Access was along a dirt track through the bush rather than along Old Bar Road as it is today. Each family had their special camping place and different groups set-up near each other. Here families would fish, hunt, swim, joke and sing.2 Girambit “was one place that Aboriginal people felt belonged to them in a very deep sense.”3
On 9 November 2019, severe bushfires burnt through the NSW MidCoast including Girambit, Wallabi Point and Old Bar. Tragically people died, and homes and livelihoods were destroyed.4 On Sunday 1 December 2019, the Birrbay people held a ceremony at Girambit as part of the whole of nation dance event to help heal drought and fire-ravaged communities. Hundreds of communities across Australia danced at the same time.
“The respectful ceremony of dancing on Country honours the people and nation of the land and brings healing to self and Country.”5
The dance was the first time in over 100 years that ceremony had been held on Birrbay Country. 200 dancers participated and hundreds of spectators joined in the experience of this event.6 It was an emotional and exhilarating day for all, especially as the rain began to sprinkle. Girambit will always be a place of healing for our community.
Author: Janine Roberts with thanks to my friend the late Jay Davis for his language assistance.
1 Prime7 interview with Leonie Morcome, viewed 15 September 2020, https://www.facebook.com/Prime7NewsNorthCoast/videos/2426817517569811
2 Denis Byrne and Maria Nugent, Mapping Attachment: A spatial approach to Aboriginal post-contact heritage, Department of Environment and Conservation: 2004, p. 87-89.
3 Mapping Attachment, p. 87.
4 Manning River Times, 11 November 2019, https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/6484568/scenes-of-near-disaster-at-old-bar-and-wallabi-point/
6 Joedie Lawler, CEO of Purfleet Taree Local Aboriginal Land Council speaking on ‘The Drum: Bushfire special’, viewed 15 September 2020, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-11/the-drum:-bushfire-special/11790726?nw=0