Belly cast team visit to a sacred site

From Anna Cater, BE film-maker

For the past six months I’ve been filming with BE’s belly castersĀ  – Jo Davidson and Valerie Quinlin – as they conduct workshops up and down the east coast. We are making short documentaries about the belly casting projects in Brisbane, Nambucca, Forster and Moree. The young mums and the midwives who BE are working with in Brisbane took us to the Nungeena Aboriginal Corporation for Women’s Business that operates from a house at Mt Beerwah in the Glasshouse Mountains.

Elder Auntie Val Didsman told us the story of how the mountains were formed, with special reference to Mt Beerwah, the mother mountain that looks pregnant when viewed from a certain angle.

“Tibrogargan was the father of all the tribes and Beerwah was his wife, and they had 12 children. One day Tibrogargan couldn’t hear the birds singing, everything was going quiet around him. The waters were rising and he asked his eldest son Coonowrin to help the heavily pregnant Beerwah while he gathered the children. Instead Coonowrin ran off alone and Mum and Dad and the rest of the children were stranded as the waters rose, and it turned them all into mountains.”

“As Coonowrin was running away, Dad threw a wadi at him and broke his neck. Coonowrin is the word for crookneck and that’s how his mountain got its name. And Beerwah is still pregnant, as it takes many years to give birth to a mountain.”

After the story and a delicious bush tucker lunch, we walked to a traditional birthing tree. There’s not much left of it now and I won’t describe its location as the elders are very careful about keeping it private and protected. I wasn’t allowed to film at the tree although Auntie Val did let me record her audio.

The tree is very big, its trunk is a couple of metres in diameter and hollowed out. According to Auntie Val, “they used to dig a hole inside the tree and heat up rocks on the fire. Once the rocks were heated up, they would put them in the bottom of the hole. On top of that went gum leaves and then kangaroo or possum fur which would heat up very well from the hot stones. So that’s where she had her baby within that enclosure in there.”

We’d like to thank the Nalbo people past and present from the Gubbi Gubbi nation for welcoming us to their land.

We’ve nearly finished filming. The Brisbane film is completed. Here’s a short taste.