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Boo'kerrikin

The story of the Sisters Boo'kerrikin and how to distinguish between local wattle plants, by artist Joe Hurst.

This story depicts a man called 'Bulung', represented by the central rock, who devoted his life to finding the physical difference between the Wattle Sisters, represented by the three pillars. All his attempts, however, failed. The secret of the Sisters' difference is told in the ceramic tiles around the pillars.

A long, long time ago there lived three sisters who looked so alike that only their mother could tell them apart. For that reason, the three women were all called Boo'kerrikin, and were referred to by friends and clan members as the sisters Boo'kerrikin.  

The sisters Boo'kerrikin were very kind. They gathered food and water for children and for the old and sick. They made sweet treats for children to eat while they were travelling and provided special food to the old and sick to make them feel better. 

The sisters were very beautiful with green eyes and golden hair and soft, dark skin. They were much sought after as brides by young men from all over this Land. Suitor after suitor brought gifts to one or the other of the sisters to win their favour, but would return to their clan, disappointed and confused. 

The sisters’ fame spread and soon strangers came from far and wide to woo them. Regardless of how attractive the men were, the sisters refused them all. 

You see, the sisters Boo'kerrikin had made a pact with each other; they would only marry the man who could tell the difference between them. 

On several occasions, a suitor would approach their mother in the hope that she would divulge their secret difference. Their mother would just smile politely and say, “Only a mother can tell the difference”. 

One day, a tall handsome man named Bulung arrived at the camp where the mother of the sisters Boo'kerrikin was busy tending to daily tasks. Bulung approached the mother and laid many beautiful gifts before her. The gifts were coolamons (carrying baskets) of many shapes and sizes, decorated with all the colours of the rainbow; smooth, hard gunni (digging sticks) and brightly coloured gulima (burls). 



Bulung gave the mother a cloak made of hundreds of the softest possum skins to wear when she was cold or in the rain. She could also use it to carry her belongings. The mother of the sisters Boo'kerrikin was sorely tempted to take his gifts, but she was very suspicious of this handsome man. 

“What do I have to give you so I may accept these gifts with honour?” she asked. 

Bulung considered himself to be very clever. He wanted the fame of solving the puzzle of the three sisters and of having one of the sisters as his wife. 

“I want nothing from you in return”, he replied, knowing that if she accepted his gifts, she was duty bound to offer him hospitality for as long as he wished. 

The mother studied Bulung long and hard. Then, she reached forward and drew the cloak about her shoulders. It had been a long time since she had a man at her campfire to perform the chores that only a man can do. Bulung knew that now he would have a chance to study the sisters and learn how to tell them apart. He sat down by the fire, smiling. He would be famous throughout the land. 

When the sisters returned to the camp and saw the beautiful cloak their mother was wearing, they cried out with delight, expressing the wish that one day, they too, would each have a similar cloak.  



That night, while Bulung slept, the mother told her three daughters of her suspicions about him. The sisters were quite happy because, while Bulung was staying in their camp, other would-be suitors would not bother them. Bulung stayed with the sisters Boo'kerrikin for many, many years. He hunted animals for them and for the people they helped during his stay. 

He made the sisters beautiful cloaks of feathers and of fur and he carried their implements for them when they moved camp. All the while he watched the sisters closely trying to discover their secret. 

With Bulung helping them, the kindly sisters were able to look after more and more orphaned or lost children and many, many more sick and old people. Many years passed and still Bulung worked hard, helping the sisters. 

He mourned with them when their mother died. He shared their joy the children they invited into their camp grew to adulthood, selected a bride or a husband and left the camp to make their own lives. 

When the three sisters died of old age, their kindness was recognised by the Spirit Woman who turned them into trees; trees with flowers as golden as their hair and leaves as green as their eyes. Poor Bulung died of loneliness in the shade of the three trees. He never discovered their secret difference. 

You see, although the sisters had green eyes, they each were a different colour of green. 

Now, you will find the Boo’kerrikin growing right throughout D’harawal providing food for the old and sick and sweet treats for children. 

Even now, it is difficult to tell the sisters Boo'kerrikin apart, as their leaves are each a different colour of green. 

Poor Bulung never ever learned the lesson that no matter how clever you may think you are, there will always be people who can outwit you when they work together. 

© 2002. Frances Bodkin. 

Intellectual Property of the Bodkin/Andrews clans of the D’harawal Peoples.