Long ago back in the Dreamtime there was a very beautiful girl called Brolga. She was very young and the best dancer in the whole land as her dancing was so graceful and her movements so special. Now Brolga hadn't always been such a good dancer. When she was a very little girl she used to get up very early in the morning and creep out of the gunyah and onto the plains around her camp. Once there she would practice swooshing her arms like the Pelican, parading like the Emu and whirling like the wind. But Brolga didn't just do the old dances. She liked to make up new ones about the trees and the wind, dances about the Spirits and the animals. Soon 's dances became so good that other tribes would come from far away just to watch Brolga dance her beautiful dances.

One day, Brolga went off by herself to dance out onto the dry red plain near her favourite tree, a big old coolibah tree. Brolga began to dance in its shade moving with the shadow of the old tree's branches. As little puffs of dust rose from her feet, an evil Spirit, Waiwera looked down from his home in the Milky Way and saw Brolga. She was the most graceful and beautiful girl he had ever seen. Waiwera decided Brolga must be his so he quickly spun himself into a whirlwind, a willy-willy and flew down onto the plain. As the wind came closer to Brolga it made a sudden great roaring sound and enclosed her. Brolga was swept off her feet and taken away.

When Brolga's tribe discovered she was missing, they went looking for her but the wind had covered her tracks. They found the old coolibah tree and a path where the willy-willy had been and decided to follow it. For several days they followed the path of the willy-willy until they came to a hill overlooking a small plain. There below they saw the evil Spirit, Waiwera and his captive Brolga. The whole tribe rushed down hurling their spears and boomerangs. Realising that he couldn't escape with Brolga decided that no one would have her. Waiwera swirled around her and just as the tribe reached her, she vanished.

Brolga's tribe watched as the willy-willy wound its way slowly up into the sky. On the spot where it had been there now stood a big old coolibah tree but there was no sign of Brolga. As they stood near the tree that Waiwera had left, a beautiful tall grey bird appeared from behind the tree. The bird began to stretch its wings and instead of flying away it began to dance making the same graceful moves that Brolga used to make. The bird danced taking long, hopping steps and floating on its graceful wings. It pranced slowly towards them and with one last graceful bound, flew up into the air and away!

Then they all knew that the evil Spirit, Waiwera had changed Brolga into a bird. A bird the Aboriginals, from that day onwards, have always called the brolga.

Michael J Connolly
Munda-gutta Kulliwari
© Dreamtime Kullilla-Art