Goolay-Yali the Pelican

At one time the Daens [blackfellas] had no fishing nets. Goolay-Yali the pelican, a great wirinun [clever man] was the first seen with a net. Where he kept it remained a mystery for a long time. Goolay-Yali would send his children to fetch special sticks of eurah [a drooping shrub growing on banks of creeks] to hold the net on with. When the children returned Goolay-Yali would have a big fishing net ten or twelve feet long and four or five feet wide spread out on the ground.

The tribe always puzzled over the question as to how and where Goolay-Yali had obtained this valuable net and where he kept it. So one day the children thought that when they were sent to fetch the eurah sticks, some of them would hide and watch where their father did keep his net. When Goolay-Yali thought his children were safely out of sight, he began to twist his neck about and wriggle as if in great pain. He gave a violent wriggle, contorting himself until his neck seemed to stretch to an immense length. The children were too frightened at his appearance to move their eyes fixed on their father who gave another convulsive movement and then to their amazement, out through his mouth be brought forth the fishing net.. The children were too excited at their discovery and talked much about it and soon the secret hiding place of the net was no longer.

Goolay-Yali decided it was now time to show them how to make the net. They were to strip off noonga [kurrajong] bark, take off the hard outside part, then chew the softer part and work it into twine with which to make the nets. He himself, he said, only swallowed the fibre and it worked itself up into a net inside him; but that was because he was a great wirinun; others could not do so.

After that, all the tribes made fishing nets but only the tribe of Goolay-Yali could work the fibre inside them into nets; which the pelicans do to this day, so the Daens say!!

The Daens tell you that if you watch the Goolay-Yali or pelicans fishing, you will see that they do not dip their beaks straight down as do other fish catching birds. The pelicans put their heads sideways and then dip their long pouched bills as if they were going to draw a net. Into these pouches go the fish they catch and then down into their nets which they still carry inside them, though they never bring them out as in the days of Goolay-Yali, the great fishing wirinun.

Goolay-Yali gave all his tribe the deep pouches which hang on their long yellow bills so that they might use them instead of the net which each carries inside him., Though these are very small compared to the first net of Goolay-Yali; but big enough to let the tribe still bear his name, which means "one having at net".

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