Wilpena Pound Dreamtime Story

Yurlu Ngukandanha – the Kingfisher Story


Yurlu, the Kingfisher, decided to go south for a ceremony. On the way he made a big fire, a sign that he was coming. The remains of that fire is the big heap of coal still at Leigh Creek today.


As Yurlu was travelling, there were also two big Akurras (Dreamtime Serpents) going south. Yurlu continued down the valley still making smoke, leaving coal behind him. The two serpents also went on southwards and entered the Pound through Edeowie Gorge and camped at a large waterhole.


That night some people in the Pound were holding a ceremony. When they looked into the sky at the stars to see if it was time to start, the stars they saw were actually the eyes of the two Akurras.


The male Akurra told his mate to go to the south-west, while he went north-east to surround the people. When Yurlu reached Mount Abrupt he stopped and looked into the Pound. He could hear the sound of the ceremony. He threw a firestick into the air; it turned into the red star, Mars.


While this was going on, the two Akurras came up on each side of the ceremonial ground and ate up all the people except two initiates and Yurlu.


St Mary Peak is the head of the male Akurra and Beatrice Hill is the head of the female serpent, both watching the flight of the initiates. Their bodies form the two sides of the Pound.

Ian wishes to acknowledge the Adnyamathanha people of the northern Flinders Ranges as the owners and custodians of the Kingfisher Dreaming and the Yurlu Ngukandanha story, and to express his respect for their heritage and culture.

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2 Responses to Wilpena Pound Dreamtime Story

  1. Hellen Morgan-Harris says:

    Hi Ian,

    I am writing a book about Outback Australia and I was hoping I could use Yurlu Ngukandanha – the Kingfisher Story. You would be fully credited, naturally.

    Many thanks,

    Hellen Morgan-Harris

  2. Ian says:

    Hi, Hellen.

    Thank you for making contact.

    The Kingfisher Dreaming belongs to the Adnyamathanha people of the northern Flinders Ranges. Several versions are in the public domain, including one on an interpretative sign at Huck’s Lookout in the Flinders Ranges. I also reproduce that version below for your information. You are welcome to use the version that appears on my web site if you wish, but I’d rather not be credited, because I am not the owner of the original story and I would not want to risk giving the impression of expropriating Aboriginal culture. You might wish instead to acknowledge the Adnyamathanha people as the custodians of the original story.

    Regards, Ian


    Another version of the Kingfisher story, published on the sign at Huck’s Lookout:

    “Yurlu the kingfisher – The Dreaming journey of Yurlu the old kingfisher man to Ikara (Wilpena Pound)
    Yurlu journeyed south from his home at Karkalpunha (Termination Hill) to attend an important malkada (corroboree and initiation ceremony) at Ikara.
    On the way, Yurlu made a big signal fire. The smoke was a sign that he was on his way to the ceremony. His fire created the coal at Leigh Creek and at other places where he lit fires on the way.
    At the same time two Akurra (powerful Dreaming serpents) set out from Arrunha Akurra Awl (now covered by Aroona Dam) to travel south to Ikara. The Akurra Valadupa (male and female) entered Ikara through Vira Warldu (Edeowie Gap) and camped at Akurra Awl, a large waterhole.
    The people looked up and saw bright stars rising. They took this as a sign to start the ceremony. They didn’t realise that the stars were actually the eyes of the Akurra looking down at them.
    When Yurlu the kingfisher arrived, the ceremony was well under way. Yurlu snatched the firestick from Walha the turkey and threw it up into the sky. This stick turned into the red star Wildu (Mars). The two Akurra came up on either side of the ceremonial ground in whirlwinds and caught and ate the people.
    Only four escaped – the two initiates (Vardnapa ~ the new Vardnapa, and Yakamburu ~ the new Wilyaru), Walha the turkey and Yurlu the kingfisher.
    Walha and Yurlu flew off south and the two initiates fled eastwards, watched by the Akurra. The bodies of the two Akurra form the sides of Wilpena Pound.”

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