Susan Island’s Dreamtime history on display
AS WATER flowed through the valley, creating the Clarence River on its way to the ocean, a very old Aboriginal woman stood in its path.
The water moved around her on either side, and where she once stood is now known as Susan Island.
The dreamtime story of how Dirrangun unwittingly created the Clarence River and its islands is well-known among the Clarence Valley's Aboriginal communities.
Tales of her influence have been told among the Bundjalung and Githavul people for generations.
Now they can be read at Memorial Park, thanks to the installation of new information panels on Susan Island which aim to raise awareness of its cultural and natural values.
The panels also tell of the deep spiritual significance the site holds for Aboriginal women, a group of whom are acknowledged as the island's local custodians, and of its European history.
Aunty Irene Daley, Aunty Robyne Bancroft and her daughter Danielle Gorogo have been involved in developing the content, artwork and design of the panels.
Mrs Daley said she learnt a lot about the purpose of the island from her elders, and felt it was important to pass down that knowledge to her grandchildren and younger generations.
"When you get to a certain age you start getting told a lot of stuff," she said.
The women used to travel back and forwards in little canoes to sit, wash, fish and hunt and no doubt get both sides - Grafton and South Grafton - together. "It was a very big hive of activity back in traditional times. It is a very special place and it's just nice to let all girls know just how important the island is to all women."
National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Gina Hart said the project, part of 'Reconnecting with Nyami Julgaa' (which means 'woman's island'), was funded as part of an Aboriginal Parks Partnership Grant.
NPWS has been working with the Nyami Julgaa group to encourage and maintain their cultural connections to the island by organising regular boat trips for school students and the community.
The project had been years in the making.
"With the help of Gina it's been a wonderful journey up until we got these placards now in Memorial Park," Mrs Daley said.