Stories of connection to country from Wanjuru-Yidinjii Elder Andrew Miller

Updated: Mar 21

Wanjuru had significant connection to country relationships through ‘jaban’ the freshwater eel and ‘ganyarr’ the saltwater crocodile.


The story of ‘jaban’ signifies Wanjuru’s custodial responsibility to care for country. Jaban is the ‘keeper of water’, who turned from a man into the freshwater eel after he used Babinda Creek to quickly descend the mountain to explore the floodplain. On reaching the mouth of the Russell River, the man climbed out of the water where he turned into what is now named Tom’s rock. Wanjuru’s protection of jaban means caring for the waterways which, as the apex predator in upper reaches of the catchment, resulted in healthy aquatic ecosystems for all other species and plentiful supply of food for Wanjuru. Andrew Miller explains “Jaban keeps water clean for everything – drinking water and a healthy system”.


Wanjuru’s management of Eubenangee Swamp, which provided a rich hunting and fishing ground within the catchment, revolved around ganyarr and the wet and dry seasons. Ganyarr permanently reside in Eubenangee but are more active during breeding that occurs in the wet season. At this time of year, ganyarr also make their way via the Russell River to Eubenangee, hunting Barramundi and other fishes that migrate upstream to complete their annual breeding cycle in fresh water.


Wanjuru share Eubenangee with ganyarr during the relative safety of the dry season. Wanjuru had camping grounds, a fighting ground where differences were settled and trading undertaken, and a burial site. They burnt the grasslands to facilitate growth of fresh shoots to attract wallaby, ducks, geese and other animals that Wanjuru hunted and trapped. Eubenangee was also a source of large mud mussels, as evidenced by the shell middens left behind. Today, Eubenangee is a significant palustrine wetland of international ecological significance—it is reputed to be the last remaining association of specific ecological communities (vine forest, grassland, sedge and Melaleuca paperbark swamp forest) occurring on nutrient-rich basaltic alluvium.