WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The National Museum of Australia tells history through objects and personal stories. Objects selected by the Museum sometimes have a direct association with key people in the stories. Sometimes, when it is no longer possible to identify items with a direct connection, objects are selected 'of the type' that was common at the time.
Fanny Balbuk's story is told here through the key items of a wanna (digging stick), a turtle, swan eggs, a gilgie (fresh water crayfish), a booka (kangaroo cloak) and a basket.
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Noongar material culture
Karim Khan (a Wiillman and Kaneang man) wearing a booka (winter booka) holding a miro (spear thrower) and Phoebe Houghton (a Wiillman woman) dressed in a cloak holding a dowak (throwing stick). Image courtesy Ken Ninyette.
Ken Ninyette, a Wiilman man from Noongar country and the chairperson of the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC), assisted the National Museum in 2008 to acquire a booka (kangaroo cloak) for the Museum's collection. This image shows two cloaks being worn.
We, the Noongar people consisting of 14 individual groups, still attempt to carry on the customs and rituals performed by our ancestors to strengthen our cultural/heritage connections to country (the land). We leave our imprints on contemporary materials to respect our traditional practices, however our handprints can still be seen across Noongar country today. (Ken Ninyette, 2008)
Wanna (digging stick)
Wanna (digging stick) c.1890s, Ivan Webster collection, Western Australian Museum. Photo: Lannon Harley.
In the past a wanna (digging stick) was used to dig for root vegetables and small animals. It is known as a female symbol and, as well as representing women's work in the sphere of food-collecting, it could also be used as a fighting stick. For Fanny Balbuk it became an emblem of resistance to white occupation:
When a house was built in the way, she broke its fence-palings with her digging stick and charged up the step and through the rooms. (Daisy Bates, 1938)
Long-necked turtle, 2008, National Museum of Australia. Photo: Elizabeth Bright.
Black swan eggs
Black swan eggs, Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO. Photo: Elizabeth Bright.
Gilgie (freshwater crayfish)
Gilgie (freshwater crayfish). Photo: Elizabeth Bright.
Gilgies (Cherax quinquecarinatus) are freshwater crayfish endemic to southwest Western Australia, and are one of the foods that Fanny Balbuk used to catch. Around 10 to 12cm long, 'gilgie' is a Noongar word that has been adopted into English. These crustaceans, and other coastal resources such as fish, continue to have nutritional and cultural importance.
Basket, meadow grass and flax, by Sharyn Egan 2008. Photo: George Serras.