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31°42’06” South 152°40’46” East

James Cook, 12 May 1770:

As these hills bore some resemblence to each other we call’d them the Three Brothers.

Three Brothers Mountains 03:43

Passing what is now known as the mid-north coast of New South Wales, James Cook thought he named these mountains the Three Brothers. He did not know the Birrbay (Biripi) people had called these mountains the Three Brothers — Dooragan, Mooragan and Booragan — for millennia. Produced by the ABC in partnership with the National Museum of Australia. View transcript

Jaycent Davis, Birrbay:

Yiladara might have been whispering to him [Cook] … ‘Three Brothers, brother’.  And he just went — they look like three brothers. Sometimes the earth does speak to you.

Fertile lands

These three mountains dominate the coastal hinterland from Taree in the south to Port Macquarie in the north. Dooragan is also called North Brother. Booragan is South Brother. In between is Mooragan, or Middle Brother. For Birrbay (Biripi) people the three mountains have enduring cultural significance and are connected through storytelling.

Colour photo of a bay with a beach and mountains in the background.
Dooragan, Mooragan, Booragan — Three Brothers Mountains

When Joseph Banks caught sight of the thickly forested mountains he described ‘a great shew of fertility’. Logging has been a significant industry in the region since European settlement. That changed when Dooragan National Park was declared in 1997, followed by Middle Brother National Park in 1999.

Portrait of an elderly woman with a broad smile. - click to view larger image
Aunty Wilma Moran, 2019

‘A’ for Aboriginal

Like Indigenous Australians from many parts of the continent, Birrbay people have experienced a history of inequality.

Aunty Wilma Moran, Birrbay Elder:

I was born on the verandah of the Kempsey Hospital because our parents weren’t allowed to have children inside the wards.

Wilma Moran was born Kempsey Hopsital’s ‘Aboriginal section’ in 1948. Everything — every sheet, teaspoon and utensil — was marked with an ‘A’.

The hospital continued to segregate Aboriginal people until a new hospital opened in 1964. For elders, memories of segregation linger.

A childhood unrecorded

Wilma has no photographs of herself as a child. Like many Aboriginal families of the time, her family did not own a camera.

One language, many voices

The Ngarrgan Mirriiyn (Morning Star) choir grew out of the Djiyagan Dhanbaan (Strong Sister) group, which brings together Aboriginal women in the Port Macquarie area. The group shares language through singing — a powerful way to revive culture.

The choir writes and sings songs in the Gathang language for audiences on the north coast.

Singing on Country 04:28

Thanks to Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council. View transcript

We are strong

This animation tells the story of pre and post European settlement in Birpai country, with Aboriginal and early European perspectives. It features paper-cut drawings by students from Westport Public School in Port Macquarie.

Birpai Barray 04:36

Produced by ABC Open. View transcript

Education resources

These resources cater for students in Years 3 to 6 and all activities align with the Australian Curriculum. Years 3 and 4 align with the history content and Years 3 to 6 align with the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.

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