Jim Low - singer/songwriter


My wife and I recently visited Coonabarabran and Binnaway in central New South Wales. In the late afternoon of our second day, a brochure about self drive nature trails around the Binnaway area resulted in our returning to Coonabarabran along the red dirt Bourke and Halls Road. We were looking for a natural spring that flowed across the road. The area apparently had been an important place for the local indigenous people and was a corroboree ground.

A more picturesque and reflective location you would be hard pushed to discover. The colours of the country side became acutely focused in the wash from the late afternoon sunlight. The constant sound of the spring water could be heard gurgling into a hollow between the sandstone, to emerge mysteriously in a still expanse of water below. Indentations in the sand betrayed the recent pathway of a snake of reasonable girth. Random marks left where possible tools were sharpened and strange shapes depicted on the rock transported us back to another time.

Since our visit I have been thinking about the spring and what made it so important to the Aboriginal people. The life giving importance of the spring water and its attraction for animals were evident. But what sacred or significant event could have taken place there?

Coincidentally, I began reading Bob Randall’s autobiography “Songman: the Story of an Aboriginal Elder”. Its opening chapters provided me with more food for thought. I began to ask more questions. What ancestor being passed that way and what did it do there? Was it a place of ancestral creation and was it because of this that it had significance for the Aboriginal people? Did the ancestor being stay there and did the Aboriginal people believe it was responsible for the spring’s existence? Was it still believed to be in the land or in the water? Was the snake trail we saw evidence that the ancestral being could have been a spirit snake?

For a ceremony to be held there, something significant must have taken place. As a sacred site, there was a responsibility imposed on indigenous people to take great care of the place. Believing the spring to be on a Dreaming track or song line, the road with its causeway could be viewed as a form of desecration. Driving our car over the roadway could also be judged in the same way.

[see more photographs in the Gallery]

This place would have had its own story, its song, its dance and painting and would have been believed by the Aboriginal people to possess the power to cause change. I thought again of the appropriateness of Judith Wright’s poem “The Bora Ring” for this place of significance.

The song is gone; the dance
is secret with the dancers in the earth
the ritual useless, and the tribal story
lost in an alien tale.

20 November 2008


This is a place of significance

This is a place of significance
None of us came here by chance.
What ancestral being passed this way?
What happened here on a Dreamtime day?

Did the spring explode from the Earth,
Gushing upwards for all its worth?
Was that the reason for ceremony?
For I know about a corroboree.

This is a place of significance
None of us came here by chance.
We followed the dusty Bourke and Hall Road
Across the causeway our tyre treads showed.

What song line played its way through here?
What Dreaming ancestor did appear?
Was it a snake whose mark we see?
Is that why there was a corroboree?

This is a place of significance
None of us came here by chance.
Have our tyre tracks caused you pain,
Opened up old wounds again?

Entrusted to treat this place with care
Our photos captured the beauty there
The faded lines beside the spring
A sharpening groove so the axe would ring.

This is a place of significance
None of us came here by chance.
Here the life force can be found
In the water’s constant sound.

© Jim Low
November 2008