Tag Archives: australia

Australian Bunyip Legend

Background Information: 

The informant was born and raised in Australia but has roots in Czechia. She is describing her childhood in Sydney.

Main Content: 

ME: Hey, would you mind telling me about the Bunyip? 

SP: Yeah, sooo the Bunyip is an Australian story that came from indigenous Australian people, and it was like I think a way that our parents got us to stay away from the water when we were little, to not like wander near rivers and ponds and like dams and billabongs and like drown. So if it was like if you go too close to the water the Bunyip, which is a really scary creature who lives in the bottom of the dam, will come out and grab you and you will disappear into the water forever. 

ME: So where did you find out about the Bunyip? 

SP: I think the Bunyip came from my parents… telling me not to go near the water, but all of my memories from it are from my grandparents because their farm had this really scary billabong, which is like a mini-lake, and it looked like really dark and scary and I just remember my grandma telling me not to go to close otherwise the Bunyip would get ya. 

Context: 

This interview happened in-person at my apartment.  

Thoughts: 

A classic example of a legend that is trying to teach children to stay away from dangerous things. The informant told me that especially in Australia, there are a lot of waterways that kids could drown in, as well as dangerous animals that often live in the waterways. Scaring children that there is a dangerous monster that lives in the water is much more effective way to get them to stay away than actually telling them the truth. There are plenty of stories like this, such as the Inuit tale of the Qallupilluit, which talks of a monster who kidnaps children who wander out onto frozen ice in the Arctic Ocean. To learn more about this story, read here: “Inuit Stories – Qallupilluit.” Tia and Piujuq, 14 Mar. 2019, https://tiaandpiujuq.com/qalluipilluit/. For a different account of the Bunyip legend, read here: Pfeifle, Tess. “The Bunyip.” Astonishing Legends, Astonishing Legends, 15 Feb. 2018, https://www.astonishinglegends.com/astonishing-legends/2018/2/15/the-bunyip. 

Dropbear

Context:

PH is a 20 year-old student who lives in San Diego, California. She learned about the folk creature of the dropbear through her friend who is from Australia. She told me about it in an interview.

Text:

PH: my Australian friend tried to convince any non-Australian person she met about the existence of dropbears. This one is quite famous, I already knew about it. The fact that it’s so famous though made it easier to convince people because you can google dropbears and there’s a wikipedia page and lots of pictures so it seems legit. The pictures are all faked. The wikipedia page is actually about dropbears as folklore but at first glance it just looks real. Dropbears are koalas except carnivorous and vicious with very pointy teeth, they drop out of trees and attack people. Honestly almost every time my friend mentioned them to people she convinced them of their existence. It was always fun watching her casually do it to people. When we ran into other Australians she would mention dropbears and they would laugh and keep up the ruse.

Thoughts:

The legend of the dropbear plays into the exported national image of Australia as a land full of wild and strange creatures. People believe the informant’s friend when she tells them about dropbears because they don’t know any better, they assume that it’s true because they know that “there’s a lot of weird animals in Australia.” The informant’s Australian friend clearly takes joy in exploiting this popular representation of Australia and tries to convince people of something that is totally made up. It is something, according to this informant, that Australians seem to be “in on.” They know better but they like to perpetuate belief in the legend.

The idea of the dropbear, a hidden, dangerous creature that descends upon the unsuspecting walker at any moment, reveals anxiety about the unknown creatures in the woods. The jungle is a place of rich and dense biodiversity, and a lot of creatures can be dangerous. This legend reflects the anxiety of facing them. Moreover, foreigners’ gullibility with respect to the dropbear reflects the anxiety about encountering a national other, one characterized by wildness, the jungle, and primitivity. The Australian telling the story then stands in for this other, from a far off and unfamiliar land. The story also gives its tellers some national pride in being Australians.

ANZAC day

Main Piece

I know it from the Australian perspective. So ANZAC day is a day for both Australia and New Zealand, but I know Australians celebrate it this way. You take a pause in the morning–well we celebrated it then–to remember the fallen soldiers. It’s for the first World War. It’s supposed to be everyone, but it’s when they landed in Gallipoli, which I think is in Turky or somewhere in the Middle East, and a bunch of people died. It’s similar to American memorial day. It’s like the whole country stops, and it’s like you have a toast to them. We did it with orange juice. Then, the rest of the day, you celebrate. I think the morning toast is called the Dawn Service to commemorate the attack. They were slaughtered.

Background/Context: This was told to me by my father. He lived in Australia in ’84 for one year when he was 15 years old with his older brothers, who were high school and college-aged. There were no parents, and they were not used to being such a white country as Australia. My dad is Filipino, but he spent most of his childhood in Papua New Guinea.

Thoughts/Analysis:

After visiting Australia myself, I think in part this is such a big tradition because this was the first time Australia sent large numbers to fight in far away shores. They didn’t have to, which made it even more devestating. WWI was awful, and this is one of the lasting memories. Like my dad said, it reminds me of Memorial day, but it seems more emotional.

Eye Contact

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I heard this when I was in Australia for the summer. It was just before junior year, I think…yeah, that sounds right, but anyway I was at a party kind of near Melbourne and these guys were pouring shots. So I took one and was about to take it and this one guy like grabbed my wrist and was like ‘Wait! Stop! We all need to make eye contact otherwise we’ll all have bad sex for seven years!’ Like that thing with breaking the mirror or something, you know? So we all made eye contact and took the shots and that was that. Weirdly I heard that a ton in Australia, like in Sydney and Cairns and all over. Not just from guys either, like from girls I made friends with and everything. It wasn’t just some gross dude…like, being gross, or whatever (laughter)  I’ve done it ever since. I mean, obviously it’s probably not a real thing, but like, why risk it? (laughter).”

Thoughts:

It seems appropriate that this superstition is prominent amongst young people, a demographic which in all likelihood sees a close connection between sex and alcohol. The ritual itself invokes a certain intimacy; one must look into their companion’s eyes, “the gateway to the soul” before consuming alcohol with them. Since the superstition is present amongst both groups of single-sex, heterosexual friends and mixed-gender social groups, it may not necessarily have much to do with sexual intercourse; the eye contact and intimacy may speak more to the idea that drinking is a social activity and means through which people can develop new relationships.

ANZAC Day

“ANZAC Day is our Australian day where we acknowledge, um, the sacrifice, I guess, of the Australian soldiers in both World War I and World War II. Um, it takes place on the 25th of April every year. Um… It kind of, it came from- Well, ANZAC stands for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp. And so ANZAC was like the nickname given to like the soldiers who went over to fight in both world wars, but in the first world war, it’s like this really long story about how, um, the Australians got kind of called in to kind of, um, take the heat off another country, I think it was Britain or something. Um, got called in to like take the heat off them and distract the enemy for a bit, but they ended up walking into basically a slaughter. They kind of just off-loaded the boats, they landed, and they all got killed. Like, we learned about this in, like, primary school and high school but like, it’s that kind of thing where like, you learn about it so much that you kind of just tune it out. I’ve never learned the specifics, but like, thousands died, and like… It’s remembered in, like, Australian culture because it was like the first time. It was in the first world war. It was the first time that Australia kind of like proved itself I guess, in a way? Australian soldiers went over there and they kind of um… We were a newly formed nation at the time, so we’d only been on our own, like, independent for about 18 years at that point, and like, we hadn’t really proved ourselves. So we went over there and even though, like, hundreds of men got slaughtered, it’s kind of remembered as a sign of like Australia kind of asserting itself as a strong nation. So like as people who will, um, kind of tough it out, I guess, and that’s kind of what ANZAC Day has come to mean for Australians every year. So the tradition is that on the 25th of April every year, um, not every Australian does it, but like, it’s kind of, um, a lot of Australians do, so I would say like 50% would observe the day, but like everybody acknowledges it, everybody knows what the 25th of April is, but I would say around 50%, 60% get actively involved in the day. I personally do. My family, not all my family does, but me and my mum do. We get up really early, at like 4AM or 5AM and we go to what we call a dawn service, which is where you go to your local suburb, I guess, your city center, your county. So every suburb has kind of like a monument where it has on it inscribed all the names of the men who died during the ways from your suburb. So all the local men who enlisted and died during service are written on the wall, and at the dawn service there’s like, literally thousands of people from your suburb. They gather and usually do an hour-long service where it’s people from like the army, the air force, and the navy, all come to be like representatives of the ANZACS. They also have ex-service men. People, anyone who’s still alive from the first or second world war come as honorary guests. Descendants of the original ANZACS come if they are still alive or still live around here. It’s a nice service. They have speeches and prayers from the different denominations. And they have singing, like some songs usually about God, but just some songs that they usually say were, like, sung on the battlefield. And one of the most important parts of the dawn service for all Australians, and even if you don’t go to the dawn service, you know the sound of, it’s like this horn that they play. It’s a trumpet. It was like the trumpet that they played on the battlefield. It was like the trumpet that roused them to battle and told them it was time to fight. But also it was the horn that they played when the fight was over and basically everyone was dead and they called a retreat, so like, it’s kind of the sound of this horn that signals the start and the end of the dawn service like the one that signaled the end of the fight on the 25th of April, which was when all the men died. It’s usually like a pretty moving service, I guess. A lot of people, like, sing along and join in prayer. Most will also, like, shed a few tears during prayers or speeches because like the sacrifice that the men made on the battlefield made us able to keep Australia as an independent nation, free from enemies invading, I guess.”

 

This was a very solemn piece to collect. The source spoke about ANZAC Day with a lot of respect. She knew a lot of the history and wanted to pay respect to the people it honors. It’s a great idea, I think, much like our Veteran’s Day. I feel like ANZAC Day is far more personal than Veteran’s Day, though. Americans don’t particularly do anything on Veteran’s Day, where as it seems Australians have organized a lot to do on this day. They must have a different kind of respect for their armed forces. They also have far less people in their country, so that might be why it’s more personal. Whereas for us, we have thousands of veterans. It’s not quite the same. We also sort of treat it as just a day off of work or school rather than a day that’s actually dedicated to a certain group of people.