Skip to main content

Dreamtime stories

The Rainbow Serpent

Many Aboriginal creation stories describe the Rainbow Serpent as the creator or rivers, streams and water holes. Known by many names, the serpent moved across the land, carving the landscape with its long and powerful body. The Rainbow Serpent now moves into the river from its resting places in nearby water holes and billabongs to cleanse the rivers and its people.

Creation of the River Murray

One of the main dreamtime stories telling of the creation of the River Murray is that of Ngurunderi, the all powerful ancestor of the Ngarrindjeri people. It was Ngurunderi's long journey to the Coorong that created the Murray River and its landscape.

Areial view of Murray river
Areial view of Murray river Photo by Peter Solness

While there are several different recounts of Ngurunderi's story, the common theme is his long chase of the Murray Cod (Ponde), towards the Murray Mouth. As Ponde swam to escape Ngurunderi's spear, the wide sweeps of his tail widened the river and created its bends and turns. At last the giant fish arrived at Lake Alexandrina, where it floundered about in the shallows.

With the help of Nepele (the brother of Ngurunderi's wives), Ponde was speared in the Lake. Ngurunderi divided the fish with his stone knife and created a new species of fish from each piece.

Looking for more information?

Aboriginal communities
A Yarn on the River: Getting Aboriginal Voices into the Basin Plan
People of the Murray River – Aboriginal communities
Australian Aboriginal Stories
About the Basin
Basin education
River country spirit ceremony (Murrundi Ruwe Pangari Ringbalin) video

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
e-mail icon