A Martuwarra Serpent stirs in its sleep…

Enduring creation stories in a time of crisis

Featured in

  • Published 20230502
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-83-2
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

AN ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIAN who is a Nyikina woman, and a man and a woman from European backgrounds – all writers and cultural theorists – ponder the meaning and power of a River that has flowed for thousands of years, in northern Western Australia’s Kimberley. We ponder and share understandings about Australia as a colonised nation, the permeable boundaries between non-­fiction and fiction and the interconnected contemporaneous qualities of culture, people, history and the environment. Still thinking, worrying and talking about Martuwarra, regularly known and mapped as the Fitzroy River, Anne Wagaba Poelina tells how well she knows the River from Nyikina stories, experience, cultural life and knowledge handed down to her from family and past generations. Each of us conversationally and experientially understands that stories will always be transferred to those learning about Martuwarra from Wagaba and other Aboriginal people in the Kimberley’s Fitzroy Valley with deep-­time connections to the River. Each of us also knows from individual learning and collaborative research that the realism of the River’s creation and its life-­giving qualities are meant to be for all human and interrelated life. 

Wagaba remembers the day she got a message from senior Ngarinyin Elder and a man of high degree, Paddy Nyawarra, to come to the Mowanjum Community near the port town of Derby, to meet with him, and from this time she speaks to the true story he relayed.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

About the author

Anne Poelina

Professor Anne Poelina is a Kimberley, Nyikina Warrwa Indigenous woman, andCo- Chair of Indigenous Studies at the Nulungu Research Institute, University of Notre Dame,...

More from this edition


PoetryThere are many ways to carry a story. My father smothered his stories with bravado. Here he is, laughing at the sea drenching him on the deck.

Once upon a self

Non-fictionFor Plato, most notably, drama and poetry were to be regarded with intense moral and political suspicion: they made malevolent characters intelligible to their audiences; they use up our real moral sentiments by arousing them for fictional characters; and by depicting certain traits and tropes they risked seducing audiences into acting them out themselves.

Adhi danalpothayapa

Non-fictionFor all the clans on Saibai, both migrations were distressing, uprooting families from their homelands where they had lived for thousands of years. Nevertheless, knowledge produced from these migrations has been embedded in stories chronicling the changing climate, and shared throughout the generations. A strong sense of pride is conveyed when recounting these narratives of adaption and resilience. Story is the key because the wisdom is in the story.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.