Dreamtime Meaning

According to First Nations Australians belief, all life as it is today - Human, Animal, Bird and Fish is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships which can be traced to the great spirit ancestors of the Dreamtime. The Dreamtime continues as the "Dreaming" in the spiritual lives of First Nations Australians people today.

The events of the ancient era of creation are enacted in ceremonies and danced in mime form. Song chant incessantly to the accompaniment of the didgeridoo or clap sticks relates the story of events of those early times and brings to the power of the dreaming to bear of life today.

The Dreamtime is the First Nations Peoples way of understanding of the world, of its creation, and its great stories. The Dreamtime is the beginning of knowledge, from which came the laws of existence. For survival, these laws must be observed. During the creation of our world, the ancestors moved across a barren land, hunting, camping, fighting and loving and in doing so shaped a featureless landscape.

Moving from Dreams to actions, the ancestors made the ants, the emus, the crows, the possums, the wallabies, the kangaroos, the lizard, the goanna, the snakes and all the food and plants. They made the sun, the moon and the planets. They made the humans, tribes and clans. Each could transform into the other. A plant could become an animal, an animal a landform, a landform a man or a woman. Everything was created from the same source. Everything was created in our Dreamtime.


As the world took shape and was filled with species and varieties of the ancestral transformations, the ancestors tired and retired into:


the stars and sky



The Dreamtime continues as the "Dreaming" in the spiritual lives of First Nations Australians people today. The events of the ancient era of creation are enacted in ceremonies and danced in mime form. Song chant incessantly to the accompaniment of the didgeridoo or clap sticks relates the story of events of those early times and brings to the power of the dreaming to bear of life today.

Aboriginal Man Playing the Didgeridoo
Aboriginal Man Playing the Didgeridoo

Source: First Nations Australiansart.com.au

Dreamtime Meaning

“Dreamtimes Stories track and weave across this great Southern Land and we respectfully encourage you to learn more about the dreamtime stories from the Elders and First Nation Communities who’s country you live on today”. - Yuandamarra

The 'Dreaming', or the 'Dreamtime', is an oral history of the world and its creation, shared by First Nations Australians and Torres Strait Islander people. Passed down through generations, these stories commonly feature characters who display undesirable behaviour's, and face retribution because of it. In this way, the Dreaming illustrates rules for living and interacting with the natural environment.

The stories may differ from place to place, but they have common features. For example, many genesis narratives feature Ancestral Beings, who created everything - animals, plants, rocks, and land formations - as they moved through the land in human form. They also created a system of relationships between the individual, the land, animals, and other people. The Ancestral Beings are models for human and non-human activity, behaviour, ethics and morality.

These stories display a deep knowledge of country. They contain key information about flora, fauna, and laws to obey in order to survive in micro-environments. During pre-contact days, these stories were an integral and memorable way in which to impart knowledge from one generation to the next to ensure survival.

The Ancestral Beings are often compared to the Greek gods, as they are flawed characters used as negative exemplars. However, while the stories are structurally similar, the Dreaming is not a religion and the Ancestral Beings are not gods.

By displaying less favourable qualities such as greed, violence, and lust, these Ancestral Beings are models of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. In practice, this outline forbidden behaviour's or activities condemned by the First Nations Australians community.


A Dreamtime story can include inanimate objects, as well as Ancestral Beings, animals, insects and flora. For example, food is a common theme in many Dreaming’s, as shown in artworks featuring 'bush tucker' like yams, bush bananas, witchetty grubs, and sugar bags. These dreaming’s often encompass and give context to the natural world through stories of water, stars and specific landmarks. We are delighted to share some stories with you.


At the beginning of the Dreamtime, the earth was flat and dry and empty. There were no trees, no rivers, no animals and no grass. It was a dry and flat land.

One day, Goorialla, the rainbow serpent woke from his sleep and set off to find his tribe. He crossed the land from east to west and north to south, stopping to listen for his people. He crossed every part of the dry, flat land but found nothing. After searching for a long time, he grew tired and lay down to sleep.

The land he lay down to sleep on was not the same land he had set out to search for his people on, though. As he had looked for his people, his big, long body had cut great gouges into the land.

Goorialla lay in the sand all alone until he decided to create more life in the world. He called “Frogs, come out!” and frogs rose out of the ground with their bellies full of the water they stored. He tickled the frogs until the water burst from their mouth and filled the gouges in the land. These gouges made the rivers and streams we see today.

As the water flowed over the land, grass and trees began to grow and fill the land with colour.

Now that there was grass to eat and water to drink, Goorialla woke the animals. The kookaburra laughed, the goanna walked, and the wombat climbed out of her burrow, all for the first time.

Some animals lived in the sea, swimming back and forward. Some animals lived in the sky, flying with their friends to distant places. Some animals lived on the land, digging and playing in the sand. They were happy and gathered food and water to bring back to their own tribes.

The Rainbow Serpent made rules that all animals had to obey. He said “All animals that obey the rules will be rewarded by becoming humans. The animals that disobey the rules will be punished.”

Some animals followed the rules and were rewarded by being turned into humans. Other animals disobeyed the rules and were turned into the stone that makes the mountains.

One day, it started to rain. And it rained like it had never rained before. Rain fell for days and days and the world was becoming flooded with water. Two young men, Bil-bil, or the Rainbow Lorikeet brothers had no shelter and they came to the Rainbow Serpent. They asked for help sheltering from the rain.

The rainbow serpent was hungry and tricked the young men “I have no shelter, but you can hide in my mouth. You’ll be safe from the rain in there.” The young men climbed into Goorialla’s mouth and he closed it shut, swallowing both men.

He soon realised that people would notice the young men missing and come looking for them. He knew they would find their track leading right into his mouth. He didn’t want to be caught and so decided to hide in the only place he knew he would be safe: the sky.

He hid in the sky away from the people chasing him and he saw their sadness at losing these two young men. He decided to try and make them happy again so turned his body into a big arc of beautiful colours.

Now, every time, just after it rains, you can see the Rainbow Serpent sharing his beautiful colours with the people on the ground as his way of saying sorry for taking those Rainbow Lorikeet brothers.

Source: dreamtime.net.au

Tiddalick the Frog

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the Dreamtime, lived a frog called Tiddalick.

Tiddalick was the largest frog in the entire world. One very warm morning, he woke up with feeling very, very thirsty and started to drink the fresh water. He drank and he drank and he kept drinking until all the fresh water in the entire billabong was gone!

When the other animals arrived at the billabong to get their morning drink, they found it was all dried up. This made them very sad.

They knew Tiddalick the frog had drunk all the water. They knew they needed to come up with a plan to get the water back, but they didn’t know how. They thought and they thought and they thought until they realised that the best way to get the water back was to make Tiddalick laugh. If they could make him laugh then all the water would come spilling out of his mouth and back into the billabong!

The first animal to try and make him laugh was the echidna. She rolled herself up into a tight little ball and rolled down the bank of the billabong like a bowling ball! The kangaroo laughed and so did the emu, but Tiddalick didn’t laugh.

The next animal to try and make Tiddalick laugh was the wombat. The wombat stood up on his hind legs and danced around in a circle until he fell over in the dirt! The Galah laughed and so did the goanna, but Tiddalick didn’t laugh.

The next animal to try and make Tiddalick laugh was the wombat. The wombat stood up on his hind legs and danced around in a circle until he fell over in the dirt! The Galah laughed and so did the goanna, but Tiddalick didn’t laugh.

The next animal to try and make Tiddalick laugh was the kookaburra. She perched herself on a branch close to Tiddalick and told her funniest story. It was so funny that she burst out laughing! But Tiddalick didn’t laugh. He just sat there with his big belly full of all the water.

Finally, the snake decided to try and make Tiddalick laugh. She started to dance and dance, wriggling and squirming all over the ground until she eventually tied herself into a knot. The knot was so tight that she struggled and struggled to untie herself but was stuck! Tiddalick watched struggle around, trying to untie herself, and let out a small chuckle. That small chuckle turned into a rumbling in his tummy before it turned into a great big belly laugh! The water came gushing out of his mouth and filled the billabong back up once again.

All the animals jumped with joy as they took big, long, gulps of water to quench their thirst.

Source: dreamtime.net.au

The Two Wise Men and the Seven Sisters

In the beginning of Yulbrada, the Earth, the Creator, Jindoo-the Sun, sent two Spirit men, Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, to shape it. They were from the far end of the Milky Way.

They made the hills, the valleys, the lakes and the ocean. When they had nearly completed their work, Jindoo the Creator sent seven sisters, stars of the Milky Way, to beautify the earth with flowers, with trees, with birds, animals and other creepy things. 

The Seven Sisters were making the Honey Ants when they all got thirsty and they said to the younger sister, ‘Go and look for some gubbee, some nice water. Over there, in the hills. Go in that direction’. The little young sister took the yandee dish and she went in search of the water.

The Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, the two spirit men, they were in the bushes and they were spying on these women. They followed the minyma Goothoo, the younger sister, when she went for the water.

This young sister, she fell in love with the two men. The other six sisters went looking for their sister, because she had been gone for so long. They wondered where she might be. They were really very thirsty and they needed their water. After a while, they found her with the two spirit men.

The Creator, Jindoo the Sun, had warned them that should such a thing happen to any one of the sisters, she would not be able to return to her place in the Milky Way. When the six sisters finished their work, they returned to the Milky Way. The two men and the woman remained here on Yulbrada, the earth. Their special powers were taken away when they became mortal. They became the parents of the earth, who made our laws and our people-the desert people. They live by these laws today.

This is why the people of the desert have such knowledge and respect of the stars in the universe.

Source: dreamtime.net.au

Thukeri [Bream]

This is a story about two men who lived on the shores of Lake Alexandrina. They belonged to the Ngarrindjerri people.

The two men set off in their bark canoe to go fishing on the lake. They travelled along on the calm, cool waters until they came to their favourite fishing place, called Loveday Bay, where they always caught the best and most delicious bream fish. In their language, this fish is called Thukeri.

They found a good sheltered spot among some high reeds. They had made their own fishing lines, called nungi, from cords they had made from the reeds. They used very sharp bird bones for hooks.

They knew the women were collecting vegetable plants to eat with the fish.

As the day went on the two men sat there catching more and more fat, juicy Thukeri. They were having such a wonderful day catching so many fish and wanted to keep catching more and more, but the canoe was almost full and looked like it would sink.

As they paddled in closer to shore, they could see a stranger in the distance. He seemed to be walking straight towards them. The two men looked at each other; what if this stranger wanted some of their beautiful, juicy Thukeri?

They were greedy and decided not to share with the stranger. They decided to keep all the fat, lovely Silver Bream for themselves and quickly covered the fish up with their woven mats so that the stranger would not see them. When the stranger came up to the two men he said, ‘Hello, brothers. I haven’t eaten anything at all today. Could you spare me a couple of fish?’

The two men looked at each other and at the mats hiding the Thukeri. They turned to the stranger and one of them said, ‘I’m sorry, friend, but we caught only a few fish today and we have to take them home for our wives and children and the old people, because they are depending on us. So, you see, we can’t give you any.’

The stranger stood there for a long while and then started to walk away. He stopped, turned around and stared at them. ‘You lied,’ he said. ‘I know that you have plenty of fish in your canoe. Because you are so greedy, you will never be able to enjoy those Thukeri ever again.’

The two men stood there, puzzled, as the stranger walked away into the sunset. They shrugged their shoulders, then quickly took off the mats and began to gut the fish. But as they did this, they found that these beautiful silver Thukeri were so full of sharp, thin bones that they couldn’t eat them.

‘What are we going to do? We can’t take these home to our families, they’ll choke on them.’ So the two men had to return home in shame with only the bony fish. When they got home, they told their families what had happened. The old people told them that the stranger was really the Great Spirit called Ngurunderi. Now all the Ngarrindjeri people would be punished for ever, because the two men were so greedy.

And so today, whenever people catch a bony bream, they are reminded of long ago, when Ngurunderi taught them a lesson.

Source: dreamtime.net.au

Koockard or How the Kookaburra got it’s laugh

Long, long time ago, two little nephews asked their old uncle to take them out and camp on the river so that he could teach them how to make their spears and woomeras and their boomerangs. Also to teach them to go hunting and how to identify the tracks of the animals.

Old uncle, he tried to put it off because they were too young, he thought, only eight years old. But the two little nephews, they kept pestering old uncle, ‘We’ve got to go, we must go now. Come on, we’ll go out tonight.’ So old uncle gave in and he said, ‘Okay, we’ll go out and we’ll set up camp on the river bend. Once we get our camp set up, we’ll make our brush gunyah, then we’ll go for a walk around the river bend and find some nice straight sticks to make your spears out of.’

So when they got out along the river bend and got their gunyah made, old uncle said, ‘Come on, we’ll go and find our straight sticks. Now remember, don’t look for crooked ones, don’t run and get any old stick. You must get a nice straight stick to make your spear out of.’The two little fellas walked around the river bend looking for nice straight saplings to make their spear out of and when they found it, old uncle went up and he chopped it off with his stone axe. He showed the little fellas how to sit down and take all the bark off the saplings and trim them up nice and get all the notches off. He also showed them how to make the woomera, the little stick they needed to sit the spear in so they could spear the kangaroo or emu or whatever they were hunting for.

When they had that done, old uncle said, ‘Come on, we’ll go back to camp now and tomorrow morning we’ll go out hunting.’ But the two little boys were really impatient and they said, ‘Oh come on uncle, let us go now. Let’ us go for a walk around the river bend and see if we can find a kangaroo.’ Old uncle said, ‘No, wait ’til the morning and I’ll go too’. ‘No, we’ll go, uncle. We’ll bring back whatever we find.

’So old uncle said to them when they were ready to go, ‘Listen. When you go walking around the river bends, there’s something I want you to be very, very careful of. You must promise me that you will never, ever hurt it or harm it.’ They looked at one another as much as to say ‘what’s he talking about?’ Uncle said, ‘old Koockard, the great big river goanna. If ever you come across him, you must promise you’ll never hurt him or harm him in any way.’ So the two little boys looked at their uncle and they promised him, ‘okay uncle, we won’t hurt him or harm him.’

They went off, walking around the river bend, right around the river bend they kept walking. In those times the grass used to grow nice and tall. So they’re walking around the river bends, they got around the third bend and they saw the tall grass moving really quickly and then stop. The two little fellas stood back and said, ‘that might be a kangaroo over there. Let us creep up and see what’s going on, what’s making the grass move.’

As they started creeping in towards where the grass was moving, the grass moved again, really quickly, then stopped. They got in a bit further and all of a sudden they came across old Koockard’s tail. That big river goanna, his tail was sticking out.

So they backed back, and the two little fellas said to one another, ‘remember what uncle told us? If ever we come across old Koockard we mustn’t harm him or hurt him.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, but what if we have some fun with him? You get your spear and creep up right up around this side of old Koockard, to his left arm, level with his left should and you lie down still. I’ll get my spear and I’ll go around this side, to his right arm. I’ll crouch down there and when old Koockard puts his head down to bite the meat that he was eating (because this was what was happening. Koockard was putting his mouth down and biting the dead meat and shaking all the ants off it before he swallowed it and this made the grass move).

The two little fellas said, ‘we’ll go up there. We’ll have some fun with him. When he puts his head down to bite the meat, you tickle him under the arm with your spear. When he’s settled down again and he takes another bite, I’ll tickle him under this side with my spear.’

The two little fellas agreed to do this, so they snuck up and crouched down and as soon as old Koockard reached down to take a bite of the dead kangaroo, the little fella tickled him under the arm. So Koockard jumped up and he was looking around to see what stuck into him, but he was looking over the top of the tall grass so he couldn’t see the little boy lying down in the grass alongside of him.

He settled down again and he took another bite and the little boy on the other side tickled him on that side. Koockard jumped up again and he was looking around, but because the grass was high, he couldn’t see.

They kept going. One would tickle him on one side and the other would tickle him on the other side.Then one little boy, he got a fit of the giggles and he couldn’t stop laughing. He rolled over and as he rolled, his spear hit on a log. So Koockard jumped and he spun right around in a big circle and he flattened the two little boys.

Sitting in a gum tree close by were two Kookaburras and up until that time they couldn’t laugh. But as soon as they saw what happened to the two little boys, they just looked at one another and burst out laughing.

So that’s the Dreamtime story of how the Kookaburras got their laugh.

Source: dreamtime.net.au