The Dreaming

It defines their values, beliefs and relationships. Knowledge of the Dreaming has promoted the development of the land. The aboriginals have many dreaming stories, which describe their own origins and how the landscape was formed. They also serve to teach children about various things, such as the world of nature and spirit, right and wrong behaviour, and social norms. As such, they are not merely stories, but expressions of their belief system that once also involved ritual and totemic associations (Tunbridge, 1988). In fact, they describe the history of the people, which was rich in culture and oral literature. Behavioural lessons include examples for demonstrating the importance of good manners, sharing, honesty, respect for elders, etc. The American ethnographer, Deborah Bird Rose, observed, the inherent ethos of the Dreaming regarding human behaviour can be summarised as four basic laws … [which] emphasise balance, response, symmetry and autonomy (McBride, 2000: 4). Balance is necessary for a system to be able to enhance the quality of life, and each part shares responsibility for sustaining itself and for balancing the others. Response emphasises the reciprocity of communication, and it reminds of the obligation to learn, understand, pay attention and respond. Symmetry ensures the parts in a balance are equivalent and that no one dominates another. Autonomy stresses, authority and dependence are necessary within parts, but not between parts (Rose, 1993: 4-5 in McBride, 2000: 5), so no species, group or country should lead over another. A number of further important aspects of The Dreaming also deserve attention. One of these is that it assumes a considerable knowledge on the part of listeners. In particular, there are allusions which can only be understood by those with comprehensive linguistic and cultural knowledge (Tunbridge, 1988: xxx). Even an outsider who is culturally immersed would find some points difficult to grasp, and some would only be able to be understood by the initiated. However, this shows the need to study a narrative within the context of its roots. Another aspect is change and ‘death’, which are dynamic qualities. For example, there are some accounts of the substitution of species, some site locations become lost due to changes in the social environment, and the accounts too sometimes change as they do in space. The latter demonstrates the need for adaptation due to both physical and social changes. As far as the characters in The Dreaming are concerned, the spirits (nguthuna) feature a lot besides people (yuras), animals, etc. They can assume a variety of forms including mammals and birds, but they have human powers and more besides. They also appear in various social relationships. Sometimes they appear as first stage initiates (vardnapas), sometimes with adult responsibilities, whereas sometimes they are punished for unacceptable behaviour. The Dreaming also leaves behind certain ‘signs’ as evidence of the reality of events. These indicate the spiritual ancestors’ presence or passing. Sometimes a character could even leave multiple images behind during an event, which are different manifestations. These include marks such as in the form of rock carvings. All of these provide evidence that a Dreamtime Spirit has passed through the place and that the places