Stopping on a country road in Tucki Tucki, a small town near Lismore, NSW, I was lured into Tucki Tucki Cemetery by a sign which read “Aboriginal Bora Ring”. The cemetery is small and quiet except that it’s located by a country road, and the sacred bora ring inside – where Aboriginal boys were once initiated into manhood – is today just a humdrum field of grass. The cultural activity once so alive in these fields is now gone. The bora ring, however, is one of the finest remaining examples of its kind.
The bora ring
Bora sites consist of circles of hardened earth, containing one, typically two or three rings. Women and children stood in the large circle (typically 30 metres across) while only men were allowed in the inner circle. The circles, where sacred ceremonies took place, reflected social hierarchy and hosted singing, dancing, story telling, circumcision and/or body scarring. Fires and marked passageways would symbolise the passing of boyhood into manhood and ceremonies were unique to each tribe.
The Tucki Tucki Bora Ring was a single-ringed site and, like others of its kind, was reached by a winding ceremonial procession where now lies farmland. The site was last used by the Bundjalung people in the 1800s. Unfortunately, the majority of bora sites were decimated with the arrival of Europeans, and perhaps the only reason the Tucki Tucki Bora Ring survives today is that it shares land with Tucki Tucki Cemetery.
The survival of this bora ring, however, was recently under threat with the proposed expansion of a quarry by the NSW Government. I haven’t heard any further development on this and hopefully it was rejected. Insane that a mere quarry should replace a rare piece of Aboriginal heritage. Turning my thoughts inward, I stood in a slight depression in the centre of the bora ring – which was alleged to have once been a fire pit, even an open grave – and tried to imagine the fervent ceremonies here long ago…
Admittedly, I enjoy exploring cemeteries, I find them fascinating as they make me think about the passing of time, how precious life is and that everyone has a story. As I wandered I came across a few interesting graves, like the one near the entrance (below), which put a smile on my face. For here lies a fellow traveller, I thought, a passionate liver of life. It was perhaps a glimpse into a grand story.
Then there were stories marked with fewer words, like the lone grave to the east next to the bora ring. This grave belonged to one Ivy Beatrice Greber, an infant who never made it to her 16th month, dying in 1900. Just why she was buried entirely alone is a mystery. Allegedly both her parents are buried in the cemetery too, alongside other graves. Perhaps she was afflicted with something terrible, born out of wedlock.
We may never know.