Basically, I read all there was in nineteenth century newspaper accounts, plus the odd republished volume like Edward Curr’s Recollections of Squatting in Victoria. These gave me the subject matter for a book that never materialised, although most of the component parts were later published in journals, magazines and newspapers in the early 1980s.
‘The Legend of Wunda Woman’ was one of them:
A long time ago the Bungambrawatha clan lived on the banks of their creek.
The white creatures arrived in summer, when the creek was dry. The Bungambrawatha thought they were wunda – the ghosts of dead people with nowhere to settle.
The ghosts settled by the creek and tied to make contact, without much success. The Bungambrawatha had established ways of dealing with spirits, but not with ghosts they could see and touch, who ate and drank like real people. The amount the ghosts drank was alarming.
After the autumn rains, the ghosts wanted so much water they dammed up the creek and fenced it off. When the Bungambrawatha tried to go down they were driven away. It was a strange way for ghosts to behave.
The question arose whether the wunda were ghosts at all. Perhaps they were a kind of devil. Or perhaps they were real people who through misfortune had been inflicted with a deathly skin.
The Bungambrawatha watched the wunda more closely, to establish what kind of creature they were, but were frustrated by the wunda custom of wrapping themselves up, even in the heat of the sun. And at night, what was the purpose of fire if not to wrap round with warmth and protection?
Then the wunda spent a day screening off a section of their dam with branches and early the following morning one came down to bathe. When the creature removed its wrappings the Bungambrawatha could see it was not only white all over, but female. There could be no doubting the ghostliness now: all her parts were the colour of death. The creature was perfect, white like the witchetty – a wunda woman indeed.More...