Three Brother Mountains | symbol of shared heritage

HAUNTING STORY: Three Brother Mountains, as viewed from the Camden Haven River at the base of North Brother.
HAUNTING STORY: Three Brother Mountains, as viewed from the Camden Haven River at the base of North Brother.

The Three Brother Mountains are unique to the Camden Haven, and held dear by most locals for their mighty presence and the haunting Aboriginal story of how they came to be.

The Dreamtime legend tells the story of three brothers, who were killed by a witch called Widjirriejuggi and were buried where the mountains stand.

The mountains are a symbol of shared heritage as Captain James Cook called them the Brother Mountains, when he passed the area on May 12, 1770, without knowing that the Aboriginal people had already named them the Three Brothers. Cook said he named the mountains because “these Hills bore some resemblance to each other" and stood out prominently from the surrounding landscape. 

The three mountains lie between the villages of Laurieton and Moorland, south of Port Macquarie and were gazetted as The Three Brother Mountains Aboriginal Place on December 21, 2001. 

“The Aboriginal Place declaration recognises the parks cultural significance for its connection with traditional ceremonial practices and the importance of Aboriginal law,” states the NSW Department of Environment in the Middle Brother National Park Plan of Management.

Photo by @thebiirdhouse A perfect picnic location- The Charles Hamey lookout.  #theadventureguide #camdenhead

Photo by @thebiirdhouse A perfect picnic location- The Charles Hamey lookout. #theadventureguide #camdenhead

The three brothers of the Biripi tribe lived near the Camden Haven River. According to the same report, the legend invariably has been altered over time and by different storytellers, and there are a number of different versions. 

The version below is brief description as told by Harry Buchanan in 1976 (NPWS Aboriginal Sites Register). Harry Buchanan was a Gumbangirra tribal elder and was told many of the Aboriginal legends throughout the Kattang, Biripi, Thungutti and Gumbangirra tribes ranging from Taree to Grafton:

"The three brothers had undergone their initiation and they were required to live in the bush for several months before returning to their tribe. 

"During this period, the brothers became worried about their parents and the youngest brother volunteered to check on them. 

"Just as he was leaving, he saw an old witch arrive near their camp. 

"When the youngest brother arrived at his parents' camp he told them how he had seen the old witch and the father said 'go quickly or the old lady will kill your two brothers and eat them'. 

"Just before he left, his father gave him a special boomerang which was to keep him safe.

"When he arrived back, he saw the old woman and she said she had eaten his brothers and was now going to eat him. 

"Before she got a chance, he hit her on the head with the boomerang and killed her. 

"He then gathered his brother's bones and buried them where North Brother and Middle Brother Mountains stand today. 

"He then went to where the South Brother Mountain now is and because he was ashamed that he had not saved his two brothers, he killed himself. 

"The mighty spirits of creation stirred that night, and where each body lay, there rose a mountain to mark the tragedy. 

"From this time on the mountains were know as the 'Three Birroguns' or wise men of the Biripi tribe."

Dooragan was the name given to North Brother Mountain by local Aboriginal people, according to Elaine Van Kempen in her 1997 book ‘ A History of North Brother Mountain, Dooragan National Park’ because it was seen as the “protector” of the area.

North and Middle Brother are national parks.

Today North Brother Mountain is a mecca for locals and visitors because of easy access to the summit by car, challenging walking trails and spectacular views north to as far as Mount Yarrahappini and south to Crowdy Head.

SPECTACULAR: The view from the summit of North Brother, in Dooragan National Park.

SPECTACULAR: The view from the summit of North Brother, in Dooragan National Park.

It is also a prime take-off destination for hang gliders and paragliders.

This story What’s in a name | Three Brother Mountains first appeared on Camden Haven Courier.