Aboriginal Bora Grounds
First People Then And Now
Aboriginal Bora Grounds
Aboriginal bora grounds are places where Aboriginal people came together to perform religious ceremonies. They are found all down the coast of eastern Australia.
Jebbribillum Bora Ring
At Burleigh Heads on Queensland’s Gold Coast there is a bora ground that can be seen from the highway. It is an important Aboriginal cultural and heritage site.
Known as the Jebbribillum Bora Ring it comes under the protection of heritage laws but remains in control of the Yugambeh people.
It is a place of great spiritual and historical importance to the local Yugambeh people. Many ceremonies took place here.
The bora ring is said to symbolise the fighting club of Jabreen, the great ancestral hero of the Yugambeh. Jabreen created the Gold Coast region forming the mountains, the river systems, the flora and fauna and all the people.
At these sites clan groups who shared a common language would meet and take part in the bora ceremonies.
A clan consists of those people in a family group who are descended from a common ancestor. A creative ancestral being would have taught the clan’s founding ancestor all the ceremonies, all the rituals and all the law that he and his descendants should follow in carrying out the responsibilities they had been given.
When the heroic Dreamtime sagas were completed the ancestral spirits withdraw into the land. They withdrew into places in the landscape where they could watch over the land and over the activities of those into whose care they had placed it.
When ceremonies were performed the creative powers of the ancestral spirits would again flow, renewing and re-invigorating the spirit force that flowed through the land and through all things that lived in it.
The spirit force gave new life and it strengthened the spiritual bonds which bound people in unity to one another and to particular animals, plants and places with which they shared a common spirit.
The rim of the bora ground was built up with stones and branches. In the centre of the circle stones were arranged in a pattern.
These stones were chosen for their colour and shape.
At a short distance away there was another smaller enclosed area where those who took part in the ceremonies would make their preparations.
Many of the ceremonial grounds in eastern Australia were connected by a path to the preparation ground.
When the ceremonial preparations were complete the participants moved from the preparation ground to the bora ground. They could be dancing, singing verses of a song cycle, stamping their feet to the rhythm of clapping and to the clacking of clap sticks.
The pathway could be adorned with flowers, feathers and branches and stones.
Not much is known about these bora ceremonies. While the early settlers described some of the ceremonies that they saw they were rarely able to say what the ceremonies and song cycles were about or what was the purpose of the ritual paraphanalia.
It is likely they were initiation ceremonies or ceremonies for the dead.
Ceremonies usually continued over several days and attracted large numbers of people from related clans.
Barlow, Alex Australian Aboriginal Religions. South Melbourne, Vic, Macmillan, 1994.
Best, Ysola & Barlow, Alex Kombumerri: Saltwater People. Port Melbourne, Vic, Heinemann, 1997.
c. Marji Hill First People Then And Now