The children’s song dies on the wind before the little choir scatters and runs among the everlastings. This is Noongar boodja. Nearby looms a massive granite outcrop — an island in the bush.
I’m at Boyagin Rock, in Boyagin Nature Reserve, between Brookton and Pingelly, in WA’s Wheatbelt. It’s about 180km south-west of Perth, less than two hours drive from where Brookton Highway starts between Kelmscott and Armadale — a perfect day out.
And the Brookton Noongar Youth Group choir’s singing is part of an event celebrating the completion of Phase 1 of the picnic area redevelopment project.
A welcome to country by Gary Bennell, and speeches by the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions’ Greg Durrell and Boyagin Rock Working Group’s (BRWG) John Bostock, follow.
And a story related by local Noongar woman Vivienne Hansen, which is included in the beautiful Boodjin: The Boyagin Rock Storybook.
Vivienne — who writes in the book that “boya” means “a rock or hard stone” and “djinning” means “looking or seeing” — tells how Old Waargle (the water serpent) swam down to prevent the local people from doing great harm to the flora and fauna.
“Because when you look after the land, the land looks after you,” said Old Waargle. “When you respect others, they respect you.”
Old Waargle’s mission accomplished, he “dived back down into the water and swam around and buried himself in the rock that we call Boodjin”.
The colours of the Calothamnus quadrifidus, granite kunzea, holly pea, blue fairy orchid and Acacia cuneifolia detonate amid sheoak, jarrah, marri, balga and powderbark wandoo.
The songs of Rainbow Bee-eaters, willie wagtails, Welcome Swallows and Red-capped Robins bounce off the rock.
At another time, I might have caught a glimpse of a shy thorny devil, Gould’s goanna, echidna, ringtail possum, numbat or wallaby.
This is the how the Wheatbelt was before it was the Wheatbelt.
“As a monolith of blue granite, Boyagin Rock is as good as any rock in this country,” BRWG chairman Ray Marshall says. “And yes, I’ve been to Uluru, I’ve been to Wave Rock. But Boyagin has always been undersold. Hardly anyone knows it’s here.”
Ray’s convinced of the importance of Boyagin Rock and its surrounds as a culturally significant site and its potential to become a major tourist attraction.
He mentions phase 2 of the project, which with the support of the Brookton-based Seabrook Aboriginal Corporation will provide interpretative signage along the walking trail that leads from the picnic area to the rock.
“This is far more than just a rock,” he says. “It’s a place of great spiritual and cultural significance. And that story needs to be told, so that by the time you reach the rock you understand that significance.
“I can’t overemphasise the cultural significance of this place, and the development of this site comes with a lot of respect,” echoes Greg. “The Pingelly and Brookton communities are really blessed to have this place in their shires.
“It’s been a great journey,” adds John. “The project started eight years ago. The facilities had to be restored to be more welcoming and to discourage inappropriate use of the site. The old facilities were not in a very good state.”
BRWG’s project co-ordinator Vince Holt, who was “involved right from the start”, describes himself as “a bit of a socialist” and likes to get things done — even if that means ruffling a few feathers.
“When I get committed to something like this, I don’t give up,” he says. “Some people said ‘You’re an idiot. Why don’t you just walk away?’ But what’s the point in that? It might have taken a long time, but this project shows you can engage with the various stakeholders such as the local Aboriginal people and the shires, and make it work.”
In the Boodjin: Boyagin Rock Storybook, Vivienne tells another story: that if you climb to the top without a break “you will live to a very long age”. Just one more reason to visit this magical place.
Find out more about Boyagin Nature Reserve here.
Download the Boodjin: Boyagin Storybook here.