Creation Stories

The Tiwi islands of Bathurst and Melville were created at the beginning of time during the dreaming or Palaneri. Before this time there was only darkness and the earth was flat.


An old blind woman arose from the ground at Murupianga in the South East of Melville Island. Clasping her three infants to her breast and crawling on her knees she traveled slowly north. The fresh water that bubbled up in the track she made became the tideways or the Clarence and Dundas Straits, dividing the two islands from the mainland. She made her way slowly around the land mass and then, deciding it was too large, created the Apsley Strait dividing the Islands. She then decreed that the bare islands be covered with vegetation and inhabited with animals so that her three children left behind would have food. Nobody knows where she came from. Having completed her work, Mudungkala vanished.


Long long ago there was a man called Purukuparli and he had a wife called Bima. They were the first people on the Tiwi Islands. Their son was called Jinani. One day Purukuparli told his wife that he was going out. He left his wife and Jinani at home on the eastern side of Melville Island and went looking for food. While Purukuparli was away, Bima went in search of her lover, Tapara, the moon man. She went for too long and left Jimani in the sun. He started to cry for Blodi (milk), he cried and cried until he died from the hunger and heat. When Purukuparli came back he found his son dead and he called out to his wife. Bima tried to call back but Tapara was blocking her mouth. Purukuparli called again and this time Tapara let her go. She ran to find her dead baby and angry husband. Then Tapara, the moon man, came and he said to Purukuparli, “give me our little boy, I’ll take him up with me for three days and he will come back alive”. Purukuparli said “no”.

Then Purukuparli picked up a fighting stick and he threw it at Tapara. Tapara was hurt and went back up into the sky. Then Purukuparli picked up his dead son and walked towards the sea saying “my son is dead and now we shall all follow him”. Purukuparli kept saying over and over as they both disappeared into a whirlpool in the winga (ocean). When death came to the Tiwi islands we Tiwi had to start to have ceremonies to bury our dead and make sure they entered the spirit world in the right way. Purukuparli passed down information about how to do this properly and today we still remember the dances, songs and designs which go with our ceremonies. We also have other traditions for ceremony passed down from Purukuparli, this includes placing burial poles around the graves of our dead and placing a taboo on the name of the deceased.

Maryanne Mungatopi, PALANERI -THE CREATION PERIOD, 1998