Traveller on the Red Road: ‘Birraman girri gawala’ (Wiradjuri)

Growing up on the land gives you a connection that you may only recognise later. I was born 66 years ago and grew up near Molong in Central West New South Wales on a property where my Father worked as a Stockman. It was called “Gundawanna”, and I often wondered if the word was from “Gondwana”, the name of the supercontinent Australia was part of 500 million years ago, or from one of Australia’s First Nation languages. The local Historical Society at Molong write that it supposedly means “red road”, but in the language of the Wiradjuri people, who are the custodians and carers of that land, red road is “girri gawala”. It is to the Wiradjuri we owe much for the land that was so productive in that area. They loved the land and cared for it sustainably ensuring a ready supply of fodder and water for the wildlife and the people that the country sustained. The first settlers in the area found rich soil, abundant grass and steady water supplies for their herds of cattle and sheep. Despite the numerous reports in explorers’ diaries about the parkland nature of the country, none seemed to realise that was the result of centuries of land-care by the original inhabitants. They were simply ‘dispersed’, as many of the official letters and documents from the time state, a euphemism for wanton destruction.

Gundawanna (6)

This image of the road leading into my childhood home gives some indication of the beauty and richness of the land. When I was young I was more interested in what was beyond the beauty and saw it as isolated and a place I wanted to get away from and live my life. Now fifty years after I left that place I think back and see the beauty, the richness and the spirit of the land that has helped me become the man I am today. My childhood on this country gave me the opportunity to spend time alone with my thoughts and my dreams in my imaginary world. That time has enabled me to come more easily to a reflective way of living that has helped me understand myself and my place in the world in a deeper way.

Native Americans have a concept known as ‘Walking the Red Road’. David A Patterson Silver Wolf, the first American Indian professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote on his blog in 2011 that:

‘Walking the Red Road is a determined act of living within the Creator’s instructions.  Basically, it is living a life of truth, humbleness, respect, friendship, and spiritually. Those on this road are by no means walking a perfect path, but are in search of self-discovery and instructions.’

My search of self-discovery started at ‘Gundawanna’ and if it does indicate ‘red road’, I honour that start to my journey in life and give thanks to the Wiradjuri who cared for that land and continue to care for their land today. In this blog I want to share some of the things I have learned on that road and I hope you enjoy the ride.


4 thoughts on “Traveller on the Red Road: ‘Birraman girri gawala’ (Wiradjuri)

  1. When I read your post about the lightning strike I had a feeling you lived in that part of Australia. I’ve driven across that area many times though I don’t recall the town of Molong. It is great country out that way. I agree about the Wuradjiri people. They are very strong people.
    There is something about the land in Australia that does open the door to the journey of self discovery and the kind of perceptions you talk about. I feel the same way about the country down here where I now live in south west Victoria.


    1. Molong is only a small town, so I’m not surprised you don’t recall it. It’s between Orange and Wellington on the road to Dubbo. This land does have a way of speaking to you and that’s what I’m trying to convey in this blog. We were down in south west Victoria last year travelling from Albury to Ballarat and out towards the Grampians. I spent some time at Brambuk and the Bunjil Shelter and will write about that soon. A number of my ancestors settled in Western Victoria, beautiful country.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for that link, Suzanne. I went through some of the other links on it as well and I must say I love your photos. You have absolutely inspired me to keep going with this blog. Writing about the spirit of this land is just the way to bring some healing to a country that really needs it. I recently heard Bill Gammage speak at the Secret History of Australia conference ( He is the author of “The Biggest Estate on Earth” which categorically shows how the First Nation people shaped this land for centuries and created the pasture for the sheep and cattle that the squatters took. As a retired High School History Teacher it is deeply disturbing to me to realise how deep the lies about our past have been. Hopefully more people will become aware of books like Bill Gammage’s and Bruce Pascoe, among many others. I also hope my little bit in this blog may bring some to think a little more about where the “wealth” of this country really came from. I may be, like you, of Anglo/Celtic origin, but I love this country and I want it to heal. One of my favourite song writers, Shane Howard, is also an inspiration, he wrote that on a signed CD I bought from him once.


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