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Kur-bo-roo (folklore)

Victorian Aborigines also saw the koala as an animal of much wisdom and, as recorded by R. Brough Smyth in 1878, often sought his advice.

The Native Bear, Kur-bo-roo, is the sage counselor of the Aborigines in all their difficulties. When bent on a dangerous expedition, the men will seek help from this clumsy creature, but in what way his opinions are made known is nowhere recorded. He is revered if not held sacred. The Aborigines may eat him, but they many not skin him as they skin the kangaroo and the opposum.

Smyth vouched for this belief when he recalled that, sad to say, he wanted a koala to make a cap from the skin. One day when an Aboriginal had brought in a koala to the camp before the rest of the Aborigines had returned to the encampment Smyth inquired about skinning it and recorded that:

He refused to skin it; but at length, by giving him presents, and showing him that no harm could come of the act, because all the sorcerers and all the blacks who could communicate with the sorcerers and other chief men were absent, he took off the skin and gave it to me. I took the skin to my tent, and meant to make it into a cap, but the young man became very restless. Remorse overtook him. He could not put the skin on again, not indeed had he wished to do so, would I have given it up. He said, “Poor blacks lose ‘em all water now,’ and he became very much alarmed and exhibited such contrition and terror, that the old doctors came to enquire into the cause. He told all. Much excitement followed. I said that the blacks had nothing to fear. I laughed at their terrors; but at length I was obliged to give them the skin. The skin and the bear were buried in the same manner in which a black man was buried. Though the bear was actually roasting, his body was taken away and buried in the skin. This ceremony they believed would precipitate the bears, and avert the calamity of a loss of water.

Jackson, Stephen. Koala : Origins of an Icon. Belmont: Allen & Unwin, 2008.

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