Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/329

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VI
303
TRIBAL GOVERNMENT

have great respect for age. The Headman had a great amount of authority, and all the disputes among the members of his division of the tribe would be settled by him, such a man being the Headman of his division, not because he was the oldest man in it, but for the reasons stated. In the early days of settlement of New South Wales a white man could not be marked down for death excepting by the voices of the Headmen; and the Bora ceremonies are held by their orders.[1]

In the southern Wiradjuri a Headman is called Bidja-bidja, and, as I have heard him described, is one who "gives orders to people," there being a Headman of this sort in each local division. The Bidja-bidja was always a medicine-man. If, for instance, he were the oldest Yibai, and a medicine-man, he would be the head of the Yibai sub-class; but, assuming that he also became the Headman of the local group, then all the people of that division, not only of this "Budjan" (sub-class), would obey him. Each totem also had its Headman. I have heard the Bidja-bidja spoken of by a term equivalent to "master," this being the analogue of the Biamban of the Yuin. The office of Headman was in a sense hereditary, for a son would inherit the position of his father, if he possessed any oratorical or other eminent ability. But if not, then the son of the brother of the deceased Headman would probably hold the position, and failing him some qualified relative of the same sub-class. But this was with the consent of the community, for the office went in fact by election in each division.

The Headman called his people together whenever it was necessary for them to assemble; for instance, to hold the Burbung ceremonies. At such great meetings of the tribe, matters relating to its interests were discussed, and the course of action as to murders, abduction of women, adultery, or raids on, or by, other tribes were discussed.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, there were not any recognised Headmen in the Wakelbura tribe; the strongest and best fighting-men were listened to in a debate, and the aged men held some little authority.[2]

  1. C. Naseby.
  2. J. C. Muirhead.