The story of kondoli

As told by Aboriginal Elders from the Ramindjeri Heritage Association

Kondoli - The Whale man

People came from all over the land to dance at the ceremony.  When the whale man danced, sparks flew from his body.  Everyone at the dance was in awe of his fire and secretly wanted it for themselves, but Kondoli was a large powerful man and most dancers were afraid of him.

Ngarankani (the shark man), Mulori (the stingray man) and Pungari (the seal man) asked Kondoli over to where they were dancing.  “Kondoli, come and dance” they called.  While Kondoli’s back was turned, Krilbalu (the skylark man) and Ritjuruki (the wagtail man) readied their spears.


“In the beginning the people had no fire so they could only dance in the daytime. Their dancing feet made the steep hills and valleys of Muthabaringga (Hindmarsh Valley).  The days were very hot and the sweat from the dancers pooled in the valleys creating the rivers and the creeks.

The people wanted fire so they could dance at nighttime but the only person who had fire was Kondoli the whale man.  A plan was formed and two messengers, Kuratje (the tommy ruff man) and Kanmari (the mullet man) were sent to invite Kondoli to a dance ceremony at Muthabaringga.



The spears flew from the hands of Krilbalu and Ritjuruki, and lodged deep in the neck of the whale man.

Flames shot out from the spear wound.  Kondoli dived into the sea to put out the fire and was instantly transformed into a whale, water now spouting from the hole in his back.  Ngarankani, Mulori and Pungari all followed him in to the sea, turning into their totem animals; a shark, a stingray and a seal.

Kanmari and Kuratje both turned into fish.  Kanmari had dressed in a kangaroo skin so he became the oily-fleshed mullet.  Kuratje was dressed in a seaweed mat, so he became the much drier tommy ruff.

All the people on the shore changed into animals as well.  Those that had been wearing feathers became Kra:nte (cockatoos), while others became Muluri (possums). Ritjuruki became a Willie Wagtail.  Kribalu, who had changed into a skylark, ran around, flames flew from his body setting the grass alight.  The ground was left scattered with Maki (flints).  Then the fire ran up into the Kinyari (Grass tree) where it remains hidden today.
Aboriginal people use the dried flower stems of the Grass tree as a fire drill.  The flatter part of stem is held down on the ground by foot while a thinner piece is twirled vertically between the hands.  The friction it creates is used to create heat and start fire. The Maki are also used to start fires, struck together to create sparks.
Kondoli came out of the sea at Pultung (Victor Harbor) to rest at Latang (the Hindmarsh River).  To this day the whale continues to spout water from its back. So every time you see a whale you can remember the story of Kondoli and how he brought fire to his country.”