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"Mirrangen" Rocks Nimbin

Warning: local Indigenous readers are warned that this article contains images and quotes from elders who have since passed.

Disclaimer: I have respectfully asked and been given permission to re-write this article from an Indigenous custodian of the local land.

Feeling very appreciative about the land on which I share and live this morning, after being educated on some of the history of this area and in particular about the Nimbin Rocks, what was called “The Cathedral” by White settlers. It's a very sacred piece of Aboriginal land, and the rock is called “Mirrangen” by some Indigenous people – specifically the Wiyebal people who are the custodians of this significant site.

Photo of Mirrangen Rock at Nymbinje taken by Daina Walker - Diversified Business Skills.

Living near Nimbin in Bundjalung Country myself, I’ve driven past the rocks so many times and I’m always in awe, but have never really known much information about them - although without knowing anything, you just “know” that they are sacred, powerful and eery. You know instinctively not to go to up to them, you definitely don’t ever climb them and you know that they must hold many stories and spirits.

My little boys favourite book is the Rainbow Serpent which I’ve read to him so many times about the great rainbow serpent “Goorialla” - going up to some big special rocks, and when the Aboriginal men tried to climb the sacred rock to get to Goorialla the rainbow serpent went into a rage, making thunder and lightning and causing men to die falling from the rocks, turning into animals and fauna, who would then go on to protect the land. Every time we drive past the Nimbin Rocks my little boys says, “mum that must be where the rainbow serpent is”, because it feels so special and powerful.

I recently saw some newspaper articles that were shared on a Nimbin Facebook page, about the rocks and learned some amazing history, and with the permission from a very knowledgeable Indigenous person and custodian of the local land, I feel compelled to share.

The newspaper articles are also included here and I strongly encourage everyone to read the full stories.

When you look at the big main rock (the Cathedral) I have been told by a local Indigenous person it is known as the "Mirrangen", and what looks like a chimney coming off of it, is what represents “Nymbunje” and that is where Nimbin gets it’s name from.

Nymbunje is traditionally a male only area around the rocks and the “Wee-un” or “clever man” is believed to be buried near the rock. The “clever man” has been described as “a little man with bad supernatural powers”.

The other rocks alongside the Mirrangen (Cathedral) are known as the needle or “Janagan”, also the thimble or “Mabaing” and the forth "rock" between the Mirrangen and Janagan is called the “Dubayjarr”. The rock beside the creek which runs underneath them is called the “Buguinj” or death adder” as explained by Gilbert Laurie, a Widjabal descendant of the Bundjalung Nation and his Grandfathers country is Yaegl. Gilbert is an educator who goes to Schools sharing languages, stories and connection to country in the broader Bundjalung nation and is a wealth of knowledge.

In some of the newspaper articles I read, it’s chilling to hear the stories about experiences people had, and how many people had the same “dream” about goannas and snakes and spirits, after climbing the rock, and about a warrior figure guarding the rock.

Millie Boyd was a custodian of the rock in the early 80’s, who’s responsibility was to be a “keeper” of the rock and protect it. When she would take representatives or anyone out there first she would sing out in her dialect to her mother and grandmother spirits who belong to the territory, asking for their protection.

Anyone who used to climb the rocks years ago foolishly and obliviously have had bad warnings and experiences and some have seen spirits, some have later become sick and even died. While I suppose you can’t prove it’s from climbing the rock, as someone with Aboriginal ancestors myself, I know that I would never dream of climbing or entering sacred Aboriginal sites or going on men’s land, because I will get sick or die.

Photo of Mirrangen, Janagan and Mabaing Rock at Nymbunje taken by Daina Walker - Diversified Business Skills.

In my field that I specialise in, being the Tourism Industry – I also know first hand that it’s one of the reasons that Aboriginal people don’t want to promote tourism to such sacred areas and part of the struggle with cultural tourism development.

On one hand Aboriginal people want to educate everyone about the land, sacred sites, dreamtime stories, and history but also don’t want people entering such places as they are sacred and forbidden to go there.

So, the question is, how can we, inclusively as indigenous and non-indigenous people promote cultural tourism by still respecting and protecting the land? It’s a huge topic and an internal cultural battle for our First Nations People and the tourism industry.

Tourism can mean one thing to Indigenous people and a completely different thing to non-indigenous people. While tourism can be seen as “selling product” through selling cultural tours, emersions, and experiences it can be a real topic of contention for indigenous people who want to keep the land hidden and protected, but also want to create cultural awareness. So it’s so important to learn about how to work together as indigenous tourism operators and non-indigenous tourism agencies when selling and promoting cultural sites and significant areas of importance.

Beautiful areas such as the Nymbunje / Nimbin Rocks should be admired, but people should be educated about the history of the area, ideally from local elders where possible and stories of the land should be shared in a respectful and sustainable way.

If you want to incorporate cultural tourism training into your travel agency, tourism management company or workplace – I can provide advice and training to help develop your understanding of cultural tourism development and explain ways to work together inclusively, respectfully and sustainably in the Tourism Industry.

Contact Us to find out more, and book a free 20-minute consultation now: 0431 256 994 or email:


Resources: Sunday Telegraph 1986.

Daina Walker - Diversified Business Skills 2024.


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