Lake Illiwara and the Five Islands

The story I’m about to tell you is from the time before time, the time of the creation of all things, the time that the Australian aborigines call the Dreamtime, and this story tells of the creation of Lake Illawara and the Five Islands.

There were three warriors, called Whale, Koala and Starfish, and they lived way out from the mainland on a little island. They’d been living there for quite a while when their food supply started to run out

Whale had a canoe, but he was far too big to fit in it, so Koala and Starfish said to Whale, “If you let us borrow your canoe, we will paddle up to the mainland, fill the canoe with food and bring it back here to the island and we’ll share it out with you.'”

Now Whale wasn’t a very trusting fellah and he thought to himself for a minute, 'If I give them my canoe, they're going to go off and leave me here to starve to death and they'll keep my canoe.' So he said to Koala and Starfish, 'No, you're not having my canoe.' And Whale made sure he slept at the water’s edge with one foot resting on his canoe, so that Koala and Starfish couldn’t sneak off with it.

So Koala and Starfish had a little meeting between themselves and they made up a plan to steal the canoe.

Koala said to Starfish, 'I know a way to get this canoe off this fella. He's head is full of lice and he likes me to comb his hair and kill those lice with the tip of a sharpened stick. I’ll offer to comb his hair this afternoon, and he’ll doze off in the warmth of the sunshine. Once he’s asleep, you roll that big log under his foot and pinch his canoe, paddle it out into the water, then I’ll dive in and swim out after you.'

That afternoon, while Koala was looking for lice in Whale’s huge head, Whale started to doze off. Soon, he’d gone into a really deep sleep and started to snore.

Starfish rolled the log over from where he’d hidden it by some rocks, gently lifted Whale’s foot onto the log, and dragged the canoe away. Starfish hopped into the canoe and started paddling out into the water. Koala gently lifted Whale's head off his lap and put it on the sand. 

Koala ran down to the edge of the water and was just about to dive in when Whale woke up. Whale was furious to discover he’d been tricked. He ran down to the water’s edge and caught Koala before he could dive in and they had big fight right there on the sand.

Whale was just getting the better of Koala, punching him and kicking him, when Koala reached around behind Whale and stabbed him in the back of the neck with his big sharp stick. Koala dived in the water and swam out to the canoe. Starfish helped him to climb in and they both paddled away towards the mainland.

By the time they had almost reached the land up near Wollongong, Whale had reached around the back of his neck and pulled out the sharp stick. He dived in the water and, as he was a really strong swimmer, he caught up with the escaping Koala and Starfish just before they reached Port Kembla.

Whale rose up out of the water and he came down on the canoe with such force that he smashed it into five pieces, and Koala and Starfish were thrown into the water. They both swam wildly towards the shore. Whale looked around and spotted Koala just as he reached the shore. With a few strokes, Whale caught up with him and punched him in the face, flattening his nose, and he stretched his ears out, but Koala got away and crawled up the beach, ran up a big gum tree and sat shaking in the fork of the tree.

Then Whale looked around for Starfish and he caught him sneaking into a little rockpool in the corner of the beach. He caught Starfish and he pounded him flat and stretched him this way and that way and that way and this way and hurled him back into the rockpool.

Just about that time, they started to take the shapes they're in now. Koala stayed as the little koala up in the tree and Starfish turned into the little starfish over in the rockpool, while Whale turned into the big whale. That wound in the back of his neck is his breathing hole so that as he came up for air he was able to breathe.

And that's the story about Illawarra and the five islands. Every year, when you see the whales swimming up the coast and coming back down and lots of people think they're going up there for a special reason, but that's Whale going up there looking for Koala and Starfish to give them another good flogging.