The Bunyip Story
by Trevor Jordan
"I sure am grateful for the day my sister crawled out of her billabong, wondering if there was anyone out there that looked or felt like her, so I could lend her my mirror."
One of my favourite Australian children's picture books is by Jenny Wagner (illustrated by Ron Brooks) called The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek.
Late one night, a bunyip comes out of the murky mud in the billabong at the bottom of Berkeley's Creek.‘What am I’, it asks the various animals of the forest. ‘What do I look like?’ Of course, many simply run or swim away in fright. Others tell him the truth as they see it: he is a bunyip, and bunyips are horrible, ugly creatures. He meets a scientist, who without even bothering to look up from his notebook and pencil tells him emphatically that bunyips do not exist. Finally, he dejectedly wanders off until he finds another billabong and sits down beside it. Something stirs in the murky depths, and out comes something large and muddy. ‘What am I? What do I look like?’ it asks. The bunyip is ecstatic. ‘You look just like me’, he shouts. And he lent her his mirror to prove it.
This story reminds me of a workshop activity designed to help adoption professionals, and others who are not adopted, feel what it would be like to grow up adopted. It goes like this. Get hold of mirror and look at it. As you look at yourself, name the various facial features that you inherited from members of your family. You might say, I have my mother's nose, my father's chin, or Aunty Ethel's hair. Now, turn the mirror over. This is what an adoptee sees when he or she looks in the mirror.
For many, the experience of search and reunion is like that magical, healing moment where we crawl out of the murky depths of our individual lives and ask, ‘What am I? What do I look like?’ And there, waiting for us on the bank is another creature willing to lend us their mirror and shout, ‘You’re a bunyip! You look just like me!’
I sure am grateful for the day my sister crawled out of her billabong, wondering if there was anyone out there that looked or felt like her, so I could lend her my mirror.