The Bora Ring and the Cemetery

Bora ring
Unlikely neighbours

Stopping on a country road in Tucki Tucki, a small town near Lismore, NSW, I was lured into Tucki Tucki Cemetery by a sign which read “Aboriginal Bora Ring”. The cemetery is small and quiet except that it’s located by a country road, and the sacred bora ring inside – where Aboriginal boys were once initiated into manhood – is today just a humdrum field of grass. The cultural activity once so alive in these fields is now gone. The bora ring, however, is one of the finest remaining examples of its kind.

Bora ring
The Tucki Tucki Bora Ring

The Bora Ring

Bora sites consist of circles of hardened earth, containing one, typically two or three rings. Women and children stood in the large circle (typically 30 metres across) while only men were allowed in the inner circle. The circles, where sacred ceremonies took place, reflected social hierarchy and hosted singing, dancing, story telling, circumcision and/or body scarring. Fires and marked passageways would symbolise the passing of boyhood into manhood and ceremonies were unique to each tribe.

Bora ring
The key-shaped arena, which was part of the procession leading to the ring

The Tucki Tucki Bora Ring was a single-ringed site and, like others of its kind, was reached by a winding ceremonial procession where now lies farmland. The site was last used by the Bundjalung people in the 1800s. Unfortunately, the majority of bora sites were decimated with the arrival of Europeans, and perhaps the only reason the Tucki Tucki Bora Ring survives today is that it shares land with Tucki Tucki Cemetery.

Bora ring
The processional entrance, facing south-west

The survival of this bora ring, however, was recently under threat with the proposed expansion of a quarry by the NSW Government. I haven’t heard any further development on this and hopefully it was rejected. Insane that a mere quarry should replace a rare piece of Aboriginal heritage. Turning my thoughts inward, I stood in a slight depression in the centre of the bora ring – which was alleged to have once been a fire pit, even an open grave – and tried to imagine the fervent ceremonies here long ago…

Bora ring
The view of the cemetery from the center of the bora ring

The Cemetery

Admittedly, I enjoy exploring cemeteries, I find them fascinating as they make me think about the passing of time, how precious life is and that everyone has a story. As I wandered I came across a few interesting graves, like the one near the entrance (below), which put a smile on my face. For here lies a fellow traveller, I thought, a passionate liver of life. It was perhaps a glimpse into a grand story.

Bora ring

Then there were stories marked with fewer words, like the lone grave to the east next to the bora ring. This grave belonged to one Ivy Beatrice Greber, an infant who never made it to her 16th month, dying in 1900. Just why she was buried entirely alone is a mystery. Allegedly both her parents are buried in the cemetery too, alongside other graves. Perhaps she was afflicted with something terrible, born out of wedlock.

We may never know.

Bora ring
The lone grave of Ivy Greber

13 thoughts on “The Bora Ring and the Cemetery”

  1. Ah, progress – who needs sites of cultural significance when we could have more gravel for roads and driveways … the idiocy of bureaucrats and big business leaders stuns me sometimes…

    • Hi Hans,

      Yeah, it’s a bit bewildering isn’t it. So many cultural aspects lost through misunderstanding. Although it’s nice that sites like this remain, even if it is due to a fortunate set of circumstances.

  2. I have been to the Bora Ring at Tucki Tucki…I made the mistake of stepping into it taking photo’s I didn’t’ feel the best and mentioned to my friend I was feeling off all of a sudden, I took the camera away from my face and saw I was standing in the boar ring removed myself and apologised and felt better very shortly after.

    • Hi Shay,

      Great that you were feeling the energy. I did think about staying outside, but decided to pass through it in the end (and didn’t feel bad for it).

      Thanks for stopping in.

      • Hey,
        Just thought I would let you know that it is against cultural protocol to enter a Bora Ring without the traditional custodians permission, in this case the Elders of the Wiradjuri people. I can understand why Shay felt ill and thank him for acknowledging his mistakes. I hope next time you encounter a sacred site to respect it and not enter.

        • Hey Jay, yeah totally agree. This was my first visit to a bora ring, I think. I’ve since written about a few others on this site and I’ve respectfully stayed out since.


  3. Locals whose European settler ancestors are buried in the nearby Christian cemetery claim that on the same ridge another bora ring was originally located joined to the existing one by a winding path. It was located in the paddock beyond the fence to the south of the existing one but has long since been destroyed by agriculture.
    During the initiation ceremony participants would make their way from one ring to the other.

    The existing ring has a raised earth border around the perimeter and a depression in the centre most probably a fire pit. The timber fence around the ring is easily crossed but we have also found that entering that site brings a sense of the sacred and we should respect such precious relics from our ancient past. Gut feelings should be followed. Stay out of the circles.

  4. Thanks for sharing your photos and the story of the site, it has such a long history
    Was lucky to visit and also fascinated with little Ivy’s location, was she perhaps not yet sanctioned by a church be admitted to the main grounds. But also that someone is still visiting little Ivy and leaving her flowers.

    • Glad you got to visit to Mandy C, it’s an interesting little spot isn’t it? Nice that someone’s visiting Ivy. It’s been a while since I’ve been here but I can see from my post there were flowers there then too 🙂

  5. Thanks Andy – I love your discovery trails. I’m inspired now to have a look at Dalmorton. As a (now retired) minister I’ve led many funerals at the Tucki Cemetery/Bora Ring and I’m always overwhelmed by the historical significance of that place.

  6. Today I stumbled across a sign posted ‘Aboriginal Bora Ring’ 5 klms from where I am staying for a few nights. My first thought was ‘Lets go check it out’.
    I have never seen one before. On our drive there, I had second thoughts but kept them to myself. I was with my Partner, and two son. Myself and my sons identify as First Nations people from Wiradjuri and Dharug Mobs in NSW.
    I wanted my children to know the significant history of First Nations peoples cultural knowledge and rituals.

    We parked the car, I was first out and immediately spotted the engraved stone and story about the ring. I only got to the first paragraph that read ‘initiations of Aboriginal Boys to Manhood”, before I backed away and removed myself from the area and back in the car. I watched on from the car to see my Kids and partner venture over and look at the site after reading the stone. My Non-indigenous partner explained to the boys what this site was. They all then stepped inside the wooden fencing area took a few steps in nearing the middle. I tapped on the window and signalled to them to get out., waved them back to the car and asked we leave now.
    I don’t know why I felt uneased about this site. Was it because I am a woman and this was a mens only site? Was it becasue this was mens business therefore not Womens business and I was not allowed to be here? Was it because I am a Wiradjuri/Dharug woman and on the lands of Bundjalung country disrespecting absite by being there?
    I don’t know. I am anxious to close my eyes right now, which is why I am on here and writing. I am seeking knowledge from a Traditional Custodians of this land and wanting to pay my respects and apologise for my ignorance.

    In the back of my mind I knew what a Bora Ring was, but wanted to see the site, then something came over me.

    When i returned to the car, I called out to the ancestors and apologised to them spiritually for my lack of ignorance. I acknowledged the lands on which I was and sought forgiveness.

    If anyone can reach out to me that is from this country lands I would be gratefully appreciated.

    Kimd Regards


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