• Kids in Mornington Island demonstrating their Coreeda skills.
Inspired by boxing kangaroos, an ancient form of tribal warfare is being re-taught in remote Indigenous communities.
Ben Henderson

14 Jan 2014 - 5:38 PM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2014 - 3:22 PM

Cast adrift into the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Mornington island is about as isolated an area as you’ll find anywhere in Australia.

Like many young people growing up in remote communities just finding things to do can be a challenge.

With kids from Mornington Island increasingly listless and bored, even resorting to violence, the community has acted.

They’ve invited Gavin Dickson of the Coreeda Association of Australia to teach the ancient martial arts to the island’s youngsters.

Not only is this an opportunity to channel aggression and let off steam in a controlled environment, but it’s also a way to rekindle an age-old tradition.

"We were invited to Mornington Island to try and utilise the sport to help the kids in town manage aggression and inspire them towards traditional culture," Mr Dickson said.

Meaning “Kangaroo Spirit” in the language of the Ngiyampaa people of western New South Wales, Coreeda takes its style from boxing Kangaroos.

A form of wrestling, two fighters use only their arms to grapple with their opponents.

Different rules exist in different areas, Tur-der-er-rin from the Kulin people of Southern Victoria; Partembelin from the Nyeri Nyeri people of Northern Victoria; Ami from the Jinibara people of South Eastern QLD and Arungga from the Kokomini people of Cape York.
The dreaming story of Coreeda is about a lizard man named Beereun, who was told by a giant snake to watch the Kangaroo buck so he could learn how to fight without weapons.

He then brought these techniques back to his clan and started a wrestling tournament as an important peace-keeping ceremony.

"The story was told originally in Cobar and the story was kept alive by one of the Elders in town back in the 1990s. He told me about the creation of Australian wrestling and he verified it by showing me the artwork out there in Mt Grenfell," Mr Dickson said.

At the Mt Grenfell historic site, about 40km west of Cobar, ochre depictions of Coreeda tournaments were painted on rock walls, dating back as far as 30,000 years.

And despite its roots thousands of kilometres away, the kids from the Mornington Island have taken to the new sport with gusto.

“All the kids were fantastic, getting in there and having fun, but there were a few kids there who were just naturally talented and looked like they’d been training for years,” Coreeda instructor Mathew Collins told SBS.