The Big Bogong Moths in Acton, a suburb in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, celebrate the Ngunnawal, the first inhabitants of Canberra. The two sculptures were designed and built by Ngunnawal artist Jim Williams in 2001. You will find them between The National Museum of Australia and the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
The Big Bogong Moths and the Ngunnawal
The Ngunnawal were hunters and gatherers who seasonally moved to different parts of the region, searching for food and water.
At the time, they harvested the Bogong moths and the Yam Daisy for food. These seasonal moths appeared in abundance during summer and would hide mostly under rocks and cracks. After harvesting, the Ngunnnawal cooked the moths on heated earth, stirring them severally, causing the legs and wings to fall off due to heat and friction.
When the European settlers arrived in the area with their sheep and cattle in the early 19th century, the Ngunnawal population declined due to new diseases such as smallpox and measles. The animals grazed heavily on grasslands belonging to the Ngunnawal, eventually reducing the locals’ natural food and water sources.
In the years that followed, the Ngunnawal weren’t so keen on migration because most of the land was invaded by the European settlers, leaving little room for the locals to maneuver.
Ultimately, the two communities lived harmoniously when the Ngunnawal people began to work as stockmen for the Europeans. But despite the Europeans’ arrival, this aboriginal tribe still holds deep connections with their native land, better depicted by the two Big Moths.
Insects are well represented in Australia’s obsession with the Big Things. Examples of Big Things under the insects’ category include: