How the Kangaroo got her Pouch is a Wiradjuri Story, from New South Wales, retold by Pauline McLeod

WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG, the Gentle Kangaroo Mother was, like all mothers, always looking after Joey, her young baby. Young Joey was like most children. As soon as his mother’s back was turned, he’d disappear to do his own thing, and Joey’s mother constantly had to look for him.

One day, as the Gentle Kangaroo Mother was in the plains feeding and looking after young Joey, a weak, old, wobbly Wombat, came walking along in her direction.

He was whinging and whining, saying, “I am weak and old. I am blind. I haven’t got a friend in the whole, wide world and I haven’t eaten, or had anything to drink, in days!”

“Ooh!” said the Gentle Kangaroo Mother, “Why don’t you cheer up, it could be worse!”

But, even in those days, nobody cheered up, just because they were told to cheer up!

“What?” said the weak, old, wobbly Wombat, “Didn’t you hear me? I am weak and I am old. I haven’t a friend in the whole, wide world. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink in days!”

“I tell you what,” said the Gentle Kangaroo Mother, patiently, “I’ll be your friend and lead you to some nice, cool water. You just grab hold of my tail.”

But the weak, old, wobbly Wombat let go of the tail, many times. Soon the Gentle Kangaroo Mother was gently pushing and shoving the old Wombat, until they got to where the water was. There the weak, old, wobbly Wombat drank… and drank… and drank. He was very, very, thirsty.

When he had finished, the Gentle Kangaroo Mother, said, “Grab hold of my tail again and I’ll lead you to some nice juicy green grass!”

To read all 33 stories, click here to buy Gadi Mirrabooka – Australian Aboriginal stories from the Dreaming – Contains chapters on the culture