The infant thus produced is by the mother carried about for some days on a piece of soft bark; and, as soon as it acquires strength enough, is removed to her shoulders, where it sits with its little legs across her neck; and, taught by necessity, soon catches hold of her hair to preserve itself from falling.
The reddish cast of the skin soon gives place to the natural hue, a change that is much assisted by the smoke and dirt in which, from the moment of their existence, these children are nurtured. The parents begin early to decorate them after the custom of the country. As soon as the hair of the head can be taken hold of, fish-bones and the teeth of animals are fastened to it with gum. White clay ornaments their little limbs; and the females suffer the extraordinary amputation which they term mal-gun before they have quitted their seat on their mother’s shoulders.
In about a month or six weeks the child receives its name. This is generally taken from some of the objects constantly before their eyes, such as a bird, a beast, or a fish, and is given without any ceremony. Thus Bennillong’s child Dilboong was so named after a small bird, which we often heard in low wet grounds and in copses. An elderly woman who occasionally visited us was named Mau-ber-ry, the term by which they distinguish the gurnet from other fish. Bennillong told me, his name was that of a large fish, but one that I never saw taken. Bal-loo-der-ry signified the fish named by us the leathern-jacket; and there were two girls in the town named Pat-ye-ga-rang, a corruption of Pat-ta-go-rang, the name of the large grey kangaroo. Other instances might be adduced; but these are sufficient to show the prevalence of the custom.
At an early age the females wear round the waist a small line made of the twisted hair of the opossum, from the centre of which depend a few small uneven lines from two to five inches long, made of the same materials. This they term bar-rin, and wear it until they are grown into women and are attached to men.
The union of the sexes takes place at an earlier period than is usual in colder regions. We have known several instances of very young girls having been much and shamefully abused by the males.
From their earliest infancy the boys are accustomed to throwing the spear, and to the habit of defending themselves from it. They begin by throwing reeds at each other, and are soon very expert. They also, from the time when they can run, until prompted by manhood to realize their sports, amuse themselves with stealing the females, and treat them at this time very little worse than they do then.
Among their juvenile exercises I observed that of throwing up a ball, and passing it from one to another. They also provide themselves with small sticks, and range themselves in a row, when the one at the upper end rolls a ball or any other round substance along the front of his companions, every one of whom endeavours to strike it as it passes. This is a favourite exercise with them, and of course they excel at it.