A person’s totem is incredibly important both spiritually and culturally. An individual may be connected to a number of totems, there is the Bangerang totem, a general totem of our family/clan and a personal one.

We receive our totems when we go through initiation, a ceremony that represents us coming of age and moving in to adulthood. Our Elders take us through the initiation ceremony and are the ones to give us our totems.

Spiritually, our totem is also a protector and guide who watches over us throughout our life. When we die it is believed we will be reincarnated as our totem in our next life. There are also some totems that have specific meanings if you saw them, such as the Willy Wagtail which is a warning of trouble or bad news.

Culturally, a totem also indicates who our family and clan is within the tribe. Clans and families have a general totem and if someone shared that totem with another, then it signified you were related and therefore a marriage could not go forward.

Finally, just as our totem is there to protect and guide you, we also had a responsibility to protect our totem. We wouldn’t hunt or harm our totems, this helped with the long-term sustainability of our people as it prevented overhunting and extinction of animals on our land.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material. To listen to our Acknowledgement of Country, click here.