The first people valued feathers from birds and assigned them symbolic and ceremonial importance. Old bushmen also valued these, wearing a "gift" in their bush hat for bush dances and, then, when they left for war.
It was a different time. Practical clothing were made at home. Three changes of clothing was thought profligate. Pride of place in a home was around a piano, and in the cool drawing rooms that housed that wonderful piece of furniture, sat small reminders of the land: carved emu eggs; a book of bush poems; vases of dried native flowers and a display of feathers (sometimes still attached to formal hats, of both men and women). These were placed well out of reach of inquisitive children and only worn on formal occasions: a trip to the races; a bush dance; a baptism; a wedding or a funeral.
Not every feather is a gift. Instead a gift is a happenstance. It is a feather left on a path by a bird: an emu; a bush turkey; a rosella; a cockatoo; or, most rare of all, a lyrebird. A feather taken from a dead bird can never be a gift.
A gift gains value and import according to how many times it is given. From friend to friend. From parent to child. The story of a gift and its re-giving is often told. A gift can not be bought nor sold.
Images of a lyrebird feather left as a gift on a path high on an escarpment in a misty casuarina forest, in East Gippsland.