White Settlement before 1900

"Environmental History" Sally Wilde - 1996:

  1. Aboriginal Views
  2. Early White Views
  3. Straight Lines
  4. The Gippsland Railway
  5. Civic Pride in Oakleigh
  6. Land Use and Industry
  7. Endnotes

1.  Aboriginal Views

'(The Kulin's) stable subsistence in this district is the kangaroo, and though in abundance, the kangaroo is an animal that will retreat at least for a time from a spot where they have been disturbed. Hence arises the urgent necessity of their wanderings.' [1]

Assistant Protector Thomas, writing in February 1840, felt me need to explain why me various groups of the Kulin people moved around. The Kulin may have wondered why the whites built their homes in one place and stayed there. Thomas believed me Kulin moved with their food supply. Hunting was an important part of men's lives. Most days they left their camps of bark shelters and walked away to hunt.

Women and children gathered. 'I have known lubras to live three days on roots and gum only...' wrote Thomas. ' A child of three years old is capable of getting their portion in collecting gum. [2]

The camps moved with the seasons and the food and the cycle of meetings among groups. The four tribes of the Kulin nation were the Bunurong, the Wathaurung, the Woiworung and the Taungurong. [3] Taungurong country was inland, including part of the Goulburn valley. The Woiworung lived around the Yarra river, which they called Beireirung, and its tributaries. The Wathaurung lived west of the bay, which they called Nairm, and the Bunurong lived east of the bay and around streams which did not drain to the Yarra, such as the Moody Yallock and Dandenong Creeks. [4]

The adult women of the Bunurong had often grown up on the other side of the bay. Their fathers were Wathaurung. Their mothers were likely to be Bunurong. So many women knew both sides of the bay - one side as daughters and sisters, the other side as wives and mothers. Their fathers and brothers knew one side of the bay and there husbands and sons the other, but they met periodically at its head, in the area where Melbourne now stands. They were joined by the Woiworung and Taungurong, the positions of their camps reflecting the directions from which they had walked. Thomas thought they met about twice a year to resolve grievances and revenge deaths. [5]

The Kulin made canoes for fishing and otherwise they walked about their country. Women and children collected and dug up food that waited in one place. Men caught the kind of food that could run or swim away.

They fought and loved and raised children, whose country it was because they were born in it. They were buried near where they died, also in their country. Generation after generation the people of the Kulin were born and lived and died in their country.

And then ships with sails were seen in Nairm.

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Last updated: 24 February 2020