The Kulin nation is an alliance of five Indigenous Australian nations in Central Victoria, Australia. Before European invasion, the five tribes spoke five related languages. Their collective territory extends around Port Phillip and Western Port, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys. To their east live the Gunai/Kurnai people of Gippsland. Five distinct languages were spoken in two groups. The Eastern Kulin group includes Woiwurrung, Bunurong, Taungurong, Ngurai-illam-wurrung. The western language group includes just Wathaurung.
The Kulin people had lived in the area for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years.
At the time of European settlement in the 1830s the indigenous population was estimated to be under 20,000, who were hunter-gatherers from the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong tribes. The Kulin lived by fishing, hunting and gathering, and made a good living from the rich food sources of Port Phillip and the surrounding grasslands.
Many of the Aboriginal people who live in Melbourne today are descended from indigenous groups from other parts of Victoria and Australia. However, there are still people who identify as Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung descendants of the original people who occupied the area of Melbourne prior to European settlement. While there are few overt signs of the Kulin past in the Melbourne area, there are a number of sites of cultural and spiritual significance.
- Woiwurrung (Woy-wur-rung) – The Wurundjeri People
- Boonrwrung (Bun-er-rung) – The Bunurong or Boonerwrung People
- Wathaurrung (Wath-er-rung) – The Wathaurong People
- Daungwurrung (Tung-ger-rung) – The Taungurong People
- Dja Dja Wrung (Jar-Jar wrung) – The Dja Dja Wurrung or Jaara People.
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When foreign people passed through or were invited onto tribal lands, the ceremony of Tanderrum – freedom of the bush – would be performed. This allowed safe passage and temporary access and use of land and resources by foreign people. It was a diplomatic rite involving the landholder's hospitality and a ritual exchange of gifts.
- Gary Presland, The First Residents of Melbourne's Western Region, (revised edition), Harriland Press, 1997. ISBN 0-646-33150-7. Presland says on page 1: "There is some evidence to show that people were living in the Maribyrnong River valley, near present day Keilor, about 40,000 years ago."
- "Indigenous connections to the site" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-31.
- Gary Presland, Aboriginal Melbourne: The Lost Land of the Kulin People, Harriland Press (1985), Second edition 1994, ISBN 0-9577004-2-3. This book describes in some detail the archaeological evidence regarding aboriginal life, culture, food gathering and land management, particularly the period from the flooding of Bass Strait and Port Phillip from about 7–10,000 years ago, up to the European colonisation in the 19th century.
- Gary Presland, Aboriginal Melbourne: The Lost Land of the Kulin People, Harriland Press (1985), Second edition 1994, ISBN 0-9577004-2-3. This book describes in some detail the archeological evidence regarding aboriginal life, culture, food gathering and land management, particularly the period from the flooding of Bass strait and Port Phillip from about 7-10,000 years ago up to the European colonisation in the nineteenth century.
- Meyer Eidelson, The Melbourne Dreaming. A Guide to the Aboriginal Places of Melbourne, pp8-9, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1997. Reprint 2000. ISBN 0-85575-306-4
- See also Meyer Eidelson, The Footballer, First in the league, in Walks in Port Phillip. A guide to the cultural landscapes of a City, Accessed 1 November 2008
- People of the Merri Merri. The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days., by Isabel Ellender and Peter Christiansen. ISBN 0-9577728-0-7
- The First Residents of Melbourne's Western Region, by Gary Presland. ISBN 0-646-33150-7
- Wauthaurong Too Bloody Strong: Stories and life journeys of people from Wauthaurong, by Bruce Pascoe (ed.) (1997), Pascoe Publishing Pty Ltd, Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia. ISBN 094708731-1