Bungandidj people

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Bunganditj language, English
Australian Aboriginal mythology, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Ngarrindjeri, Dhauwurd wurrung, Bindjali, and Jardwadjali
see List of Indigenous Australian group names

The Buandig people (Boandik, Booandik and Bunganditj) are Indigenous Australians from the Mount Gambier region in western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia.


Bungandidj is a Pama-Nyungan language, and is classified as belonging to the Bungandik/Kuurn-Kopan-Noot subgroup of the Victorian Kulin languages.[1] Their own name for the their language was Drualat-ngolonung (speech of man), or, alternatively, Booandik-ngolo (speech of the Booandik).[2] It consisted of 5 known dialects,Bungandik, Pinejunga, Mootatunga, Wichintunga and Polinjunga.[1] It has recently be studied by Barry Blake.[3]


According to Christina Smith in her 1880 book on the Buandig people - The Boandik Tribe of South Australian Aborigines: A Sketch of Their Habits, Customs, Legends, and Language -

"The aborigines of the South-East were divided into five tribes, each occupying its own territory, and using different dialects of the same language. Their names were Booandik, Pinejunga, Mootatunga, Wichintunga, and Polinjunga."[4]

The largest clan, according to Smith, was the Booandik who occupied country from the mouth of the Glenelg River to Rivoli Bay North (Beachport), extending inland for about 30 miles (48 km). The other clans occupied country from between Lacepede Bay to Bordertown.[4] The Buandig shared tribal borders with the Ngarrindjeri people of the Coorong and Murray mouth to the west, the Bindjali and Jardwadjali to the north and the Gunditjmara people to the east.

Anthropologist Norman Tindale argued in 1940 and again in 1974 that at the time of European settlement the Buandig were under territorial pressure from the Jardwadjali people to the north forcing the Buandig territorial boundary south from Gariwerd towards present day Casterton.[5] However the historian Ian D. Clark has challenged Tindale's conclusions, arguing that the ethnohistoric and linguistic evidence doesn't support Tindale's claims regarding the boundaries between the Buandig and Jardwadjali.[a][7]


The Buandig were divided into two marriage classes: Kumite and Kroke, with children being assigned their mother's class. Within the Kumite class there were five major animal totems

  • boorte moola: fishhawk
  • boorte parangal: pelican
  • boorte wa: crow
  • boorte willer: black cockatoo.
  • boorte karato: ((harmless) snake.

The Kroke class had 4 major totems:

  • boorte wirrmal: owl
  • boorte wsereoo': teatree scrub
  • boorte moorna: an edible root)
  • boorte kara-al: white crestless cockatoo.[8]

Each of these divisions had many animals, plants, and inanimate elements correlated with it. These totemic items were treated as the friend of all members of a totemic clan, and restrictions were imposed on eating species associated with them, except under extreme circumstances when due sorrow and remorse was expressed.[9]


Pre History[edit]

The Buandig people are likely to have occupied this area for tens of thousands of years. Midden heaps on the foreshore of Lake Eliza in the Little Dip Conservation Park have been dated at around 10,000 years old.[10]

First Contact[edit]

First contact between the Buandig and Europeans occurred in the early 1820s. Panchy from the Buandig recounted to Christina Smith the story of the first sighting of ships at Rivoli Bay in either 1822 or 1823, and his mother's abduction for 3 months before she was able to escape when the ship put in at Guichen Bay.[11]

Conflict and dispossession[edit]

In November 1834 Edward Henty settled near Portland, starting the movement of European settlers and their sheep, cattle, horses and bullocks across the Western plains of Victoria and the south east region of South Australia. Settlement occurred rapidly over the following two decades with significant frontier conflict taking place involving theft of sheep, spearings, massacres and poisoning of the natives.[12] There are a number of reports of poisoned flour or damper being given or left for natives in the settlement of Victoria and South Australia at the time.[13] According to the accounts given by Pendowen, Neenimin and Barakbouranu, and narrated to Christina Smith:

We tasted the mutton, and found it very good; but we buried the damper, as we were afraid of being poisoned.[11]

In 1843 Henry Arthur joined his brother Charles in establishing a sheep run at Mount Schank. Trouble with Buandig people and dingoes, however, drove the Arthur brothers to sell up in 1844. The Hentys also had problems with their Mount Gambier sheep runs with theft of their sheep and shepherds speared to death in 1844. Such heavy losses occurred that the Henty's were forced to withdraw all their flocks from the Mount Gambier run, according to a report in the Portland Mercury on 24 April 1844.[14] The Leake brothers on their Glencoe Station also reported problems losing 1,000 sheep from their 16,000 flock during 1845.[15] Hostilities are reported to have continued around the Glenelg River region for the next two years.

Mistreatment of aborigines was at a level in 1845 where the commissioner of police drew attention to the atrocious treatment in the Rivoli Bay District:

... damper poisoned with corrosive sublimate … [and] driving the Natives from the only watering places in the neighbourhood. The Native women appear likewise to have been sought after by the shepherds, whilst the men were driven from the stations with threats.[16][17]

In 1849 the Avenue Range Station Massacre occurred in the Mount Gambier region of South Australia. At least 9 indigenous Buandig Wattatonga clan people were allegedly murdered by the station owner James Brown who was subsequently charged with the crime.[18][19] The case was dropped by the Crown for lack of European witnesses. Until that year, blacks were unable to testify under oath.[20] Christina Smith's source from the Wattatonga tribe refers to 11 people killed in this incident by two white men. The cause of the massacre was the theft of sheep for food.[21]

A report by Mr Smith to Dr Moorhouse, the Protector of Aborigines, in April 1851 reveals that "the natives belonging to the Rivoli Bay Tribe (Buandig) are all quiet, and most of them usefully employed in one way or another by the settlers." The report also raises with concern that "infanticide has been and is still practiced among the natives here.", and "relations existing between native woman and the Europeans are very discreditable."[22]

Even by 1854 settlers felt threatened by the Buandig people. The Leake Brothers of Glencoe Station erected 'Frontier House' in 1854 - a 'large homestead with slits in the walls through which rifles could be used against any likely intruder' according to local historian Les Hill.[23]

Gradually a certain accommodation was made with Buandig people working as station hands, shearers and domestic servants while remaining on their own land.

According to Bell and Marsden, aboriginal people made encampments of wurleys on the edge of Kingston and even moved into cottages at Rosetown on Kingston's northern side in 1877. The people often moved camp seasonally gathering and using traditional foods and using the traditional local burial ground. They record that the Blackford Reserve on the Bordertown Road was another locality where aboriginal people lived until the 1970s.[16] Kingston and Bordertown were the territorial border shared between the Buandig and the Ngarrindjeri.

In the Penola to Coonawarra area it was reported that the Buandig had lived in the region for tens of thousands of years but that the last local aborigines died in 1902.[24]

There are many people in the region who identify as Buandig people today. Descendants of the Buandig and the Meintangk continue to nurture and protect their culture through the Kungari Aboriginal Cultural Association based in Kingston SE.[25]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Pungandaitj,Pungantitj, Pungandik.
  • Bungandity, Bungandaitj, Bungandaetch, Bungandaetcha.
  • Buanditj, Boandik, Buandic, Booandik, Bangandidj, Buandik, Buandic, Boandiks.
  • Bunganditjngolo (name for a language)(Borandikngolo is a misprint)
  • Barconedeet, Bak-on-date.
  • Smoky River tribe.
  • Nguro (Mt Gambier dialect, of eastern tribes)
  • Booandik-ngolo.
  • Drualat-ngolonung.[5]

Some words[edit]

  • barite (girl)
  • moorongal (boy)
  • drual (man)
  • ngat (mother)[26]

A song[edit]

yul-yul, thumbal
kallaball, moonarerebul
nana nan molanin
korotaa, king nal
yongo birrit.

Fly, march-fly, beetle;
Fly beetle, bat, night
parrot, little parrot.
wattle bird, minah bird.[27]


  1. ^ 'These leave no doubt that Jardwadjali 'is spoken about Horsham, Murtoa, Kewell, Warracknabeal, southerly to Grampians, Balmoral, Cavendish and Coleraine'.Thus, Mathews has included a large portion of territory that Tindale delineated as Buandig.'[6]


  1. ^ a b Dixon 2004, p. xxxv.
  2. ^ Smith 1880, p. 125.
  3. ^ Blake 2003.
  4. ^ a b Smith 1880, p. ix.
  5. ^ a b Tindale 1974.
  6. ^ Smith 1998, p. 15 ?
  7. ^ Clark 1998, pp. 15–16.
  8. ^ Smith 1880, pp. ix–x.
  9. ^ Smith 1880, p. x.
  10. ^ Parks SA, Little Dip Conservation Park, Parks SA website. Accessed 14 September 2011
  11. ^ a b Smith 1880, pp. 25–26.
  12. ^ Foster, Nettelbeck & Hosking 2001, pp. 47,77,82–83,113.
  13. ^ Foster, Nettelbeck & Hosking 2001, pp. 82–83.
  14. ^ pp101, Occasional papers in aboriginal studies, issues 12-15, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
  15. ^ Macgillivray 1989, pp. 27–28.
  16. ^ a b Bell & Marsden 2008.
  17. ^ Jenkin 1979, p. 63.
  18. ^ Foster, Nettelbeck & Hosking 2001, pp. 74–93.
  19. ^ Foster & Nettelbeck 2012, p. 138.
  20. ^ Foster, Nettelbeck & Hosking 2001, p. 13.
  21. ^ Smith 1880, p. 62.
  22. ^ Smith 1880, pp. 36–37.
  23. ^ Les R Hill, pp 26-29 Mount Gambier, A city around a cave, A regional history., Published by the author, 1972. 333 pp, photos.
  24. ^ Penola, The Age, 1 January 2009. Accessed 14 September 2011
  25. ^ District Council of Robe, Aboriginal History, Accessed 14 September 2011
  26. ^ Smith 1880, pp. 125–126.
  27. ^ Smith 1880, pp. 138–139.