|Regions with significant populations|
|Bun wurrung, English|
|Australian Aboriginal mythology, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurong, Wathaurong, Wurundjeri
see List of Indigenous Australian group names
The Bunurong (also spelt Bunwurrung, Boonwerung, Bunurowrung, Boonoorong and Bururong) are Indigenous Australians of the Kulin nation, who occupy South-Central Victoria, Australia. Prior to British settlement, they lived as all people of the Kulin nation lived, sustainably on the land, predominantly as hunters and gatherers, for tens of thousands of years. They were referred to by Europeans as the Western Port or Port Philip tribe and were in alliance with other tribes in the Kulin nation, having particularly strong ties to the Wurundjeri people.
The Bunurong territory extended along the northern, eastern and southern shorelines of Port Phillip, the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port and its two main islands, and land to the south-east down to Wilsons Promontory. The Bunurong tradditionally spoke the Bunwurrung language.
The Bunurong clans would have been aware of the Europeans, as people of the coast who watched the explorers ships sail past, then enter Port Phillip and Western Port. Initial contact was made in February 1801, when Lieutenant Murray and his crew from the Lady Nelson came ashore for fresh water near present-day Sorrento . A wary exchange of spears and stone axes for shirts, mirrors and a steel axe, ended when the British panicked, resulting in spears flying, musket shots and the use of the ship's cannon, wounding several fleeing Bunurong people.
Just prior to and overlapping the period of British exploration and settlement, the Bunurong were involved in a long-running dispute with the Gunai/Kurnai people from Gippsland. According to William Barak, the last traditional elder of the Wurundjeri people, the conflict was a dispute over resources, which resulted in heavy casualties being suffered by the Bunurong. Many Gunnai raids occurred to abduct Bunurong women. The Yowengerra had almost been completely annihilated by 1836, largely as a result of attacks from the Gunai. During 1833-1834 around 60-70 Bunurong people were killed in a raid by Gunnai when they were camped to the north of Carrum Carrum Swamp.
The first British settlement occurred at Sullivan Bay in October 1803, near modern-day Sorrento, Victoria, under the command of Lieutenant David Collins. William Buckley, a convict, escaped from this abortive settlement and lived for more than 30 years with the Wadawurrung people before approaching John Batman's party in 1835. He told George Langhorne in 1836:
- I frequently entertained them (the Wadawurrung), when sitting around the campfires, with accounts of the English People, Houses, Ships – great guns etc. to which accounts they would listen with great attention – and express much astonishment.
The Bunurong people, living primarily along the Port Phillip and Western Port coast, were also subjected to violent raids on their camps by European seal hunters, from at least 1809 to as late as 1833. Tribal men were killed and the women adbucted and enslaved by sealers for sexual partners, and taken to the islands in Bass Strait where the sealers had their camps. This would have heavily impacted the economic and social ties binding the Wurundjeri and Bunurong peoples.
James Fleming, one of the party of surveyor Charles Grimes in HMS Cumberland who explored the Maribyrnong River and the Yarra River as far as Dights Falls in February 1803, reported small pox scars on several aboriginal people he met, indicating that a small pox epidemic had swept through the tribes around Port Philip before 1803, reducing the population. Broome puts forward that two epidemics of small pox decimated the population of the Kulin tribes by perhaps killing half each time in the 1790s and again around 1830. Small pox arrived in Australia with the First Fleet settlement in Sydney. These epidemics were incorporated in their oral tradition as the Mindye, a rainbow serpent from the Northwest sent to destroy or afflict any people for bad deeds, hissing and spreading white particles from its mouth from which disease could be inhaled.
- "Any plague is supposed to be brought on by the Mindye or some of its little ones. I have no doubt that, in generations gone by, there has been an awful plague of cholera or black fever, and that the wind at the time, or some other appearance from the north-west has given rise to this strange being." reported William Thomas
One particularly notable person at the time of European settlement in Victoria was Derrimut, a Bunurong Elder, who informed early European settlers in October 1835 of an impending attack by clans from the Woiwurrung group. The colonists armed themselves, and the attack was averted. Benbow and Billibellary, from the Wurundjeri, also acted to protect the colonists as part of their duty of hospitality. Derrimut later became very disillusioned and died in the Benevolent Asylum at the age of about 54 years in 1864. A few colonists erected a tombstone to Derrimut in Melbourne General Cemetery in his honour.
By 1839 the Bunurong had been reduced to 83 people, with only 4 of 19 children under four years old, from a probable pre-contact population of greater than 300 people. By 1850 Protector William Thomas estimated just 28 Bunurong people.
In 1852 the Boonwurrung were allocated 340 hectares at Mordialloc Creek while the Woiworrung gained 782 hectares along the Yarra at Warrandyte. These reserves were never staffed by whites and were not permanent camps, but acted as distribution depots where rations and blankets were distributed, with the intention being to keep the tribes away from the growing settlement of Melbourne. The Aboriginal Protection Board revoked these two reserves in 1862-1863, considering them now too close to Melbourne.
In March 1863 after three years of upheaval, the surviving Kulin leaders, among them Simon Wonga and William Barak, led forty Wurundjeri, Taungurong (Goulburn River) and Bunurong people over the Black Spur and squatted on a traditional camping site on Badger Creek near Healesville and requested ownership of the site. This became Coranderrk Station. Coranderrk was closed in 1924 and its occupants forced to move to Lake Tyers in Gippsland.
Structure, borders and land use
Communities consisted of six or more (depending on the extent of the territory) land-owning groups called clans that spoke a related language and were connected through cultural and mutual interests, totems, trading initiatives and marriage ties. Access to land and resources, such as the Birrarung, by other clans, was sometimes restricted depending on the state of the resource in question. For example; if a river or creek had been fished regularly throughout the fishing season and fish supplies were down, fishing was limited or stopped entirely by the clan who owned that resource until fish were given a chance to recover. During this time other resources were utilised for food. This ensured the sustained use of the resources available to them. As with most other Kulin territories, penalties such as spearings were enforced upon trespassers. Today, traditional clan locations, language groups and borders are no longer in use and descendants of Wurundjeri people live within modern day society.
- Yalukit-willam: occupied the thin coastal strip from Werribee, to Williamstown, around to Mordialloc Creek
- Mayone-bulluk: occupied the area at the top of the Mornington Peninsula and the head of Western Port
- Ngaruk-Willam: from Dandenong across to the Mordialloc area
- Yallock-Bullock: from the Bass River on the eastern side of Western Port
- Burinyung-Ballak: unknown territory
- Yowenjerre: the eastern-most side of Bunurong land
The Bunurong territory extended along the northern, eastern and southern shorelines of Port Phillip, the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port and its two main islands, and land to the south-east down to Wilsons Promontory. This territory was known to the Kulin clans as the marr ne bek or 'excellent country', as it had an abundance of food resources. As descendants from Lohan, Bunurong people were the custodians of the marr ne bek country. Kulin people believed that those from clans outside this country, were required to undergo a specific ritual to enable them to enter the area without harm. The Wilsons Promontory area was shared with the Bratowooloong clan of the Gunaikurnai nation.
The Bunurong people shared the same belief system as other Kulin nation territories, based on a creative epoch known as the Dreamtime which stretches back into a remote era in history when the creator ancestors known as the First Peoples travelled across the land, creating and naming as they went. Indigenous Australia's oral tradition and religious values are based upon reverence for the land and a belief in this Dreamtime. The Dreaming is at once both the ancient time of creation and the present day reality of Dreaming. There were a great many different groups, each with their own individual culture, belief structure, and language. These cultures overlapped to a greater or lesser extent, and evolved over time. The two moiety totems of the Wurundjeri people are Bunjil the eaglehawk and Waarn the raven, protector of waterways.
- Bunjil & Pallian Creation Story: Bunjil is the Creator spirit of the Kulin People.
- Birrarung Creation Story: formation of the Birrarung River.
- Waarn the protector of Bunurong waterways.
Notable Bunurong people
- Richard Broome, pp3-6, Aboriginal Victorians: A History Since 1800, Allen & Unwin, 2005, ISBN 1-74114-569-4, ISBN 978-1-74114-569-4
- Dianne Barwick, 1984 Mapping the Past: an Atlas of Victorian Clans, Aboriginal History, 8:100-131 referenced in David Rhodes, Terra Culture Heritage Consultants, Channel Deepening Existing Conditions Final Report - Aboriginal Heritage, Prepared for Parsons Brinckerhoff & Port of Melbourne Corporation, August 2003. Accessed November 3, 2008
- Clark, Ian D. & Toby G. Heydon, 1998, The Confluence of the Merri Creek and Yarra River: A History of the Western Port Aboriginal Protectorate and the Merri Creek Aboriginal School, Report to the Heritage Services Branch, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, as referenced in David Rhodes, Terra Culture Heritage Consultants, Channel Deepening Existing Conditions Final Report - Aboriginal Heritage, Prepared for Parsons Brinckerhoff & Port of Melbourne Corporation, August 2003. Accessed November 3, 2008
- Langhorne 1836 in Tim Flannery (ed) (2002), Introduction to The Life and Adventures of William Buckley, by John Morgan, 1852. (2002) ISBN 978-1-877008-20-7
- David Rhodes, Terra Culture Heritage Consultants, pp23, Channel Deepening Existing Conditions Final Report - Aboriginal Heritage, Prepared for Parsons Brinckerhoff & Port of Melbourne Corporation, August 2003. Accessed November 3, 2008
- James Fleming, A journal of Grimes' survey : the Cumberland in Port Phillip January–February 1803, edited by John Currey, 2002, ISBN 0-949586-10-2 as referenced in David Rhodes, Terra Culture Heritage Consultants, pp24, Channel Deepening Existing Conditions Final Report - Aboriginal Heritage, Prepared for Parsons Brinckerhoff & Port of Melbourne Corporation, August 2003. Accessed November 3, 2008
- Richard Broome, pp7-9, Aboriginal Victorians: A History Since 1800, Allen & Unwin, 2005, ISBN 1-74114-569-4, ISBN 978-1-74114-569-4
- Bride, Thomas (Ed). Letters from Victorian Pioneers, Public Library of Victoria, 1898. as referenced from Rowville-Lysterfield Community News, BELIEFS OF THE ABORIGINES PART 3 - Mindye September 1999 and April 2001, Accessed November 6, 2008
- David Rhodes and Joanne Bell, pp50, Shire of Cardinia Urban Growth Corridor Aboriginal Heritage Study, Report to the Shire of Cardinia, April 2004. Accessed November 10, 2008
- Richard Broome, pp106-107, Aboriginal Victorians: A History Since 1800, Allen & Unwin, 2005, ISBN 1-74114-569-4, ISBN 978-1-74114-569-4
- Richard Broome, pp126, Aboriginal Victorians: A History Since 1800, Allen & Unwin, 2005, ISBN 1-74114-569-4, ISBN 978-1-74114-569-4
- Isabel Ellender and Peter Christiansen, pp112-113, People of the Merri Merri. The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days, Merri Creek Management Committee, 2001 ISBN 0-9577728-0-7
- Carolyn Briggs, Boon wurrung Arweets Carolyn Briggs, Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages, Accessed November 9, 2008
- David Rhodes and Joanne Bell, Shire of Cardinia Urban Growth Corridor Aboriginal Heritage Study, Report to the Shire of Cardinia, April 2004. Accessed November 10, 2008