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The Gundangara (also spelt Gundungara and Gundungurra) are a clan of Indigenous Australians in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Their traditional lands include present day Goulburn and the Southern Highlands.


The Gandangara lived in the south-east region of New South Wales from the Nepean River to about Lake George, neighbours of the Dharug, Tharawal, Yuin, Ngunawal and Wiradjuri peoples.[1]

Norman Tindale recorded the location of the Gundangara as:

At Goulburn and Berrima; down Hawkesbury River (Wollondilly) to about Camden. Feld seems to record their later-day movements rather than their original tribal limits. Their tribal name incorporates terms meaning 'west' and 'east.'[2]


In 1802, the explorer Francis Barrallier met the Gundungara people as his party moved through "The Cowpastures" southwest of Sydney, through the Nattai to the Wollondilly River and up to the heights above where Yerranderie now stands. Barrallier noted in his journal that the Gundungara "themselves build huts for the strangers they wish to receive as friends."[3]

In 1816, fourteen people were killed near Appin by troops sent by Governor Macquarie during punitive expeditions to capture and kill the Aborigines who had been involved in response to some attacks by Aborigines between 1814 and 1816. The Gundungara killed had probably not been involved in the earlier attacks.[4][5]

In 1828, there was some interaction between the Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell, and the Gandarangara, near Mittagong. Mitchell was supervising road construction. The Gandarangara are said to have composed a cheeky song about the building of the road (perhaps with appropriate mimicry): Road goes creaking long shoes, Road goes uncle and brother white man see. It must have seemed that building a road just to visit kin was unnecessary effort. Men from the Gandarangara also acted as guides for Mitchell at the time.[1]

The Gundungara people were apparently badly affected by an influenza epidemic of 1846/47, which was particularly severe. In 1848, the Goulburn Bench of Magistrates estimated the number of Aborigines in Goulburn to be 25.[6]


The Gandangara beliefs have been recorded as:

The Gandangara believed in animal-people who lived in the dreaming and were known as the burringilling . They lived in clouds, mountains, dense scrub, trees or water holes. Some could change the shape of their body, disappear underground, or change the landscape. Sometimes they had magical weapons or were helped by magical dogs.

Most important of the burringilling was Dharamulan. The mythological basis for the initiation is that when the novices were brought to the place where the initiation ceremony was carried out, they had rugs placed over their heads so that they could see nothing. Dharamulan caught a boy and hit him on the back of the head, which caused one of his front upper incisors to fall out. The tooth became gunnabillang, or rock crystal, a stone used in the initiation ceremonies.

Eventually, dharamulan went into different kinds of trees, where he lived except during the times when the initiation ceremonies occur. The piece of wood which is cut from a tree to make a bullroarer is sometimes called a dharamulan, because the noise it makes represents his voice.[5]

Burringilling, from the Tharawal language, can be translated as 'Walking Together' and was the name of a 1993 celebration in Minto, New South Wales, part of the International Year of the World's Indigenous People.[7]

The Gandarangara, like the Tharawal people, buried their dead in the upright position. Important people were wrapped in bark and placed in trees, often surrounded by carved trees.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, cited in "Goulburn:Aborigines". Archive associated with Australia Street project. University of Technology, Sydney. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ Tindale, Norman (1974). "Gandangara (NSW)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. South Australian Museum. Archived from the original on July 20, 2005. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  Note: SA Museum caveat - Please be aware that much of the data relating to Aboriginal language group distribution and definition has undergone revision since 1974. Please note also that this catalogue represents Tindale's attempt to depict Aboriginal tribal distribution at the time of European contact.
  3. ^ Fragments of a Song - A Brief Search for Historical Truth
  4. ^ "British law and guerilla war". Australian History > Aborigines. (Heinemann Interactive). Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  5. ^ a b c Kohen, James, The Darug and their Neighbours, cited in "Goulburn:Aborigines". Archive associated with Australia Street project. University of Technology, Sydney. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  External link in |work= (help)
  6. ^ Goulburn Heritage Study (1981) cited in "Goulburn:Aborigines". Archive associated with Australia Street project. University of Technology, Sydney. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  External link in |work= (help)
  7. ^ "Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Annual Report 1993-1994 - Burringilling". Reconciliation and Social Justice Library. Indigenous Law Resources (AustLII). 2001. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 

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