Girai wurrung

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Girai Wurrung
Regions with significant populations
Girai Wurrung, English
Australian Aboriginal mythology, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Gulidjan, Djargurd Wurrung, Djab Wurrung and Wada wurrung
see List of Indigenous Australian group names
Kaarwin Kuunawarn (hissing swan) was the clan-head of the Gunaward gundidj clan of the Girai Wurrung of Lake Connewarren, west of Mortlake.

The Girai wurrung, also spelt Kirrae Wuurong and Kirrae Whurrung, are an Aboriginal Australian people who traditionally occupied the territory between Mount Emu Creek and the Hopkins River up to Mount Hamilton, and the Western Otways from the Gellibrand River to the Hopkins River. The historian Ian D. Clark has reclassified much of the material regarding them in Norman Tindale's compendium under the Djargurd Wurrung, a term reflecting the assumed pre-eminence of one of their clans, the Jacoort/Djargurd.


The Giray language (Girai wurrung meaning literally "blood lip language")[1] spoke a dialect of the Warnabool language, which belongs to the Kulinic branch of the Pama-Nyungan language family.[2] James Dawson and his daughter Isabella took down extensive vocabulary lists of it and related dialects.[3] A dictionary of the language has been compiled recently.[4]


The Girai lands comprised 1,900 square miles (4,900 km2) of territory from Warrnambool and Hopkins River down to the coast at Princetown. The northern boundary was at Lake Bolac and Darlington. To the east their land extended beyond Camperdown.[5] The tribes on their borders were, to the north, the Djab wurrung and Wathaurong, to their west were the Dhauwurd wurrung and the Djargurd Wurrung. On their eastern flank were the Gulidjan and Gadubanud.


The first white to visit Girai territory was the explorer Edward Eyre.[6] As pastoralists began to penetrate their region and squatter|take up squatting runs for their livestock, the Giray responded by waging a frontier guerilla war to hinder the expropriations.[1] An Aboriginal reserve was established at Framlington in Girai wurrung territory bordering the Gunditjmara (Dhauwurd wurrung) people.[7]

Clan system[edit]

The Girai wurrung people had 21 clans, differing slightly in dialect, with a patriarchal hierarchy and a matrilineally based descent system based on the gabadj (Black Cockatoo) and guragidj (White Cockatoo) moieties.

No Clan name Approximate location
1 Baradh gundidj mouth of Curdies River
2 Badadgil gundidj Allandale station
3 Burug gundidj Mount Shadwell
4 Duram gundidj Tooram station
5 Flat Topped Hill clan Flat Topped Hill
6 Garar gundidj north of Mount Warrnambool
7 Garngigung gundidj southwest of Lake Terang
8 Gilambidj gundidj Lake Keilambete
9 Gilidmurar gundidj Framlingham
10 Gulag gundidj Kona Warren and Merrang stations on the Hopkins River
11 Gular gundidj southwest of Lake Keilambete
12 Gun gundidj between Mount Warrnambool and Terang
13 Gunawurd gundidj Lake Connewarren
14 Gunindarar The Sisters
15 Ngalug barar balug midway between Mount Shadwell and Lake Bolac
16 Mount Noorat clan Mount Noorat and Pejerk Marsh
17 Ngaragurd gundidj east of Curdies River
18 Purteet chowel gundidj southeast of Lake Bolac, including Mount Hamilton
19 Lake Terang clan Lake Terang
20 Warnambul gundidj Mount Warrnambool
21 Yelingamadj gundidj Lake Elingamite

Norman Tindale said they were grouped into 12 "hordes" (kin groups), which he lists as follows:

  • Bolaga/ Bolagher (group at Lake Bolac)
  • Dantgurt
  • Manmait
  • Elingamait
  • Barrath
  • Warnambu (Pertobe)
  • Jarcoort (believed to be a group at that place). Known as the Tampirr gundidj.[9]
  • Colongulac
  • Tooram
  • Narragoort
  • Coonawanee[5]

The clans gathered with the Djab wurrung, Dhauwurd wurrung and Wada wurrung peoples to harvest eels at Lake Bolac. They also met at Mirraewuae swamp near Hexham to hunt emus and other game and to conduct business.[7]


On first sighting a European ship off the coast, the Giray took it for a monster from the deep called Koorung in their traditional law, and fled the area.[1] European settlement of the area began in 1838 and in the early 1840s the Girai wurrung engaged in a sustained guerilla war with the encroaching pastoralists. Dispossession from their land led to starvation and the theft of sheep resulted in murderous reprisals.[7] In early 1839, Frederick Taylor, the manager at George McKillop and James Smith's station at Glenormiston, on being informed that around 50 members of the Jarcoort clan were camped in a gully at Mount Emu creek (the site was known as Tampirr), not far from Camperdown. Taylor rounded up a squatter vigilante band and virtually wiped out the whole group, men, women and children.[10] Ian D. Clark states the estimated deaths at 35–40. A few survived, one woman called Bareetch Chuumeen, managed to swim to safety across Lake Bullen with her child on her shoulders.[10] The place thereafter was called 'Murdering Gully.' places this within Djargurd wurrung country.[11]

Assistant Aboriginal Protector Charles Sievwright was successful in bringing charges against G.S. Bolden for killing 2 Gunawurd gundidj people on 27 October 1841, but Supreme Court Judge Willis acquitted Bolden in December 1841 of the charges and spoke of the right of squatter licencees to turn anyone off their property. This decision was made despite the conditional nature of the squatter's licence by the Government to allow for Aboriginal access for hunting and traditional use.[7]

During 1841 Assistant Protector CW Sievwright set up headquarters at two locations: Lake Keilambete and Lake Terang, but these were only temporary and Sievwright was ordered by Robinson to move to Mount Rouse in February 1842.[7]

When Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve was occupied in 1865 near Warrnambool many of the surviving members of the Girai wurrung joined the reserve along with surviving Djargurd wurrung who were forcibly relocated and Gunditjmara from Warrnambool. Gunditjmara from Portland and Lake Condah refused to settle at Framlingham, leading to the establishment of Lake Condah reserve in 1869.[7]

The historian Ian Clark asserts that from 1868 the history of the Girai wurrung becomes the history of Framlingham.[7]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Bolaga/ Bolagher (apparently the name for the group at Lake Bolac)
  • Colongulac tribe (a clan group)
  • Dantgurt, Dautgart, Tantgort, Targurt, Dyargurt
  • Jarcoort (may refer to the group located at Jancourt)
  • Kirawirung, Kirraewuurong
  • Konoug-willam (typo?)
  • Manmait
  • Mount Shadwell tribe
  • Ngutuk, meaning "you"
  • Ngutung[6]
  • Warn tallin (western tribal exonym for them meaning "rough language")[12]

Source: Tindale 1974, p. 205



  1. ^ a b c Clark 1995, p. 125.
  2. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxv.
  3. ^ Blake 2011, p. 12.
  4. ^ Krishna-Pillay 1996.
  5. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 205.
  6. ^ a b Tindale 1974.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Clark 1995, pp. 125–133.
  8. ^ Clark 1995, p. 127.
  9. ^ Black 2016, p. 36.
  10. ^ a b Black 2016, pp. 36–38.
  11. ^ Clark 1995, pp. 105–106.
  12. ^ Clark 1995, p. 103.


  • Black, Maggie (2016). Up Came a Squatter: Niel Black of Glenormiston, 1839–1880. NewSouth. pp. 169–175. ISBN 978-1-742-24252-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Blake, Barry J. (2011). Dialects of Western Kulin, Western Victoria Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung, Djadjawurrung (PDF). LaTrobe University.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Clark, Ian D. (1995). Scars in the Landscape: a register of massacre sites in western Victoria, 1803–1859 (PDF). AIATSIS. pp. 169–175. ISBN 0 85575 281 5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dixon, Robert M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-47378-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Krishna-Pillay, Sharnthi (1996). A Dictionary of Keerraywoorroong and Related Dialects. Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative. ISBN 978-0-646-28933-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Kirrae (VIC)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University Press. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)