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The Gulidjan, also known as the Colac tribe, Colijan, Colagdians, Kolakgnat, are an indigenous Australian tribe whose traditional lands cover the Lake Colac region of Victoria, Australia. They occupied the grasslands, woodlands, volcanic plains and lakes region east of Lake Corangamite, west of the Barwon River and north of the Otway Ranges. Their territory bordered the Wada wurrung to the north, Djargurd Wurrung to the west, Girai Wurrung to the south-west, and Gadubanud to the south-east.[1]


The Gulidjan, like other Victorian tribes, lived for tens of thousands of years carrying out a semi-nomadic subsistence lifestyle with a system of lore and spirituality interwoven with a sense of place and their role in the geographical landscape.[2]

The Gulidjan people were hit hard by the European invasion and settlement with most of their lands occupied by squatters by 1838, just 3 years after the Foundation of Melbourne. The Gulidjan actively resisted settlement by driving off livestock and raiding stations. Such raids inevitably brought retribution by parties of settlers with violent clashes ensuing. Ian Clark reports on three documented attacks in 1839-1840 resulting in Aboriginal deaths. More often squatters destroyed campsites and took implements as revenge.[1][2]

The deaths of Joseph Gellibrand and George Hesse in 1837 - their fate remains a mystery to this day - were blamed on the Gulidjan with retribution delivered by a settler party accompanied by several Wada wurrung people killing several Gulidjan people.[1]

In September 1837 Gulidjan numbers were estimated at between 35 and 40, with their numbers staying relatively stable into the 1850s where their population was estimated at 78 (43 males and 35 females). With the influx of people searching for gold in the Victorian gold rush during the early 1850s, by 1857 only 16 Gulidjan survived according to Aldo Massola. Causes of this decline were identified in 1862 as starvation due to European occupation of the best grassed areas of their lands; European diseases such as chicken pox, measles and influenza; association with convicts; and tribal enmity.[3]

The Reverend Francis Tuckfield from the Weslayan Mission Society established a mission station at Birregurra called Buntingdale on the border of Gulidjan, Gadubanud and Wada Wurrung territory in 1838. Early conflicts between the Gulidjan and Wada Wurrung peoples at the mission persuaded the missionaries to concentrate on one language group - the Gulidjan - in 1842.[1] His efforts at converting the Gulidjan to Christian values and a sedentary lifestyle did not meet with much success, and the mission was closed in 1848 with the Government cancelled the grazing licence in 1850.[4][5]

In the 1860s a small reserve was established on the Barwon River at Winchelsea for the Gulidjan people. The reserve became known as Karngun and was maintained until 1875. A house was built for them on the present Colac hospital site, but they preferred living in their traditional mia-mias. In 1872 16 hectares of land were reserved at Elliminyt, south of Colac for the Gulidjan with a brick house erected on the site. The Gulidjan preferred to use the house as a windbreak. Richard Sharp and Jim Crow, both Gulidjan people, established working leases on the site, and their families continued to hold their respective lots until 1948 when the land was sold by the Victorian Lands Department. Descendants of these families continue to live in the local area.[1][2]


The Gulidjan are a matrilineal society who intermarried with the Djab Wurrung, Djargurd Wurrung and Wada wurrung and also had interaction with the Gudabanud. Each person belonged to a moiety of Gabadj (Black Cockatoo) or Guragidj (White Cockatoo).[1]


Prior to European settlement, 4 separate clans existed[1]

No Clan Name Approximate Location
1 Beeac Clan Lake Beeac
2 Birregurra Clan Birregurra
3 Guraldjin balug 'Ingleby' station, on the Barwon River
4 Gulidjan Balug Vicinity of Lake Colac


The Gulidjan language was first identified in 1839, although much of the detail and vocabulary has been lost, there is sufficient to confirm that it constituted a separate language. About 100 words of the Gulidjan language have survived. Some analysis suggests it may be a mixed language or creole language having something in common with each of the neighboring languages. Earliest sources refer to the language as Gulidjan, although James Dawson favoured 'Kolakgnat' which means 'belonging to sand'.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ian D. Clark, pp135-139, Scars on the Landscape. A Register of Massacre sites in Western Victoria 1803-1859, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1995 ISBN 978-0-85575-281-1
  2. ^ a b c Andrea Murphy & Lucy Amorosi, Proposed Mt Gellibrand Windfarm Cultural Heritage assessment, March 2005. Accessed 18 December 2008
  3. ^ Simone Gunn, pp26-27, Draft Waterway Health Strategy, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, 2001. Accessed 18 December 2008
  4. ^ C. A. McCallum, Tuckfield, Francis (1808 - 1865), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 540-541, Accessed 18 December 2008
  5. ^ Heather Le Griffon, Campfires at the Cross: An Account of the Bunting Dale Aboriginal Mission 1839-1951 at Birregurra, Near Colac, Victoria : with a Biography of Francis Tuckfield, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-74097-112-4, ISBN 978-1-74097-112-6
  6. ^ Gulidjan, Victorian Aboriginal Languages Directory. Accessed 15 December 2008

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