Gunditjmara, or Gundidj for short, are an Indigenous Australian group from western Victoria (Gunditj = belonging to, mara = person). Their neighbours to the west were the Buandig people, to the north the Jardwadjali and Djab wurrung peoples, and in the east the Girai wurrung people.
The name may also be spelt Gournditch-Mara. Sub-groups, based on differing dialects, include Dhauwurd wurrung. Alternative names include Dhauhurtwurru (language name), Kunditjmara, Gournditch-mara, Kuurn-kopan-noot (language name) Kirurndit, Tourahonong, Weeritch-Weeritch, Ngutuk ("thou" by adjacent tribe), Villiers tribe, Spring Creek tribe (a grp), Port Fairy tribe (a grp), Gournditch-Mara, Gurndidy, Dhaurwurd-Wurrung.
They were traditionally river and lake people, with Framlingham Forest, Lake Condah and the surrounding river systems being of great importance to them economically and spiritually. They had a sophisticated system of aquaculture and eel farming as well as stone dwellings. They built stone dams to hold the water in these areas, creating ponds and wetlands in which they grew Short-finned eels and other fish. They also created channels linking these wetlands.These channels contained weirs with large woven baskets made by women to harvest mature eels.
Convincing Ground massacre
In 1833, whalers clashed with the Kilcarer Gundidj on the beach at Portland. Under dispute was the carcass of a beached whale. There is some current debate as to the veracity of reports regarding this massacre. However, diary reports of the time refer to a skirmish, involving Gunditj throwing spears and whalers firing guns. Though no mention of any fatalities were first recorded by Robinson, he later summised in his official report that there were many killed, with only two surviving. This summisation being based upon his Aboriginal interpreters who did not speak the local dialect. Not two months after writing his interpretation of this clash, stating of no incidence of any remaining local Aboriginals, a letter from the Portland Police Magistrate to Governor Latrobe stating of up to 200 Aboriginals amassing at the Convincing Ground contradicts Robinson's journal.
Deen Maar was the site of conflict between the Gunditjmara and European colonists. This conflict is referred to as the Eumerella Wars and took place over 20 years in the mid-19th century. The remains of people involved in the conflict are at Deen Maar.
Due to the ongoing battles, the Gunditjmara became well known as "The fighting Gunditjmara".
From the late 19th century many moved into, or were moved into, the Framlingham Aboriginal Station, a mission outside Warrnambool. In 1987, the Victorian Labor government under John Cain attempted to grant some of the Framlingham State Forest to the trust as inalienable title, however the legislation was blocked by the Liberal Party opposition in the Victorian Legislative Council. However, the federal Labor government under Bob Hawke intervened, passing the Aboriginal Land Act 1987, which gave 1,130 acres (5 km2) of the Framlingham Forest to the Framlingham Trust. Although the title is essentially inalienable, in that it can only be transferred to another Indigenous land trust, the Framlingham Trust has rights to prevent mining on the land, unlike trusts or communities holding native title.
In 1993, the Peek Whurrong speakers of the Dhauwurdwurung (Gunditjmara) Nation purchased the Deen Maar under the auspices of ATSIC for the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust, with the intention that it become an Indigenous Protected Area, it was granted this status in 1999. It is the first IPA in Victoria.
Gunditjmara people from the Lake Condah and surrounding area fiercely fought for the recognition of their traditional owner rights. In 1987 (along with the Framlingham community) received recognition through the Australian Government's Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Act 1987.
The Lake Condah Mob launched their Native Title Claim in August 1996 and following eleven years of self-determination, the Lake Condah Mob are scheduled to received formal recognition for their Native Title Rights in March 2007.
On 30 March 2007, the Gunditjmara People were recognised by the Federal Court of Australia to be the native title-holders of almost 140,000 hectares of Crown land and waters in the Portland region. On 27 July 2011, together with the Eastern Maar People, the Gunditjmara People were recognised to be the native title-holders of almost 4,000 hectares of Crown land in the Yambuk region, including Lady Julia Percy Island, known to them as Deen Maar.
Through organisations like Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and the Gunditjmara Native Title Claimant Group (now the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation have initiated many important projects that are based on the principles of sustainable development and broader community engagement most notably, the Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project.
The Lake Condah Mob of Gunditjmara people have acquired around 20 square kilometres of properties along the highly significant Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape. The properties features the traditional constructed aquaculture system and sites of permanent settlement. The Gunditjmara's sites of permanent settlement dispel the myth of Gunditjmara being nomadic.
Gunditjmara of note
- Reg Saunders, the first Aboriginal commissioned officer in the Australian Army.
- Geoff Clark, the first and only elected Aboriginal chairman of ATSIC
- Richard Frankland, playwright and musician.
- Norm McDonald, AFL player.
- Archie Roach, singer.
- Chris Johnson, Brisbane Lions AFL player.
- Nathan Lovett-Murray, Essendon AFL player.
- Wally Lovett, Richmond and Collingwood AFL player.
- Andrew Lovett, Essendon AFL player.
- Albert Clarke, Ultra Marathon Runner
- Charmaine Clarke, politics, first Aboriginal woman to lead a Senate Ticket (Aust Greens Party)
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- Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative
- Worn Gundidj Cooperative
- Gunditjmara at Victorian Government website
- Bibliography of Gunditjmara people and language resources, at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Anna Salleh, Aborigines may have and farmed eels, built huts, News in Science, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 13 March 2003. Accessed 26 November 2008
- Life was not a walkabout for Victoria's Aborigines, The Age, 13 March 2003. Accessed 25 November 2008
- Clark, Ian D. (1998). "Convincing Ground". Scars in the Landscape: A Register of Massacre Sites in Western Victoria, 1883 - 1859. Museum Victoria. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
and supposing they intended to take away the fish which the natives considered theirs and which it had been for 1000 of years previous, they of course resisted the aggression on the part of the white men; it was the first year of the fishery, and the whalers having used their guns beat them off and hence called the spot the Convincing Ground
- "Anger over plans to build on massacre site". The Age (Melbourne). 28 January 2005.
- Burin, Margaret. "Aboriginal digger's family fights for compensation". abc.net.au. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Federal Court of Australia Judgment at website: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCA/2007/474.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=Lovett
- Federal Court of Australia Judgment: web source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCA/2011/932.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=Lovett