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The Gunditjmara[a] or Gunditjamara,[b] also known as Dhauwurd Wurrung, are an Aboriginal Australian people of southwestern Victoria. They are the traditional owners of the areas now encompassing Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Woolsthorpe and Portland. Their land includes much of the Budj Bim heritage areas. The Kerrup Jmara (Kerrupjmara, Kerrup-Jmara) are a clan of the Gunditjmara, whose traditional lands are around Lake Condah. The Koroitgundidj (Koroit gundidj) are another clan group, whose lands are around Tower Hill.

The Djargurd Wurrung, Girai wurrung, and Gadubanud are also Aboriginal Victorian groups who all spoke languages in the dialect continuum known as the Dhauwurd Wurrung language ("Gunditjmara language").


Gunditjmara is formed from two morphemes: Gunditj, a suffix denoting belonging to a particular group or locality, and the noun mara, meaning "man".[c]


The Dhauwurd wurrung language is a term used for a group of languages spoken by various groups of the Gunditjmara people. Different linguists have identified different groupings of lects and languages (see the main article for details), and the whole group is also sometimes referred to as the Gunditjmara language or the Warrnambool language. Some of the major languages or dialects often grouped under these names were:


The Gunditjmara tribal territories extends over an estimated 7,000 square kilometres (2,700 sq mi). The western boundaries are around Cape Bridgewater and Lake Condah. Northwards they reach Caramut and Hamilton. Their eastern boundaries lay around the Hopkins River.[6][d] Their neighbours to the west are the Buandig people, to the north the Jardwadjali and Djab wurrung peoples, and in the east the Girai wurrung people. Early settlers remarked on the richness of the game to be found from the Eumerella Creek down to the coast.[e]


The way of life of the Aboriginal people of Western Victoria differed from other Aboriginal Victorians in several respects. Because of the colder climate, they made, wore, and used as blankets, rugs of possum and kangaroo.[7] Possum-skin cloaks, used by Gunditjmara and other peoples of the south-east, were made sewn with string, and worn for warmth, used to carry babies on their backs, as drums in ceremony and as a burial cloak. They are still made today as part of revitalisation of culture and as an instrument for healing.[8][9]

They also built huts from wood and local basalt (known as bluestone), with roofs made of turf and branches.[7] Stone tools were used for cutting, and are held in collections across Victoria today. The women used digging sticks, also known as yam sticks, for digging yams, goannas, ants and other foods out of the ground, as well as for defence, for settling disputes and for punishment purposes as part of customary law.[9]


The Gunditjmara believe that the landscape's features mark out the traces of a creator, Budj Bim (meaning "High Head"), who emerged in the form of the volcano previously called Mount Eccles. In a spate of eruption, the lava flows, constituting his blood and teeth, spilled over the landscape, fashioning its wetlands. "High Head" still refers to the crater's brow, which can be accessed only by Gunditjmara men wearing special emu-feather footwear.[10] Opposite, beyond the coastline, the island they call Deen Maar/Dhinmar[11] held special value for its burial associations. Rocks on the mainland shore facing the island contain a cave, known as Tarn wirrung ("road of the spirits"), which is thought of as the mouth of a passage linking the mainland and the island.

In Gunditjmara funeral rites, bodies are enfolded in grass bundles and interred with their heads pointing to the island, with an apotropaic firebrand of native cherry wood. If grass was thereafter found outside the mouth of Tarn wirrung, it was regarded as evidence that the good spirit Puit puit chepetch had conveyed the corpse via the subterranean passage to the island, while guiding its spirit to the realm of the clouds. If the burial coincided with the appearance of a meteor, this was read as proof that the being in transit to the heavens had been furnished with fire. If grass was found at the cave when no one had been buried, then it was thought it showed someone had been murdered, and the cave could not be approached until the grass had been dispersed.[12][f]

Social organisation[edit]

The Gunditjmara were divided into 59 clans, each with its headmen (wungit), a role passed on by hereditary transmission.[13] They spoke distinct dialects,[14] not all of them mutually intelligible,[15] with the three main hordes located around Lake Condah, Port Fairy and Woolsthorpe respectively.[6] The Gunditjmara groups are divided into two moieties, respectively the grugidj (sulphur-crested cockatoo or Long-billed corella) and the gabadj (Red-tailed black cockatoo,[14] the latter once thriving in buloke woodlands, now mainly cleared.[g]

According to Alfred William Howitt, they had four sections, which however did not affect marriage rules:

  • kerup (water)
  • boom (mountain)
  • direk (swamp)
  • gilger (river)

However these terms refer to 4 of the 58 clans.[citation needed]

Descent was matrilineal.[14]


The following is a list of the Gunditjmara clans (conedeet),[h] taken from that in Ian D. Clark's work.[18]

No Clan name Approximate location
1 Art gundidj Tarrone station, near Moyne Swamp
2 Ballumin gundidj unknown
3 Bate gundidj Junction of Stokes, Crawford and Glenelg Rivers
4 Biteboren gundidj Grasmere station
5 Bokerer gundidj Glenelg River
6 Bome gundidj unknown
7 Bonedol gundidj Ponedol Hills
8 Can can corro gundidj south-southeast of Mount Rouse
9 Carnbul gundidj southwest of Tahara station
10 Cart gundidj Mount Clay
11 Cartcorang gundidj Lake Cartcorang
12 Corry gundidj unknown
13 Cupponenet gundidj Mount Chaucer
14 Dandeyallum Portland Bay
15 Direk gundidj Condah Swamp
16 Gilgar gundidj Darlots Creek
17 Kerup gundidj (aka Kerrup Jmara) Lake Condah
18 Kilcarer gundidj Convincing Ground
19 Koroit gundidj Tower Hill
20 Lay gundidj mallo unknown
21 Mallun gundidj Griffiths Island
22 Meen gundidj unknown
23 Mendeet gundidj marayn unknown
24 Moonwer gundidj near Sisters Point, southwest of Killarney
25 Moperer gundidj Spring Creek
26 Mordoneneet gundidj southwest or west-southwest of Mount Rouse
27 Morro gundidj south of Mount Rouse
28 Mum keelunk gundidj Boodcarra Lake, west of Goose Lagoon
29 Mumdorrong gundidj Marm reserve, south of Lake Wangoom
30 Narcurrer gundidj southwest of Crawford River
31 Nartitbeer gundidj Dunmore station
32 Net net yune gundidj southeast of Crawford River
33 Nillan gundidj south-southwest of Mount Napier
34 Omebegare rege gundidj junction of Merri River and Spring Creek
35 Pallapnue gundidj Their clan head was Koort Kirrup (1840),[i] Stokes River
36 Peerracer unknown
37 Ponungdeet gundidj junction of Glenelg and Stokes Rivers
38 Pyipgil gundidj Port Fairy townsite
39 Tarrerwung gundidj mouth of Glenelg River. Clan head Mingbum (1840)
40 Tarerer gundidj Tarerer (Kellys Swamp), a swamp between Tower Hill and Merri River
41 Tarngonene wurrer gundidj Surrey River
42 Teerar gundidj southeast of Spring Creek station
43 Tolite gundidj unknown
44 Tone gundidj near Hopkins River
45 Ure gundidj Portland township
46 Wane gundidj Grasmere station
47 Wanedeet gundidj Tahara and Murndal stations
48 Warerangur gundidj Aringa station
49 Waywac gundidj southwest of Mount Rouse
50 Weereweerip gundidj east of Eumeralla River
51 Woortenwan unknown
52 Worcarre gundidj northeast of the head of Stokes River
53 Worerome killink gundidj Macarthur
54 Worn gundidj west of Mount Warrnambool
55 Yallo gundidj junction of Crawford and Glenelg Rivers
56 Yambeet gundidj Yambuk station
57 Yarrer gundidj between Campbell's Merri River station and Allandale station
58 Yiyar gundidj Mount Eckersley.
59 Yowen (Yowenillum/ Tarrone) gundidj[j] Moyne River


The Gunditjmara are traditionally river and lake people, with Framlingham Forest, Lake Condah and the surrounding river systems being of great importance to them economically and spiritually. Numerous distinct structures, extending over 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) of the landscape, are employed for the purpose of catching short-finned eels, the staple of the Gunditjmara diet.[19][20] These include stone races; canals; traps; stone walls; stone house sites[k] and stone cairns.[21] Some of the groundwork is older than the Egyptian pyramids.[22] A controversy exists concerning the extent to which these features are the results of natural environmental processes or cultural modifications of the landscape by Indigenous people. Peter Coutts and others argued, in a work entitled Aboriginal Engineers of the Western District, Victoria, that numerous features show the handiwork of Aboriginal landscaping for economic purposes.[23] This thesis was challenged as a mythical "romancing of the landscape" by Anne Clarke, one that confused natural processes with socially crafted infrastructure.[24] However, fresh archaeological work by Heather Builth led to her contending that they had a sophisticated system of aquaculture and eel farming. They built stone dams to hold the water in these swampy volcanic areas, especially the area comprising the lava flow of the Budj Bim volcano, creating ponds and wetlands in which they harvested short-finned eels (kuyang or more commonly kooyang[25]).[10][26][l]

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape, which includes both the Tyrendarra Area and the Mt Eccles – Lake Condah Area, comprising Budj Bim National Park (formerly Mt Eccles National Park), Stones State Faunal Reserve, Muldoons Aboriginal Land, Allambie Aboriginal Land and Condah Mission) was added to the National Heritage List on 20 July 2004,[27] under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.[28]

Several designated areas comprising the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019.[25] In the wake of the burning of some 7,000 hectares of bushland around Lake Condah and in the Budj Bim National Park, further channel structures came to light.[22]

They also created channels linking these wetlands. These channels contained weirs with large woven baskets made by women to cull mature eels. Professor Peter Kershaw, noted palynologist at Monash University,[29][30][31] as cited by Bruce Pascoe in his best-selling work Dark Emu,[32] found evidence of a sudden change in vegetation consistent with an artificial ponding system, and initial radiocarbon dating of the soil samples suggests the ponds were created up to 8,000 years ago.[19][20]

The eels were prepared by smoking them with burning leaves from Australian blackwood.[33] The coastal clans, like other tribes on the south-west coast, according to an early settler, Thomas Browne, had a rich fish diet, which included whale (cunderbul) flesh,[m]


In a study published in February 2020, new evidence produced by using a form of radiometric dating known as argon-argon dating, showed that both Budj Bim and Tower Hill volcanoes erupted at least 34,000 years ago.[34] Specifically, Budj Bim was dated at within 3,100 years either side of 36,900 years BP, and Tower Hill was dated at within 3,800 years either side of 36,800 years BP. Significantly, this is a "minimum age constraint for human presence in Victoria", and also could be interpreted as evidence for the Gunditjmara oral histories which tell of volcanic eruptions being some of the oldest oral traditions in existence.[35] An axe found underneath volcanic ash in 1947 was also proof that humans inhabited the region before the eruption of Tower Hill.[34]

The beginnings of contact with ngamadjidj (white people) date as far back as 1810, when whalers and sealers began to use Portland as a base area for their operations. Contact exposed the local people to epidemics from new diseases born by whites but otherwise was seasonal, and allowed time for demographic recovery.

Eumerella Wars[edit]

The major turn in relations occurred with the arrival of, and settlement of their lands by, the Henty Brothers from 1834 onwards.[n][14] Though much silence surrounded the massacres that took place, and, despite Boldrerwood's explicit testimony,[o] some early historians dismissed the idea of a guerilla war.[p]

The Gunditjmara people fought fiercely for their lands during what became known as the Eumerella Wars, which lasted for decades. Women would fight as well, using their digging sticks which had a dual purpose as a weapon, for defence, for settling disputes and for meting out punishments as part of customary law.[9]

Ian D. Clark has identified 28 massacre sites[36] most of the colonialist slaughters taking place during the Eumerella War, so named when the phrase was used as a chapter heading in the memoirs[37] of the novelist Rolf Boldrewood who squatted 50,000 acres[38] near Port Fairy a decade after the main killings.[39]

Sometime in 1833–1834, though the incident has been dated later, to around, 1839,[citation needed] whalers, perhaps 'tonguers,'[q] are thought to have clashed with the Kilcarer Gundidj on the beach at Portland at a site that later became known as Convincing Ground in an incident now known as the Convincing Ground massacre. Various versions exist. The site earned its name either because whalers hashed out their disputes there, because some transaction took place between the indigenous people and whalers, or because disputes arose, either of whale flesh or of the use of native women.[r] If the dispute was over the carcass of a beached whale, the whites may have wished to flense it while the natives may have insisted that it was theirs, as dictated by their ancient customs.[40]

Estimates of the number of people killed in the dispute is unknown,[41] varying from only a few to 30, 60 and as high as 200. All but two of the Kilcarer gundidj clan, Pollikeunnuc and Yarereryarerer,[s] were said to have died. Robinson surmised many had been killed from encounters with 30 members of several different Dhauwurd wurrung clans. A minority view argued by Michael Connors, emerging in the context of Australia's recent History wars argues the figure of 200 dead misinterprets an 1841 report by the Portland Police Magistrate James Blair to Governor Latrobe referring to up to 200 Aboriginals amassing at Convincing Ground, and claims that modern research has fabricated the massacre.[citation needed] His arguments have been analysed, with a negative verdict by Ian D. Clark.[42][43]

George Augustus Robinson, the official Protector of Aborigines, in travelling in this western area in 1841, reported that settlers in the districts spoke of 'dropping the Aborigines as coolly as if speaking of dropping birds.'[44] The loss of numbers, and headsmen meant clans were forced to unite under other clans and their chieftains. Thus the wungit of the Yiyar clan Boorn Boorn assumed leadership of the Cart gunditj, the Kilgar gunditj and Eurite gunditj when their leadership was eliminated.[45]

Rev Benjamin Hurst (missionary to the Port Phillip tribe) noted in a Weslayen Mission meeting in 1841 that in the Portland bay area "it was usual for some to go out in parties on the Sabbath with guns, for the ostensible purpose of kangarooing, but, in reality to hunt and kill these miserable beings — the bones and the bodies of the slaughtered blacks had been found — but because the evidence of the native was not admissible in a court, the white murderers had escaped with impunity, and were still pursuing their career of crime and blood".[t]

Resisting dispossession, the Gunditjmara concentrated in the Stony Rises from which they waged guerilla warfare against the pastoralists usurping their lands, raiding their flocks and herds.[46] Some protection was also afforded by the native protectorate set up at Mount Rouse, which the tribes used as a basis for their operations.[47] A particular point of ire were settlements that took over sacred sites associated with Mount Napier, Lake Condah and Port Fairy.[48]

Due to the ongoing battles in the 1840s, the Gunditjmara became well known as "The fighting Gunditjmara".[49][u]

28 massacres in Gunditjmara country 1833/4 to ?[50]
Date Location Aborigines involved Europeans involved Aboriginal deaths reported
1833 or 1834 Convincing Grounds two miles west of the mouth of the Surrey River Kilcarer gundidj clan Whalers from 60 to 200 people, decimating all but 2 tribespeople
June 1838 Merino Downs station, Wannon River, near Henty unknown Gunditjmara clan Joseph Bonsor, shepherd and hutkeeper, who had been waddied 1 Gunditmara man
October 1838 Merino Downs station, Wannon River, near Henty unknown Gunditjmara clan William Heath, shepherd, killed 1 Gunditmara man, stabbed with sheep shears. Oral version 40.[v]
October 1838 Samuel Winter's station Spring Valley or Murndal, Wannon River, near Merino unknown Gunditjmara clan William Jefrey speared, while, with Charles Corrigan and, William Elliot, fighting a mob raiding for sheep 2 Gunditmara men
November 1838 Samuel Winter's station Spring Valley or Murndal unknown Gunditjmara clan 7 whites set upon and shot an Aboriginal group of 20–30 camping at the Wannon River 1 Gunditjmara youth wounded, fate unknown
February 1840 Merino Downs station, Wannon River, near Henty unknown Gunditjmara clan A shepherd named Blood maliciously wounded Woolangwang 1 man, Woolangwang, died.
Before 17 February 1840 George Winter's Tahara station on the Wannon River and McLeods Creek, northeast of Merino unknown Gunditjmara or Djab wurrung clan George Winter and his men, one, Robinson known for his violence. He had dashed out the brains of an Aboriginal child. 5 Gunditjmara or Djab wurrung men killed
February / March 1840 unknown a presumed Gunditjmara man A stockman employed by the Henty brothers 1 Gunditjmara shot wantonly
date unknown Clover Flat, junction of junction of Bryan Creek. and the Wannon River, near Casterton. Called 'Murdering Flat'.[w] Either Gunditjmara or Jardwadjali. Thought to have occurred after one of Francis Henty.'s shepherds was killed. No. of victims unknown.[x]
Perhaps November 1840 Wannon River, between the Sandford Bridge and junction with Glenelg River Either Gunditjmara or Jardwadjali. Connell, an overseer for the Henty brothers, whose stocks of flour were subject to stealing 'dozens' reportedly killed by arsenic poisoning.
Around 1841 Picaninny Waterhole, Springbank, Glenelg River, south of Casterton Elderly Gunditjmara Tom, a shepherd for John Henty, who shot and then bayonetted to death a woman. Narrerburnin, a wife of the Pallapnue gundidj headsman Koort Kirrup
2 June 1841 Valley of 'Cor.roit' Wanedeet gundidj clan of the Gunditjmara 3 shepherds working for W. J. Purbrick shot Aborigines after reportedly offering them damper. 'Kitting', 'Marg', and 'Piccaninny Jemmy'
date unknown place unknown, perhaps identical to Murdering Flat (2) above. unknown clan of Gunditjmara Shepherds working for either Edward Henty at Muntham or Francis Henty at Merino Downs, using poison. 7 Gunditjmara: Bokarcarreep, Corroitleek, Joeingjoeingburmin, Loohechurning, Marnderremin, Tolort and Yangolarri
3 January 1842 Eumeralla station Unknown Gunditjmara:clan James Guthrie, overseer at the Eumeralla station I Gunditjmara, shot dead while reportedly wielding a liangle
February 1842 Tarrone station, Moyne River, some 12 miles north of Port Fairy Yowen gundidj clan 40 men formed a vigilante band, after 7 stockmen were faced by a milling mob of Aborigines at the station, and tracked them down to a camp, which they plundered while shooting those who fled. 2 or 3.
24 February 1842 The junction of Lubra Creek and the Penshurst–Caramut road, at Caramut station Moperer gundidj clan 6 settlers attacked and killed 5 members of two families asleep among tea-trees by a stream off Mustons Creek and plundered their goods. 3 of the murderers were put on trial before a jury of mainly squatters in a court presided over by Redmond Barry and though the incident was well documented, were deemed not guilty. 4 women, Connyer, Natgoncher (pregnant), Wenigoniber, Wooigouing, and 1 male child[y]
October 1842 Tarrone station Yowen gundidj clan Dr James Kilgour who had established his station on the Yowen lands, mustered 40 men to take revenge for a shepherd's murder, and shot two or three in a camp.. Robertson, an overseer then supplied members of the tribe with flour laced with arsenic.[z] 9 killed: three men, three women and three children
1842 Warndaa ssite at Boggy Gully, near Black Swamp, just west of Merrang House, on the Hopkins River south of Hexham Moperer gundidj clan unknown unknown
1842 near Donald McKenzie's station on the Crawford River Net net yune gundidj clan Donald McKenzie and Frederick Edinge had been killed 15 May 1842 and revenge was taken on an unknown number of Gunditjmara Several.
September 1843 Headwaters of the Crawford River Pallapnue gundidj clan Australian native police under HEP Dana in retribution for the killing of Christopher Bassett in August 1843 and the theft of his flock. 9 shot dead in two separate incidents.
October 1843 8 miles from Mount Eckersley, on the road between Portland and Kanawalla Gunditjmara George D Lockhart of Kanawalla station had his dray stolen by attackers. Pursued by HEP Dana and his native police, of whom two wounded. 2 Aborigines killed, one wounded
25 January 1844 Mullagh station, nearly 7 miles north of Harrow clan unknown Thomas Barrett was threatened with a liang by a Gunditjmara who wanted his bag of flour 1 aboriginal, Jim, was shot dead
20 May 1847 Euremete and Lyne stations, near Branxholme unknown clan of Gunditjmara A GW Elms shepherd attacked. Subsequently, a group of settlers clashed with some men believed to be responsible 2 dead
April 1847 Eumeralla district Nillan gundidj clan, Native Police Corps Tarerer (Jupiter) and Tykoohe (Cocknose)[aa]
1847 Mount Eccles, Gunjditjmara, clan.unknown Settler vigilante group An estimated 30 Aborigines, including babies.
Between August 1843 and 1849 Castlemaddie or Ettrick pastoral runs Gunjditjmara, clan.unknown William Learmonth, who had taken up 39,000 acres,[51] and the Jamieson brothers, William and Robert 1 Aborigine.[ab]
unknown Lake Gorrie, Squattleseamere Gunjditjmara, clan.unknown A groups of settlers led by Charles Hamilton Macknight who had just acquired 47,228 acres in the district,[52] in retribution for the pillaging by 30 blacks of some stores.[53] unknown number[54]
1840s?-early 1850s? Murderers Flat by Darlots Creek, Lake Condah Mission Kerup gundidj clan, Unknown white gave the community a large bag of flour laced with arsenic. This is a Kerup clan tradition, though there are numerous difficulties with the version given by Rose Donker.[ac][56][57][ad] 20 men, women and children

Mission life[edit]

From the mid- late 19th century attempts were made to have them move into the Framlingham Aboriginal Station, a mission outside Warrnambool. This was unacceptable, it was located moreover on Girai wurrung land. 827 hectares were set aside for them at Lake Condah, and two decades later, in 1885, this reserve was expanded by a further 692 hectares. The tribe congregated here, until an act was passed to deny right of residence to any "half-caste", resulting in the dispersal of many Gunditjmara kinsfolk, and the loss of their collective traditions, with the Condah mission numbers dropping drastically from 117 to 20.[47]

The land was reclaimed in 1951 by the government and allocated to returnee soldiers.

In 2005 the area began to be bulldozed for groundwork for an eight-lot subdivision.[58] The dispute was settled when the area was set aside as a reservation, in an agreement forged in February 2007.[42]

Native title[edit]

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. The federal Labor government under Bob Hawke intervened, passing the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) 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.

The Lake Condah Mission lands were also returned to the Gunditjmara on 1 January 1987, when the 53-hectare (130-acre) former reserve was vested to the Kerrup Jmara Elders Corporation. The transfer included "full management, control and enjoyment by the Kerrup-Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation of the land granted to it".[59][60]

In 1993, the Peek Whurrong members of the Gunditjmara purchased the Deen Maar under the auspices of ATSIC for the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust, with the intention that it become an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), it was granted this status in 1999. Becoming the first IPA in Victoria.[citation needed]

The Lake Condah Mob launched their Native Title Claim in August 1996.[citation needed]

On 30 March 2007, the Federal Court of Australia under Justice Anthony North determined on recognising the Gunditjmara People's non-exclusive native title rights and interests over 137,000 hectares (340,000 acres) of vacant Crown land, national parks, reserves, rivers, creeks and sea in the Portland region of Victoria's western district. 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) between Dunkeld and Yambuk on Victoria's south-west coast were set aside to include the eastern Marr.[61][62]

On 27 July 2011, together with the Eastern Maar people, the Gunditjmara People were recognised to be the native title-holders of the 4,000 hectares of Crown including Lady Julia Percy Island, known to them as Deen Maar.[62]

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation[edit]

The Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (GMTOAC) is a Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC) under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, and a Registered Aboriginal Party under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. The TOAC owns culturally significant properties across Western Victoria on behalf of the Gunditjmara community.[63]

Notable people[edit]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Dhauhurtwurru (an ethnonnym from the name for the language)
  • Gournditch-mara (['Gunditj] = name of Lake Condah ['mara] = ['ma:r] = man), Gurnditschmara
  • Kirurndit
  • Ku:nditjmara
  • Kuurn-kopan-noot (language name)
  • Ngutuk (This was an exonym, meaning 'thou', used by a neighbouring tribe.)
  • Nil-can-cone-deets
  • Port Fairy tribe (Used of the horde along that region's coast, which spoke a dialect called Peekwhuurong.)
  • Spring Creek tribe (This referred the Woolsthorpe Mopor horde.)
  • Tourahonong
  • Villiers tribe
  • Weeritch-Weeritch

Sources: Tindale 1974, p. 204 Howitt 1904, p. 69,

Some words[edit]

  • kunang (shit)
  • malang (wife)
  • merrejig ('good'; also used as a greeting)[67]
  • ngirang (mother)
  • Ngutjung yangi-yangi ngutjung (good, very good).[68]
  • paratj (girl)
  • pipayi/bebì (father)
  • pundiya (to live)
  • tarayl (virgin)
  • thatha (to drink)
  • thin wurn-ngayi (This is our place)
  • thung (smoke)
  • tjiparak (clown)
  • walat (frost, ice)
  • windha (where?)
  • yul-yul (wild man)
  • yuwa (to sleep)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barry Blake questions the historical authenticity of Gunditjmara as a collective ethnonym current among the Dhauwurd wurrung, and says it came into use after being picked up by later ethnographers. 'Gunditjmara' was, he argues, used only in the context of specific clan naming (Blake 2003, p. 2).
  2. ^ AIATSIS gives this spelling on their website (Indigenous Australians 2018).
  3. ^ It was reported that this was one of four terms (the other three being Koondoom (water), karrup (lake) and tyarrk (swamp)) designating Lake Condah.[1] However the report from 1880 arguably garbled information from an Aboriginal informant.(Clark 2014b, p. 245)
  4. ^ Howitt writes that their nation:'extended from the southern limits of the Muk-jarawaint to the sea, and from Mt Gambier to the Eumerella Creek, and included the Kuurn-kopan-noot and Peek-whuurrung tribes, described by Mr Dawson' (Howitt 1904)
  5. ^ "All the land that lay between Eumeralla proper and the sea, a tract of country of some twenty or thirty miles square, had been probably from time immemorial a great hunting-ground and rendezvous for the surrounding tribes. It was no doubt eminently fitted for such a purpose. It swarmed with game, and in the spring was one immense preserve of every kind of wild fowl and wild animal that the country owned." (Boldrewood 1896, p. 63)
  6. ^ 'These tribes, like those in the Wimmera River district, have a spirit-home, which is called maioga in some of the dialects, and mung'-o in others. All the clans have the same maioga, which consists of an island a short distance off the coast of Victoria, about half way between Warrnambool and Portland. The native name of this island is Dhinmar, but it is known on the map as Lady Julia Percy Island. On the shore of the mainland facing the island there are some large rocks, into the base of one of which the ceaseless rolling of the billows has worn a cavelike recess, respecting which the natives have a superstitious belief that it is in some way connected with Dhinmar. Every deceased person, when buried, is laid with his head pointing towards this island. His spirit then provides itself with a firebrand, consisting of a piece of dry cherry tree, because this wood emits a peculiar odour whilst burning, which has the power of warding off danger from the bearer. The spectre then proceeds to the shore where the rock is situated, where he divests himself of any clothing or trinkets he may be wearing on his body, and disappears over the intervening sea to Dhinmar. The spirits of all the clans and phratries go to this island, which they occupy in common, the same as they did in their native hunting grounds. There they remain until reincarnated (Mathews 1904, p. 297).
  7. ^ The variety of red-tailed black cockatoo indigenous to an enclave in south western Victoria is now recognized as a distinct species, Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne (Australian Endangered Species 2007).
  8. ^ conedeet is a term, meaning something like 'belonging to', found only in clan names, thus Cart conedeet marr would be 'an (Aboriginal) man(marr) belonging to (conedeet) the Cart gundidj (see 10 below).[16] According to James Dawson, conedeet, properly to be transcribed as kuurndit, functioned like the suffix -er in words like Londoner, meaning 'belonging to.'.[17] It was one of a series of terms among Australian band societies, like bulluc and corroke, affixed to a prominent toponym, and serving to indicate the locality a band was associated with (Peterson & Long 1986, p. 47).
  9. ^ Koort Kirrup was arrested in late August 1843 for the murder of two squatters Donald McKenzie and Frederick Edinge a year earlier, on 15 May 1842. He languished in prison for at least 2 years because no interpreter could understand his Wullu wurrung dialect. He laid the blame on some South Australian and Portland natives (Clark 1995, p. 46).
  10. ^ the Yowen gundidj consisted of at least several families settled in a "village" site near excellent waterholes. The Moyne river was spanned by a large weir roughlyt 60 metres long and 1.5 metres high which the Yowen built as an eel trap. Over 200 Gunditjmara gathered there in autumn to enjoy the eel catch (Clark 1995, p. 43).
  11. ^ Archaeologically not all circular outcrops of basalt bordering sinkholes and lava tubes were crafted stone houses, but rather resulted from natural processes, from geological or arboreal shifting of masses (Clarke 1994, pp. 4–5, 8).
  12. ^ Another word for eel exists, kakong (Blake 2003, p. 184).
  13. ^ Browne noted that the local aboriginals. 'had been for untold generations accustomed to a dietary scale of exceptional liberality. The climate was temperate; the forests abounded in game; wild fowl at certain seasons were plentiful; while the sea supplied them with fish of all sorts and sizes, from a whale (stranded) to a whitebait' (Clark 2011).
  14. ^ Edward Henty came ashore at Portland on 19 November of that year (Clark 1995, p. 22).
  15. ^ Like all guerillas, moreover, their act of outrage took place sometimes in one part of a large district, sometimes in another, the actors vanishing meanwhile, and reappearing with puzzling rapidity (Boldrewood 1896, p. 67).
  16. ^ Henry Giles Turner wrote in 1904 after citing the highly laudatory opinion of Western district aborigines registered by James Dawson who dwelt in the midst of the conflict but never suffered aggression because he treated indigenous people fairly:'The wars which our American cousins waged for two hundred years against the brave and crafty redskins; the long struggles in Canada against the confederated six nations; the storming by British troops of native Pahs in New Zealand; the protracted wars, costly in blood and treasure, involved in the subjugation of the kaffirs and Zulus in South Africa; nay, even the more circumscribed, but still bloody "Black War" in Tasmania, had no counterpart in the settlement of the colony of Victoria. The reason is not far to seek, and it does not necessarily imply any want of courage on the part of the invaded. They were comparatively few in number, and they were dispersed in small tribes over a large area of country. By their habits, their superstitions and their traditions they were so involved in strife among themselves, that there was no possible basis of federation to resist the invader' (Turner 2011, p. 216).
  17. ^ "Tonguers 'were those who contracted to tow the whale carcasses ashore and to cut them up and who received in payment the oil from the dissected carcass, including the tongue and interior parts'." (Clark 2011)
  18. ^ Clark states that Critchett's interpretation that sexual relations with native women was a cause is based on a misreading of Robinson's journal (Clark 2011)
  19. ^ This remnant of two was absorbed into the Cart gundidj of Mount Clay and the Ure gundidj and Bome gundidj clans (Clark 1995, p. 22).
  20. ^ "Mr. Hurst, (missionary to the aborigines of Port Phillip ), startled the audience, by a recital of facts that had been communicated to him, in reference to the treatment of the natives in the neighbourhood of Portland bay. He said it was usual for some to go out in parties on the Sabbath with guns, for the os-tensible purpose of kangarooing, but, in reality to hunt and kill these miserable beings — the bones and the bodies of the slaughtered blacks had been found— but because the evidence of the native was not admissible in a court, the white murderers had escaped with im - punity, and were still pursuing their career of crime and blood." (Launceston Advertiser 1841:3)
  21. ^ "The frequently used name 'the fighting Gunditjmara' resists this culture of forgetting. Originally referring to their long conflict with Europeans during the Eumerella Wars of the 1840s, the 'fighting Gunditjmara' is now used by the Western District Aboriginal community to refer to their military contributions for Australia and their considerable achievements in sport," (Horton 2015)
  22. ^ Heath had been killed by 7 aborigines in a punitive raid for molesting local women. The Aboriginal version is that upwards of 40 were killed in retaliation (Clark 1995, p. 23).
  23. ^ James Henty wasa to claim, in the face of ac cusations regarding this putative incident that his accusers had confused the incident involving the death ofone of his shepherds at this spot and a massacre which took place around that time nearby, at Konongwootong (Clark 1995, pp. 27–28).
  24. ^ " While the blacks were holding a corroboree and feasting on some freshly killed stock they were fired upon by the settlers, using an old cannon loaded with bolts, nails, gravel and stones with telling effect. The place was afterwards known as Murdering Flat. As far as is known there was no grave; the bodies were put in the river." (Massola 1969, pp. 44–45)
  25. ^ Two emen, Calangamite and Pinchingannock (Wooigouing's husband and a child named Uni-bicqui-ang managfed to escape (Clark 1995, pp. 35–36).
  26. ^ Robinson, the Protector of Aboriogines, wrote that Kilgour had a 'more depraved set' of workers than he had ever met, and that Kilgour was 'like all new arrivals, a declared enemy of the blacks', though he had never personally been harmed by them (Shaw 2003, p. 131).
  27. ^ 'These strangely- named individuals had been familiar to our ears ever since our arrival."Jupiter"was supposed to have a title to the head chieftainship of the tribe which specially affected the Rocks and the neighbourhood of the extinct volcano. Cocknose had been named by the early settlers from the highly unclassical shape of the facial appendage. Buckup sent a man to each corner, and himself with two troopers charged into the centre. Spears began to fly, and boomerangs; but the wild men had little chance with their better-armed countrymen. Out bolts a flying fugitive, and makes for the nearest reed-bed. Tallboy is nearest to him, and his horse moves as he raises his carbine, and disturbs the aim. Striking him savagely over the head with the butt end, he raises his piece, fires, and Jupiter drops on his face. Quick shots follow, a general stampede takes place, but few escape, and when the troop turn their horses' heads homeward, all the known leaders of the tribe are down. They were caught redhanded, too, a portion of a heifer and her calf freshly slaughtered being found on the spot where they were first sighted.' Boldrewood's account has been questioned, as Jupiter was captured in April of that year (Boldrewood 1896, pp. 65, 84–85).
  28. ^ at lowest estimate a good-sized party was discovered killing a bullock of Messrs. Jamieson, near Ettrick. The brothers Jamieson and Major Learmonth—then unknown to martial fame—went out to dispute title. The scene was in a reed-brake—the opposing force numerous. Spears began to drop searchingly amid and around the little party. It looked like anotherIsandula, and the swart foe crept ominously close, and yet more close, from tree to tree. Then a spear struck William Jamieson in the forehead—a rough straw hat alone saving his brain. The blood rushed down, and, dripping on his gun, damped the priming. Things looked bad. A little faltering had lost the fight. But the Laird of Ettrick shot the savage dead who threw the spear, and under cover of this surprise he and Robert Jamieson carried their wounded comrade safely out of the field (Boldrewood 1896, pp. 69–70).
  29. ^ The inferred date would place it around the time Cecil Pybus Cooke[55] managed the Lake Condah area from mid 1850, and he had excellent relations with the blacks, fed them andallowed them to live there and no mention of this occurs in his papers. One would expect that the Aborigines would have mentioned it to him. Two contradictory versions exist of a massacre here, one of poisoning, the other of fighting, Confusion also may exist because the putative incident was confused with memories of another massacre in that area, known as Murderers Flat (Clark 1995, pp. 54–56).
  30. ^ The following oral report by Mrs Mary Clarke, a descendant of Portland area Gunditjmara, recounts that an overseer on a station saw one of two groups of travelling natives and asked them if they were hungry: Well, you go and sit down over there in that shed.' And they went there. He said, 'I'll make you something to eat,' and he had a great big boiler. He had a boiler there. It was in the shearing shed that he took them to have this meal..They was finished shearing and they took the Aborigines there to have something to eat. They were weak and hungry, and she said, she said to some of her friends, 'I'm not stopping. I'm gunna go on, I'll gop on and I'll come, we'll come back' – she was with her tribe.. and she said, 'I'll come back next morning.' So they did come back and..The overseer made this porridge and he finished them. He put strychnine in it. They didn't known what he was doing, and they're all sitting around looking hungry, all sitting there little children and all, and he was giving them porridge, serving the porridge out to them, and they all went-flop. He murdered them with the porridge, the strychnine in the porridge. And when my mother-in-law came back with her tribe, she said she find them all dead. Children on the mothers- the babies on the mother's breast and little tiny fellows and them all laying about all scattered around dead... Condah, Bloody Lake, they called it.' (Critchett 1998, pp. 2–3)


  1. ^ Howitt 1904, p. 69.
  2. ^ S25 Keerray Woorroong at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ S71 Gadubanud at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  4. ^ S73 Djargurd Wurrong at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  5. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2002). Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press. p. xxxv.
  6. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 204.
  7. ^ a b The Sydney Morning Herald 2004.
  8. ^ "Possum skin cloak". AIATSIS. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d Bissland, Emily (23 January 2022). "Gunditjmara stone tools found in University collection sparks art exhibition and hopes of repatriation". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  10. ^ a b Chai 2017.
  11. ^ Mathews 1904, p. 297.
  12. ^ Dawson 1881, pp. 51–52.
  13. ^ Builth 2009, pp. 27–28.
  14. ^ a b c d Clark 1995, p. 11.
  15. ^ Clark 1998, p. 70.
  16. ^ Blake 2003, p. 2.
  17. ^ Dawson 1881, p. 2.
  18. ^ Clark 1995, pp. 15–16.
  19. ^ a b Salleh 2003.
  20. ^ a b Phillips 2003.
  21. ^ Clarke 1994, pp. 3–4.
  22. ^ a b Johnson 2020b.
  23. ^ Coutts et al. 1978.
  24. ^ Hiscock 2007, p. 253.
  25. ^ a b UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
  26. ^ Blake 2003, pp. 16, 20.
  27. ^ Dept of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
  28. ^ Government Gazette 2004.
  29. ^ Kershaw 2012.
  30. ^ Google Scholar citations.
  31. ^ David, Haberle & Walker 2012, pp. 3–23.
  32. ^ Pascoe 2018, pp. 85–86.
  33. ^ Stichtenoth 2006.
  34. ^ a b Johnson 2020a.
  35. ^ Matchan et al. 2020.
  36. ^ Clark 1995, p. 14.
  37. ^ Boldrewood 1896, pp. 51–62.
  38. ^ Saunders 2013.
  39. ^ Griffiths 1996, p. 109.
  40. ^ Clark 1995, pp. 17–19.
  41. ^ Pascoe 2007, pp. 10, 93–96, p.93.
  42. ^ a b Clark 2011.
  43. ^ Clark 2014a, pp. 3–12.
  44. ^ Shaw 2003, p. 130.
  45. ^ Builth 2009, p. 28.
  46. ^ Clark 1995, p. 12.
  47. ^ a b Clark 1995, pp. 12–13.
  48. ^ Clark 1995, p. 13.
  49. ^ Burin 2012.
  50. ^ Clark 1995, pp. 17–56.
  51. ^ Moore 1974.
  52. ^ Hone 1974.
  53. ^ Boldrewood 1896, pp. 74–79.
  54. ^ Clark 1995, p. 51.
  55. ^ Hone 1969.
  56. ^ Clark 1995, p. 53.
  57. ^ Massola 1969, p. 57.
  58. ^ Boulton 2005.
  59. ^ ATNS 2011.
  60. ^ Weir 2009.
  61. ^ Native Title 2007.
  62. ^ a b Nolan 2011.
  63. ^ Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (GMTOAC).
  64. ^ NMFB 2018.
  65. ^ Whelan 2017.
  66. ^ Raue 2017.
  67. ^ Clark 1995, p. 34.
  68. ^ Blake 2003, pp. 16, 20–21, 25, 29, 42, 52, 179.


Further reading[edit]