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Ngurungaeta is a Woi-Wurrung word often said to mean 'head man' or 'tribal leader', used by clans of the Woi-Wurrung tribes and Taung Wurrung Ngurai-illum Wurrung.[1][2] Ngurungaeta held the same tribal standing as an Arweet of the Bunurong and Wathaurong people. The current Ngurungaeta is Murrundindi. The term became of particular importance as an identifier of senior men prepared to accept Anglo control in the latter part of the 19th Century. It is unlikely that the term was used to express genuine recognition of senior members of traditional groups in the Melbourne area after the 1840s, following the death of Billibellary ca 1846.

Identified later Ngurungaeta include:

  • Bebejan – said by some Europeans to have been a member of the group alleged to have signed the 1835 treaty with John Batman[3]
  • Billibellary, (1799–1846) – said to have been a ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri-willam clan. An important Woiwurung man at the time of the Anglo invasion of Port Phillip.
  • Simon Wonga (1824–1874) – An adolescent at the time of the Anglo occupation of Melbourne. Son of Billibellary
  • William Barak (1824–1903) – last traditional ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri-willam clan
  • Robert Wandoon (1854–1908) – Born at Coranderrk and said to have been anointed ngurungaeta, together with other men, by William Barak[4]
  • James Wandin (1933–2006) – claimed by some family members to be a ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri[5]
  • Murrundindi – appointed ngurungaeta at the funeral of James Wandin in 2006.[6]


  1. ^ First Peoples, GaryPresland
  2. ^ Martin Flanagan, Tireless ambassador bids you welcome, The Age, 25 January 2003. Accessed 31 October 2008
  3. ^ Murrundindi and his people. Accessed 1 November 2008
  4. ^ Ian Hunter, Wurundjeri Lineage Accessed 1 November 2008
  5. ^ James Wandin, Opening statement to the Victorian Parliament Victorian parliament website, 26 May 2000. Accessed 31 October 2008
  6. ^ Rebecca Fraser, New title ‘better than being Prime Minister’, Star News Group, 9 March 2006. Accessed 1 November 2008