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Wathaurung, also called the Wadawurrung, are an Indigenous Australian tribe living in the area near Melbourne, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. They are part of the Kulin alliance. The Wathaurung language was spoken by 25 clans south of the Werribee River and the Bellarine Peninsula to Streatham. They were sometimes referred to by Europeans as the Barrabool people. They have inhabited the area for at least the last 25,000 years, with 140 archaeological sites having been found in the region, indicating significant activity over that period.
Coastal clans of the Wadawurrung may have had contact with Lieutenant John Murray when he charted Indented Head and named Swan Bay. Matthew Flinders met several Wadawurrung when he camped at Indented Head and climbed the You Yangs in May 1802.
When Lieutenant David Collins founded the colony at Sullivan Bay, Victoria in October 1803, he sent Lieutenant J. Tuckey to survey and explore Corio Bay which resulted in several Aborigines being shot and wounded. William Buckley, a convict who had escaped from the abortive Sullivan Bay settlement in December 1803, was adopted by the Wadawurrung balug as they thought he was the resurrected Murrangurk, an important former leader. Buckley lived with that community for 32 years, between 1803 and 1835, before making contact with John Batman's expedition on 6 July 1835.:169
The European settlement of Wadawurrung territory began in earnest from 1835, with a rapid arrival of squatters around the Geelong area and westwards. This European settlement was marked by Aboriginal resistance to the invasion, often by driving off or stealing sheep, which then resulted in conflict and sometimes a massacre of Aboriginal people.:169-175
Very few of the reports of the killing of native people were acted upon. On the few occasions the matter did reach court, such as the killing of Woolmudgin on 7 October 1836, following which John Whitehead was sent to Sydney for trial, the case was dropped for lack of evidence. At the time Aborigines were denied the right to give evidence in courts of law. The incidents listed below are just those cases that have been reported, it is likely other incidents occurred that were never documented officially. Writing on 9 December 1839, Niel Black, a squatter in western Victoria, describes the prevailing attitude of many settlers:
- "The best way [to procure a run] is to go outside and take up a new run, provided the conscience of the party is sufficiently seared to enable him without remorse to slaughter natives right and left. It is universally and distinctly understood that the chances are very small indeed of a person taking up a new run being able to maintain possession of his place and property without having recourse to such means – sometimes by wholesale...":1
Table: reported aboriginal killings in Wadawurrung territory to 1859:169-175
|Date||Location||Aborigines involved||Europeans involved||Aboriginal Deaths reported|
|October 1803||Corio Bay||Wadawurrung, possibly Yaawangi or Wadawurrung balug||Lieutenant J Tuckey and others||two people|
|17 October 1836||Barwon River, Barrabool Hills||Wada wurrung balug clan||John Whitehead, encouraged by Frederick Taylor||Woolmudgin, alias Curacoine|
|Summer 1837-1838||Golf Hill Station, Yarrowee River, north of Inverleigh||Wadawurrung clan unknown||A shepherd and a hut keeper, Clyde company employees||two people|
|June 1839 – 1840||unknown||Wadawurrung balug clan||soldiers||three people|
|25 November 1847||Anderson and Mills Public House, Buninyong||Wadawurrung clan unknown||unknown||two people|
The events of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion took place on Wathaurung land. Three Wathaurung clans lived in the vicinity of the Eureka diggings: the Burrumbeet baluk at Lakes Burrumbeet and Learmonth, Keyeet baluk, a sub-group of the Burrumbeet baluk, at Mt Buninyong, and the Tooloora baluk, at Mt Warranheip and Lal Lal Creek. There are numerous accounts of aboriginal presence in the Ballarat area during the 1850s.
The early policing of the Ballarat Goldfields was done by the Native Police Corps, who enforced the collection of the gold miners licence fee resulting in confrontations between diggers and the Gold Commissioner, considered by some historians, such as Michael Cannon and Weston Bate, as preludes to the Eureka Rebellion.
There is oral history that local aboriginal people may have looked after some of the children of the Eureka miners after the military storming of the Eureka Stockade and subsequent massacre of miners. Although not corroborated by any written sources, the account has been deemed plausible by Professor Clark.
Some further credence, although circumstantial, may be provided to the above information. George Yuille, older brother of William Cross Yuille, was not only liked and trusted by the local Aboriginies but also had formed a relationship with one of their women. Together they had at least one child, also named George Yuille. George Yuille senior died on the 26 March 1854. He was at the time of his death a storekeeper on Specimen Hill and hence he was among the miners. Whether his native wife was with him is unknown, but it is a fair assumption that the local Aborigines would have been very familiar with the miners, especially if they were in constant contact with George Yuille.
Structure, Borders and Land Use
Communities consisted of 25 land-owning groups called clans that spoke a related language and were connected through cultural and mutual interests, totems, trading initiatives and marriage ties. Access to land and resources by other clans, was sometimes restricted depending on the state of the resource in question. For example; if a river or creek had been fished regularly throughout the fishing season and fish supplies were down, fishing was limited or stopped entirely by the clan who owned that resource until fish were given a chance to recover. During this time other resources were utilised for food. This ensured the sustained use of the resources available to them. As with most other Kulin territories, penalties such as spearings were enforced upon trespassers. Today, traditional clan locations, language groups and borders are no longer in use and descendants of Wathaurung people live within modern day society, although still preserving much of their culture.
Wathaurung territory extended from the southern side of the Werribee River to Port Phillip, the Bellarine Peninsula, the Otway forests,and northwest to Mount Emu and Mount Misery. Their territory encompassed the Ballarat goldfields.
|No||Clan Name||Approximate Location|
|1||Barere barere balug||'Colac' and 'Mt Bute' stations|
|2||Beerekwart balug||Mount Emu|
|3||Bengalat balug||Indented Head|
|5||Boro gundidj||Yarrowee River|
|6||Burrumbeet gundidj||Lakes Burumbeet and Learmonth|
|6a||Keyeet balug||Mount Buninyong|
|8||Carininje balug||'Emu Hill' station, Linton's Creek|
|9||Corac balug||'Commeralghip' station, and Kuruc-a-ruc Creek|
|10||Corrin corrinjer balug||Carranballac|
|11||Gerarlture balug||West of Lake Modewarre|
|12||Marpeang balug||Blackwood, Myrniong, and Bacchus Marsh|
|14||Moijerre balug||Mount Emu Creek|
|15||Moner balug||'Trawalla' station, Mount Emu Creek|
|17||Neerer balug||Between Geelong and the You Yangs (Hovells Ck?)|
|18||Pakeheneek balug||Mount Widderin|
|19||Peerickelmoon balug||Near Mount Misery|
|20||Tooloora balug||Mount Warrenheip, Lal-lal Creek, west branch of Moorabool River.|
|21||Woodealloke gundidj||Wardy Yalloak River, south of Kuruc-a-ruc Creek|
|22||Wadawurrung balug||Barrabool Hills|
|23||Wongerrer balug||Head of Wardy Yalloak River|
|24||Worinyaloke balug||West side of Little River|
|25||Yaawangi||You Yang Hills|
- Clark, Ian D. (1995). Scars on the Landscape. A Register of Massacre sites in Western Victoria 1803-1859. Aboriginal Studies Press. ISBN 0-85575-281-5
Wathaurungwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
Cite error: The named reference
- Clark, Ian D. (c. 1990). Aboriginal languages and clans : an historical atlas of western and central Victoria, 1800-1900. Melbourne: Dept. of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University. ISBN 090968541X. as referenced in Aboriginal Heritage Wadawurrung Culture and History Our Precious Heritage website, Accessed November 9, 2008