Djab Wurrung People

Halls Gap (Budja Budja and its surrounds) lies on land, which was occupied by clans speaking the Djab wurrung language (Clark 1990: 108). The language group boundary generally extended from Stawell in the north, Halls Gap, Dunkeld and the Wannon River in the west, Mt. Napier and Hexham in the south, and Salt Creek, Lake Bolac, Fiery Creek and Mt. Cole in the east. According to Clark, there were 41 individual Djab wurrung clans.

The Djab wurrung were divided into matrilineal moieties, and clans (and individuals) were either Gamadj (black cockatoo) or Grugudj (white cockatoo) (Clark 1982). The Tonedidgerer balug clan belonged to the grugidj moiety, with clan members marrying people from the Burung balug (Djadja wurrung, bunjil moiety), Galgal balug (Djadja wurrung, waa moiety), Utowel bulluk, Pellerwin and Conecut bulluk (Djab wurrung, gamadj moiety), and the Larnaget (Jardwadjali, gamadj moiety) (Clark 1990:133).

Robinson’s journals refer to ‘Tonedidgerer’ as a name for the Hopkins River (GAR Papers, Vol 65, cited in Clark 1990:133), although it has also been identified as a specific locality, and is generally taken to mean ‘Tonedidgerer people.’ According to Dawson (1881, cited in Clark 1990:91), Djab wurrung clan heads were known as ‘Gnern neetch’. Robinson records the Tonedidgerer balug clan head in July 1841 as

Primary sources for information about the Djab wurrung include journals, papers and reports of the Protectors, G.A. Robinson, E.S. Parker, C.W. Sievwright and W. Thomas; and journals and letters of early settlers, such as Francis Tuckfield, Charles Gray, James Dawson and A.W. Howitt (in Clark 1990:91).

The following is a summary of places noted in the historic literature of traditional activities being carried out or interactions with Europeans within traditional Djab wurrung country.

  • ‘Burrumbeep’ was gazetted as an Aboriginal reserve in 1841, although it was never occupied.
  • Members of different language groups (Wada wurrung, Girai wurrung, Dhauwurd wurrung andDjab wurrung) gathered for ceremony and hunting at Mirraewuae, ‘a large marsh celebrated for emus and other game’ to the west of Hexham. (Dawson 1881:3, cited in Clark 1990:91).
  • Lake Bolac – Wada wurrung, Girai wurrung and Djab wurrung clans people gathered in Autumn for the annual migratory season of eels (Clark 1990:92).
  • ‘Burrumbeep’ (Robinson July 1841) noted that women were scattered over the plain near the station, collecting pun.nin (murrnong) and other roots (Clark 1990:96).
  • Mt. Rouse Aboriginal Reserve and ration depot.

During the early days of European settlement, there were many killings of Aboriginal people throughout Djab wurrung country, as the indigenous inhabitants responded to the European invasion and the settlers sought retribution (see Clark 1995 for specific incidents). By 1845, overtDjab wurrung resistance had all but ceased (Clark 1990:95). With the commencement of the gold rush during the 1850s, the settlers’ attitude towards the local Aboriginal people changed, and a new age of exploitation began. Many Aboriginal people were used as station hands in the wake of the labour shortage and paid a fraction of their non-Indigenous counterparts. At the same time, alcohol became a serious problem as more and more Aboriginal people camped on the outskirts of mining settlements (Clark 1990:99).

During the late 1850s, the Aboriginal birth rate was low and the mortality rate was high, giving rise to a dramatic reduction in population. The general condition of the remaining Djab wurrungpopulation was very poor due to alcohol abuse, malnutrition, bronchitis and chest infections, and other introduced diseases. As a result, the Select Committee recommended that reserves be formed on traditional hunting ranges to encourage people into agriculture and grazing (Clark 1990:100). As no reserve locations were identified within Djab wurrung country, four honorary correspondent depots were set up in the region, including at Buangor (Colin Campbell 1863-1870) and at Ararat (1863-1864).

The last traditional Corroboree was recorded near Hamilton in 1862 (Massola 1969:55). By the late 1860s, many Djab wurrung people had moved to Lake Condah or Framlingham (Clark 1990:101), near Warrnambool.

References and Bibliography

  • Bell, J. 2000 Archaeological Survey of Pretty Valley, Alpine National Park. Report for Parks Victoria. TerraCulture Pty. Ltd.
  • Clark, I.D. 1982 The Ethnocide of the Tjapwurong: the nexus between conquest and non-being. BA (Hons Thesis). Depts. of Geography and Politics, Monash University: Melbourne. (Cited in Clark 1990).
  • Clark, I.D. 1990 Aboriginal Languages and Clans: an Historical Atlas of Western and Central Victoria. Monash Publications in Geography No. 7.
  • Clark, I.D. 1995 Scars in the Landscape: a register of massacre sites in Western Victoria, 1803-1859. AIATSIS: Canberra.
  • Coutts, P.J.F., D.C. Witter & M. McIlwraith & R. Frank 1976
    The Mound People of Western Victoria: a preliminary statement. Records of the Victorian Archaeological Survey No.1
  • Coutts, P.J.F., D.C. Witter & D. Parsons 1977 ‘Impact of European Settlement on Aboriginal Society in Western Victoria’. In Search 8(6). pp. 194-205.
  • Dawson, J. 1881 Australian Aborigines: the languages and customs of several tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria.Robertson: Melbourne.
  • Howitt, A.W 1904 (1996) The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. Aboriginal
  • Studies Press: Canberra.
  • Massola, A. 1969 Journey to Aboriginal Victoria.Rigby: Adelaide.

Our Community Today – Revival and Growth

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (Census 2011) there were 318 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali descendants, living on our Traditional Land and within the service region of Budja Budja Co-operative.

Our Community is growing rapidly, at over 20% between 2006 and 2011 (ABS, Census 2011). There is also a large number of itinerant Aboriginal people from other Communities who travel through and reside temporarily in our service region and originate from either the Northern Territory or Queensland, or are on their way to Melbourne, South Australia or NSW, and serviced by Budja Budja. Budja estimates these people add an additional 10%-15% to our Community at any particular point in time.

Budja is now planning to build its services to meet the growing demands of over 500 members by 2016-17, as our membership continues to expand, along with our full and expanding suite of medical, health, cultural and other services.