Taungurung People: 65,000 years of Caring for Country

BR grateful acknowledges permission to include material, courtesy of the Taungurung people. Find further information at taungurung.com.au/

We respectfully acknowledge the Taungurung people as the traditional owners and rightful custodians of the Taungurung country in Central Victoria. They are also known as the Daung Wurrung, being the nine clans who spoke the Daungwurrung languageTheir land encompasses the area between the Goulburn River’s upper reaches and its tributaries north of the Dividing Range; it goes from Kilmore in the west, Mount Beauty in the east, Benalla to the north, to the top of the Great Dividing Range in the south.

The ancestors of the Taungurung had an intimate knowledge of their environment and were able to sustain the ecology of the each region and exploit the food available. Taungurung travelled south during the deberer season and north as the weather cooled. Their nomadic nature enabled them to utilise their vast country’s resources in with care and efficiency. Among the resources used were:

  • mirniong or yam daisy – a staple plant food providing a reliable source of carbohydrate
  • bracken fern  – used for food and medicine
  • tree fern, kangaroo apple and cherry ballart – used for food
  • Wangnarra or stringybark – used for constructing yilam (shelters) and weaving benak (baskets)
  • fibrous plants, such as buarth (tussock grass) – used for burrt-tean (twine) and for garrt-girrk (nets)

Other species were used for timber to make malgarr (shields), gudjerrun (clubs), wangim (boomerangs), darnuk (water carriers) and gurrong (canoes).

The rich resources of the permanent rivers, creeks and tributaries and associated floodplains enabled the Taungurung to have an abundance of fish and other wildlife. Fish were speared and trapped while water birds netted and the mirrm (kangaroo), gorbil (koala), and barraimal (emu) provided nourishing food. Pelts from the walert (native possum) were sewn together to form googarra (cloak), ideal for cold and wet conditions. Plants such as kurrajong provided fibres to weave garrt-girrk (nets) for harvesting the nutritious deberer (Bogong moth) in the summer.

When Europeans first settled the region in the early 1800s, the area was occupied by theTaungurung. From that time, life for the Taungurung people in central Victoria changed dramatically and was severely disrupted by the early establishment and expansion of European settlement. Traditional society broke down with the first settlers arrival and soon afterwards and Aboriginal mortality rates soared as a result of introduced diseases, denial of access to traditional foods and medicines and conflict.

Aboriginal settlements were established in the area by missionaries and governments at Michellstown, Acheron and Coranderrk. However, despite relative success these were eventually dissolved through various government policies. The Taungurung and other members of the Kulin Nation were deeply impacted by the dictates of the various government assimilation and integration policies.

Today, the descendants of the Taungurung form a strong and vibrant community. Descendents of five of the original clan groups meet regularly at Camp Jungai – an ancestral ceremonial site. Elders assist with the instruction of younger generations in culture, history, and language and furthering of their knowledge and appreciation of their heritage as the rightful custodians of the Taungurung lands in Central Victoria. Evidence of the Taungurung can be found in many places throughout Taungurung Country. Scar trees, rock shelters, rock art and place names indicate they have been in this part of Victoria for thousands of years.

Many Taungurung people still live on their country and participate widely in the community as cultural heritage advisors, land management officers, artists and educationalist and are a ready source of knowledge concerning the Taungurung people from central are of Victoria. We are pleased to welcome you to our country – to enjoy the landscapes, the flora and fauna.

The Taungurung continue to care for this country and graciously welcome those who share a similar respect.

 Painting - 'Home Life of the Victorian Aborigines'
Artist: Caroline Le Souëf
Source: Museums Victoria