KDH is situated on Taungurung Country. This week as part of Reconciliation Week we are sharing information relating to the history and culture of the Taungurung People.
Who are the Taungurung Clans?
The Taungurung people occupy much of central Victoria. Taungurung country encompasses the area between the upper reaches of the Goulburn River and its tributaries north of the Dividing Range. From the Campaspe River to Kilmore in the West, eastward to Mount Beauty, from Benalla in the North down to the top of the Great Dividing Ranger, boundaries with other Aboriginal tribes are respected in accordance with traditional laws.
Traditionally people lived a hunter/gatherer existence. The various clan groups migrated through their territory dependent upon seasonal variations of weather and the availability of food. Other members of the Kulin Nation are the Woiwurrung, Boonwurrung, Wathaurung and Djadjawurrung.
The Kulin Nation Group also shares common dreamtime ancestors, creation stories, religious beliefs and economic and social relationships.
The Taungurung people shared a common bond in moiety affiliation with the other tribes. Their world was divided into two moieties: Bundjil (Wedge Tail Eagle) and Waang (Crow). Members of the tribe identified with one or the other of these moieties and it was their moiety which determined the pattern for marriage between individuals, clans and tribes and transcended local allegiances by obliging clan members to find spouses from some distant clan of the opposite moiety either within or outside their Wurrung (language group).
“The nature of the Taungurung people enabled them to utilise the resources available in their vast country. Their ancestors had an intimate knowledge of their environment and were able to sustain the ecology of each region and exploit the food available.”
A staple plant food was the Mirnong (Yam Daisy) which provided a reliable source of carbohydrate. Other plants such as the Bracken Fern (food and medicine), the Tree Fern, Kangaroo Apple and Cherry Balert were a valuable food source and can still be seen growing on Taungurung country today.
This drawing by J. H. Wedge (1835) shows women digging roots of the Yam Daisy. Dhulangi (Stringy Bark) was used to construct Yilam (Shelters) or to weave binak (Baskets). Fibrous plants, such as Dulim (Tussock Grass) produced Burrdi-am (Twine) for Garrtgirrk (Nets) while other tree species were utilised for their timber to fashion Malga (Shield), Gudjerron (Clubs), Wanggim (Boomerangs). Daanak (Water Carriers) and Gorong (Canoes). The rich resources of the permanent rivers, creeks, tributaries and associated floodplains enabled Taungurung to people to access an abundance of fish and other wildlife. Fish were speared and trapped while water birds were netted and Marram (Kangaroo), Goorbil (Koala), and Barramul (Emu) provided nourishing food.
Taungurung 15 Clans
Taungurung People identify themselves by descent from identified Taungurung ancestors. Some, also identify with one of the fifteen clans that make up Taungurung, namely Benbendore-balluk, Buthera-balluk, Gunung-Yellam, Leuk-willam, Moomoomgoonbeet, Nattarak-balluk, Ngurai-illam-balluk, Nira-balluk, Tenbringnellams, Walledriggers, Waring-illam-balluk, Warrinillum, Yaran-illam, Yirun-ilam-balluk, and Yowung-illam-balluk.
Taungurung People currently identify with five of the fifteen clan groups. Some families have an allocated part of country that they talk for and represent, which is roughly based on the territory associated with each clan before European settlement.
Other Taungurung members and families do not identify with a particular area or clan, but with the country as a whole. In areas that are not associated with one of the family groups, they see themselves collectively as custodians, with a duty to care for and maintain those areas.
Consequences of Colonisation
When Europeans first settled the region in the early 1800s, the area was already occupied by Taungurung people. From that time, life for 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 settler’s arrival and soon after, Aboriginal mortality rates soared as a result of conflict, introduced diseases, denial of access to traditional foods and medicines.
At various times, Aboriginal settlements were established in the area by missionaries and governments at Mitchellstown, Acheron and Coranderrk. These however, despite relative success, were eventually dissolved through various government policies.
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 Clans form a strong and vibrant community. Descendants from 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 scar trees, rock shelters, rock art, and even place names all indicate that Taungurung people 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 Educators, and are a ready source of knowledge concerning the Taungurung people from the central areas of Victoria.
This information has been used with permission from the Taungurung Land and Water Council. We thank them for allowing us to share these snippets of their rich culture.
For more information please go to their website at https://taungurung.com.au/