The Traditional Owners - Taungurung People
The traditional owners of these lands in this area were the Taungurung people. They shared a common bond in moiety affiliation with other neighbouring tribes. Their world was divided into two moieties: Waang (crow) and Bunjil (wedge tail eagle). Members of the tribe identified with one or the other of these moieties and it was that 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 own wurrung (language group). The Taungurung people consisted of nine clans. These included the Buthera Balug, located on the Goulburn, as far down as Yea and Seymour, the Look Willam Clan roamed the area on the Campaspe River, near Kilmore and Mitchellstown, the Nattarak Balug lived on the Coliban and upper Campaspe Rivers while the Nira Balug ‘Cave People’ bordered the Great Dividing Range near Kilmore, Broadford, Pyalong and westward towards Mt Macedon.
Around Yea and Alexandra though, it was the people of the Warring-Illum Balug Clan (Warring being the name for the Goulburn River) and the Yarran-Illam located on the east side of the Goulburn River, below Seymour. The Yeerun-Illam-Balug inhabited the area around Benalla and the Yowung-Illam- Balug lived at Alexandra, Mansfield and the Upper Goulburn River.
Sadly there are descendants of only five of those clan groups that survive today. The nomadic nature of the Taungurung people enabled them to utilise the resources available in their vast country. They had an intimate knowledge of their environment and were able to sustain the ecology of the each region and exploit the food available.
The Taungurung people travelled south during the warmer months and north when the weather cooled.
When the European explorers Hume & Hovell first crossed the River here in the wetlands on 4-5 December 1824 they named it Muddy Creek (later renamed the Yea River) the area was already occupied by Aboriginal people. Within 15 years of that crossing most of the land in the area had been taken up by graziers.
From that time, life for the Taungurung people changed dramatically and was severely disrupted by the early establishment and expansion of European settlement. Their traditional society broke down and soon after, Aboriginal mortality rates soared as a result of introduced diseases, denial of access to traditional foods and medicines and conflict.
At various times, Aboriginal settlements were established in the area by missionaries and governments at Michellstown, Acheron and Coranderrk (Healesville) however despite relative success were eventually dissolved. The Taungurung and other members of 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. Descendants 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.
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