Map cropped
 Map supplied by Gunditj Mirring. Click here to view a larger, full version of the map.

The Gunditjmara, Bunganditj and Jardwadjali people have called this land home for tens of thousands of years, from the time the now-dormant volcano Mount Eccles was erupting to the present day.

But on European settlement, the numbers of Aboriginal people living in the area were decimated from as many as 7,000 people to just 442.

Before European settlement of the area in the early 1800s, the Indigenous people of the Glenelg Shire formed complex societies, their connection to the land and each other strong.

The Glenelg Shire now has more than three times the average proportion of Aboriginal residents compared to the Victorian average.

 

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Five members of the Mount Clay Tribe, photograph by Thomas Hannay.

Traditional stories, oral histories and other evidence reveals the Gunditjmara Aboriginal population in the western districts of Victoria established permanent settlements in the southern section of what is now the Glenelg Shire up to 30,000 years ago. The Jardwadjali people have also lived in the northern section of the Shire for between 30,000 and 40,000 years, revealing a deep, enduring connection to the land.

The Gunditjmara used the land's natural topography and features to establish permanent settlements and villages along the lava flow near creeks or lakes, with the community's population believed to be in the thousands.

The first early contact between coastal Gunditjmara people and European whalers and sealers came sometime between 1800 and 1830, during which time massacres of the Gunditjmara people took place.

 

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Walatha Keetawanta (Embrace Futurity) by Daniel Joseph, 2007. Acrylic on canvas. Commissioned by Glenelg Shire Council as the cover image for the Glenelg Aboriginal Partnership Agreement. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

Known as the Convincing Ground Massacre, one of these massacres ignited the Eumeralla Wars between the Gunditjmara people and European squatters, a war that lasted many years. The conflict was so fierce, the Native Police Corps were deployed from Melbourne to assist and many hundreds of Aboriginal people were killed after being completely overpowered by European weapons.

Since then, as has occurred in much of Australia, the Aboriginal people of Glenelg Shire have experienced great trauma and much suffering, from shootings and murders, to being run off their traditional lands and having their children forcibly removed from their care.

But their connection to the land, their culture and their spirit strongly endures to this day.

 

Signing Aboriginal Agreement

Signing of the Glenelg Aboriginal Partnership Agreement 2011–2020, Reconciliation Week Community Event, 2011. Signatories to the agreement: (l-r) Maxine Risk (Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service Inc), Ros Alexander (CEO Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service Inc), Aunty Laura Bell (Elder), Nicky Hudson (Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service Inc), Aunty Amy Saunders (Elder), Cr Ken Saunders (Glenelg Shire), Mayor Cr Bruce Cross (Glenelg Shire), Sharon Kelsey (Glenelg Shire CEO), Lucas Bannam (Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation), Ros Pevitt (Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation), Candice Day (Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation), Laura Lovett-Murray (Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation).

The Lake Condah Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) Declaration took place on 12th July 2012, and the Gunditjmara community (Winda-Mara and Gunditj Mirring) currently manages around 3,000 hectares of community owned and managed properties. They are made up of the Kurtonitj IPA, Lake Condah IPA, Tyrendarra IPA and Lake Gorrie properties established for the cultural heritage, conservation, sustainable use of cultural resources and public education.

In 2002 a new commitment was forged between European and Aboriginal communities when the Glenelg Shire Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding, acknowledging the hurt and suffering endured by local Indigenous people since European settlement and making a solemn promise to promote recognition, healing and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents.

In 2011, the Council adopted the Glenelg Aboriginal Partnership Agreement 2011-2020. The culmination of many years work, the agreement "recognises the rich and diverse contribution that Aboriginal people have made and continue to make toward the identity, wellbeing and prosperity of Glenelg Shire".

"It seeks to foster mutual respect and harmony between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents, both now and in the future by encouraging an understanding of Aboriginal history and culture among non-Aboriginal residents in parallel to and through the processes of ameliorating the systemic and structural disadvantages of exclusion and by creating opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to regain their cultural meaning, wealth and place in both societies.

"The situation that this agreement is aiming to alter has taken over 180 years to evolve and will require many years and progressively more challenging agreements to rectify. It is acknowledged that all signatories to this agreement are willing to accept this challenge."

Now will you accept our challenge to you, to learn more about our Aboriginal communities and their history and culture? Read on to find out how.

* Information supplied by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.

Exactly what happened during the Convincing Ground Massacre?

What happened during some of the earliest recorded meetings between Aboriginal and European people in the area now known as Glenelg Shire?

Where in the Shire are the Indigenous Protected areas?

Who are the three Aboriginal organisations in Glenelg and what do they do?

To find the answers to all these questions and more, visit Glenelg Shire Council's museum and research centre History House, where you will find a wealth of information about Glenelg Shire's Aboriginal culture and history. You can also speak to the Council's Aboriginal Development Officer Grant Roberts, or visit one of the communities listed below.

 

Web links:
• Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation – http://www.windamara.com.au/
• Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation – http://www.gunditjmirring.com/

 

Grant Roberts
Aboriginal Development Officer
Glenelg Shire Council
PO Box 152, Portland VIC 3305
Phone: (03) 5522 2200
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation
21 Scott Street, Heywood VIC 3304

Phone: (03) 5527 0000
Website: www.windamara.com.au