“We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Gadubanud Country, their Elders past present and future.
We observe the ancient Cultural footprint in the lands, seas and rivers all around us.”
Aboriginal people have always lived in Victoria, scientifically dated now to 100,000 plus years.
The Gadubanud (Katabanut) people have occupied the rainforest, estuaries, grass and wetlands, and coastline of the Otways for hundreds of generations.
Local rivers and their estuaries such as the Painkalac and Gellibrand with natural changes in Country lead to changes in Culture and Language; moving through Gadubanud Country from Koala to King Parrot speaking.
This is a complex of millennia of ancient song where the King Parrot lives and moves.
Wada Wurrung to the north east of the Painkalac River, Gulidjan to the north (Lake Colac area) and Girai Wurrung to the west of the Gellibrand River.
The Gadubanud maintained their complex ties with other Aboriginal groups, preserved in close linguistic and familial connections with their northern neighbour the Gulidjan.
There are five recorded clans within the Gadubanud tribal area, being:
- Bangura gundidj – location Cape Otway
- Guringid gundidj – location Cape Otway
- Ngalla gundidj – location Cape Otway
- Ngarowurd gundidj – location north of Moonlight Head
- Yan Yan Gurt – location east head of the Barwon river
The Gadubanud successfully avoided much contact with European settlers prior to the 1830s, which led to the belief that the Otways were uninhabited.
There are stories passed down by Gadubanud descendants, of woman being removed prior to colonisation, and instances of violent clashes with early whalers and sealers.
The Gadubanud lived a mostly peaceful life, though occasional clashes with other tribes gave them a feared reputation as being “wild”.
They traded spear wood for Mt William greenstone when tribes from across Victoria met for traditional ceremonies e.g. at Mt Noorat, Mt Napier and Gariwerd.
Generally speaking, traditional groups mixing less frequently had more distant languages, and would refer to each other using terms reflecting this ‘unfamiliarity’, e.g. ‘Mane mate’ was recorded in some areas, and in the lands to the west of the Barwon and leading into the Otway’s, ‘Maar mart’ was also used.
Abundant middens found around the Otways show that Gadubanud people had an abundant and rich diet ranging from fish and shellfish to seal, eel and duck. Animal protein also came from marsupials, snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and possums. In addition to possum meat, hides were also used to make cloaks for protection from the elements. Kangaroos and wallabies were used in the same way. Plants were also a mainstay of local diets, medicines and tools.
Along the coast, Bauer spinach, numerous berries, and a wide variety of herbs were also readily available for perfect recipes rich in proteins such as eel and mutton bird.
The most widely consumed starchy foods included the roots of yam daisies, a range of tubers, and grass seeds.
Yam daisies were cultivated annually; mostly involving careful ‘separation and replanting’—not unlike gathering bulbs from orchids; and could even incorporate fire.
Burning practices were highly utilitarian, e.g. using fire to release scarce nutrients into the soil to promote regeneration and the continuity of a mosaic of native ‘pasture’ around parts of the Otway’s.
This not only actively promoted longer-term consistency in numbers of macropods for sustenance, and more permanent hunting locations for generations, but it also easier access to this networked mosaic.
As diligent farmers know, doing ‘a bit of maintenance often is better than having to put in a huge effort occasionally’.
Regularly walking the walkpaths of their Country, was what kept the Otway coastal and hinterlands readily accessible for Gadubanud people.
One of the earliest official European recording of the Gadubanud people was in 1842 by Chief Protector Robinson at the mouth of the Hopkins River at Allandale near Warrnambool.
Other early official recordings come from the logs of passing ships. Historical records show that interaction continued between European settlers and the Gadubanud people long after 1846, despite typical frontier myth-making of the time, stating that Gadubanud have all died. During this time period, massacres and violent clashes between settlers and tribes took place all over Victoria, including the Otways. Notably the most significant massacres affecting the Gadubanud include the ‘Aire River massacre’, one of several in this serene green valley. It is known that surviving Gadubanud people joined other tribes at the Wesleyan Buntingdale Mission near Birregurra, or sought protection to the west at Tooram station with relatives. Survival saw frequent movements between different missions, and semi-independence on stations around Colac.
Descendants of the Gadubanud survivors continue to live in the Otways to this day.
Country – A term used by Aboriginal people to refer to the land to which they belong and their place of Dreaming.
Aboriginal language usage of the word Country is very different from the narrower geo-political definition used in standard English.****
Dreaming – The Dreaming has different meanings for different Aboriginal groups. The Dreaming can be seen as an embodiment of Aboriginal creation which gives meaning to everything. It establishes the rules governing relationships between the people, the land and all things for Aboriginal people.
Tribe – or nations. Tribes are ‘language groups’, made up of people sharing the same language, customs, and Lore. The people of a tribe share a common bond and in their own language, their word for “human being” is often the word used for the name of the tribe.
Clans –The clan is an important unit in Aboriginal society, having its own name and territory. A clan is a group of about 40-50 people with a common territory and totems, with their own group name. They consist of groups of extended families. Generally, men born into the clan remain in the clan territory.
Gadubanud in Maar Lore is matrilineal, meaning along the female line.
Midden – A ‘midden’ is an occupation site where Aboriginal people have left the remains of their meals and meal preparation over a significant number of generations.
Some middens have accumulated so much material at the site deposited over the generations they are metres deep. Mussel, abalone, limpet, turbo, whelk and periwinkle shells are most commonly found in middens, as well as animal bones. Some can contain artefacts and tools made from stone, bone or shell; though generally tool sites are quite different and in some cases sacred.
Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative, Geelong – www.wathaurong.org.au
Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative, Warrnambool– 1800 629 729
Buntingdale Wesleyan Mission – Birregurra
“Campfires at the Cross” by Heather Le Griffon
“Before Louttit Bay” by Debora Campbell
History and personal story’s: Richard Collopy
The fascinating story of Francis Tuckfield’s Bunting Dale Mission near Birregurra in Western Victoria in the mid-1800s.
The Framlingham Aboriginal Community
The Framlingham Aboriginal Community is situated on Gunditjmara Country on the western plains of Victoria, approximately 180 kilometres west of Geelong and 23 kilometres north of Warrnambool.
Cape Otway Lightstation – Indigenous Cultural area, Contact for Artworks; SOIG: 0427 359531
Clark, Ian D 1995, “Scars in the Landscape: A Register of Massacre Sites in Western Victoria, 1803–1859”, Aboriginal Studies Press
Niewøjt, Lawrence, “The Massacre of the Gadubanud at Aire River”, Victorian Historical Journal, Vol. 81, No. 2 (November 2010), pp. 193–213.
Photo: Language Boundary Map of the Otways – Colac Performing Arts Centre lawn, Mosaic Artist Libby McKinnon, Designed by Brendan
Norman and Colac College Students 2000.
Acknowledgements: Wathaurong Aboriginal Community and Framlingham Aboriginal Community