Cardinia Shire is located on the traditional lands of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. They are the traditional owners/custodians of this place and are represented by these Traditional Owner Entity Groups:
- Bunurong Land Council
- Boon Wurrung Foundation
- Wurundjeri Tribe Land Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council
About the Boonwurrung people
The Boonwurrung people are the indigenous people of south-eastern Victoria. Their traditional land extends from the Werribee River in the north-west, down to Wilsons Promontory in the south-east, taking in the catchments of the old Carrum swamp, Western Port Bay and the Tarwin River, and includes Mornington Peninsula, Phillip and French islands.
Boonwurrung people are part of a language group or nation known as Koolin. Boonwurrung people prefer to be known as Koolin rather than Koorie which is a word from a different language.
Cardinia Shire is within the clan estates of the Yalloc Bulluk Boonwurrung and the Mayone Bulluk Boonwurrung.
Clan estates of the Boonwurrung
The area that is now known as Cardinia Shire was once home to two key indigenous clans, the Yalloc Bulluk Boonwurrung and the Mayone Bulluk Boonwurrung.
The Boonwurrung people were blessed with an environment that once provided a great diversity of plant and animal life, though many of these plants and animals have disappeared or are threatened by past land management practices, over-development and/or over-exploitation.
Today the Boonwurrung people have very little access to their traditional land, and actively struggle for the recognition and protection of Boonwurrung cultural heritage and their cultural environment through the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.
Council’s Aboriginal heritage consultant has compiled information on these clan estates, describing some aspects of their lives in the days before white occupation in this area.
Yalloc Bulluk Boonwurrung people
The Yalloc Bulluk people represent one of the largest clans of the Boonwurrung people. Their traditional land took in the eastern catchment of Western Port Bay as well as the catchment of the Powlett River and French and Phillip islands. The Yalloc Bulluk derived their name from the many creeks and rivers on their land.
The Yalloc Bulluk along with other Boonwurrung clans, the Burinyong Bulluk of Mornington Peninsula and the Lowandjeri Bulluk of the Tarwin River, were some of the first Aboriginal people in Victoria to make contact with European mariners and many accounts have been documented by these early mariners in archives all over the world.
Like most indigenous people, Yalloc Bulluk people changed with the seasons, and while this didn't always mean a move to another camp, it always involved a change in diet as certain resources became abundant and others faded till the next season.
During the summer months, the Yalloc Bulluk would make bark canoes and visit French and Phillip islands to catch seals and mutton birds. Other days would be spent foraging Western Port Bay’s many tidal flats or the rocky platforms of the Bass coast for shellfish, or perhaps fishing for snapper at the mouth of one of the many mangrove inlets that run into the north-eastern side of Western Port Bay. They also harvesting indigenous vegetables and fruits such as orchid bulbs or wild currants.
As summer ended, the Yalloc Bulluk people would make cloaks and rugs from possum and kangaroo skins, and collect the flower stems of the grass tree; which was a favoured timber for making fire and steeped in lore.
In winter the Yalloc Bulluk would meet with other Boonwurrung clans or Koolin people at their favourite hunting grounds in the Dandenong Ranges, Pakenham, Bass Valley and Upper Powlett River.
Here the people would cooperatively hunt kangaroos, wallabies, emus and possums, dig out wombats and snare small marsupials. They would catch eels and fish from the many creeks and swamps, and also harvest yams, the piths from the tree fern and cumbungi (bullrush), and collect the many mushrooms that grew in the damp weather.
In spring with the first blooms of the ti-tree, the elders would declare it was time to return to the swamps and coastal lagoons for the ‘egging’ season, when thousands of wading and aquatic birds would begin to nest and lay their eggs. Swan eggs were favoured, and strict collection and management protocols applied to the harvesting of this much-anticipated resource.
Mayone Bulluk Boonwurrung people
Mayone Bulluk Boonwurrung traditional land extended north to the top of what was once the old Carrum swamp (or Carrum Carrum as it was known to the Mayone Bulluk), east to the western edge of the Koo Wee Rup swamp, south as far as Moorooduc and west to Port Phillip Bay.
As with most Aboriginal people, Mayone Bulluk people’s cultural, ceremonial and spiritual life was dictated by the seasons through the availability of sustainable resources.
Mayone people were in turn able to predict the seasons through natural indicators, such as the behaviour of different animals or the blooming of a certain flower. For example, the Mayone people knew that ‘quoim’ (kangaroos) were at their fattest when all the bark had fallen from the gum trees, which usually occurred at the height of summer when the grass was dryer.
During the summer months, the Mayone Bulluk people could (and still can) be found at one of their many coastal camps at Mordialloc, Frankston or Warneet. Here they found their favourite foods such as fish, shellfish and the many marine birds and eggs.
For vegetables they would collect a variety of bulbs, shoots and leaves, such as the leaves of the Warrigal spinach. Fruit included the native cherry or the kangaroo apple, which was washed down with a sweet drink made from the coastal banksia flower.
Throughout the summer, the Mayone Bulluk would collect their kangaroo and possum skins and tan them with bark from the many wattle trees, and as summer ended they would use the skins to make cloaks and rugs for the cold months ahead.
As winter approached, Mayone Bulluk families would gather at one of their winter camps around Moorooduc or the Dandenong Ranges. During the colder months, they would join neighbouring clans in large-scale cooperative hunts, and harvest yams, shoots and mushrooms.
Sometimes the women and children would rob an ants’ nest for seed that the ants had inadvertently stored while gathering their own food. The seed would be ground on a rock grinding bowl to make flour for a damper.