South Western Victoria has a rich Indigenous history. The traditional owners of the land are the Gunditjmara, also known as the Dhauwurd wurrung.
The Indigenous people of the area were traditionally river and lake people, and had sophisticated systems of working with the landscape for economic gain including aquaculture and farming pursuits. The Gunditjmara enjoyed a rich fish diet including whale flesh.
When European Settlers arrived in the area, the Indigenous culture and way of life were marred with many massacres and fights. The ongoing battles between the European and Indigenous Australians quickly gave the Gunditjmara people the name “The Fighting Gunditjmara” due to their tenacity and resilience.
The dreamtime narratives of the Gunditjmara are fascinating, with the distinctive volcanic landscape of the area resembling creator, Budj Bim (High Head). Bidj Bim took the form of the volcano known today as Mt Eccles. The erupting lava flows are his blood and teeth, spilling over the landscapeand shaping its wetlands. ‘High Head’ as it is known, refers to the craters brow, which is only accessible today by Gunditjmara men, following sacred traditional dress customs.
Nearby Deen Maar Island (also known as Lady Julia Percy Island) is sacred burial ceremonial ground for the Gunditjmara. Their burial traditions involved wrapping the body in grass bundles and releasing them with their head pointing towards the island Deen Mar, along with burning native cherry wood for guidance from good spirits. The Gunditjmara looked for signs from the spirits that the body had made safe passage to the island and the spirit had risen to the realm of the clouds.
Explore the area and consider these dreamtime stories and the Gunditjmara people as you discover the many sacred and unique sites featured throughout the region.