Wimmera Attractions - Aboriginal Heritage

Koorie Heritage

Koorie rock paintings are rare in Victoria and Australia. But not in the Grampians National Park. Five thousand years ago, the Koories who roamed the well stocked hunting ground surrounding Gariwerd as the mountain range was known to them, began recording their dreamtime legends and ceremonies on the recessed walls of caves, tucked away in rocky outcrops. It is a record of an ancient culture which was virtually destroyed with the arrival of European settlers.

Because these mountains provided a rich source of food and water, Koories were freed from spending long hours hunting and gathering. Spare time was dedicated to cultural activities, of which evidence may be seen today. Over 100 caves have been found where the rock faces are decorated by fine examples of Koorie art. You can visit about 10 shelters.

Nearly 4000 different art motifs have been recorded, although the major designs are emu tracks, human figures, hands, bars and straight lines. The oldest hand stencils are over 2000 years old, while the most recent where painted around the time Europeans discovered Australia.

Today, the Brambuk Living Cultural Centre, just two kilometres from Halls Gap, brings to life the rich history and culture of the Koorie communities of the Wimmera and south west Victoria. From a stone chimney, atop the Brambuk Centre, smoke lazily drifts upward, in a way reminiscent of a campsite fire. Inside there are rare displays of traditional Koorie art, clothing, weapons and tools. On the ceremonial ground you can experience traditional music, dance and cooking. Sample bush tucker Koorie style. Or let the people whose ancestors created this culture take you on an informed tour of the Koorie rock art sites.

A 70 kilometre drive south west of The Grampians National Park, at Lake Condah, is another significant Koorie site. Here you can see fish traps made from local basalt rock. The Koorie tribes relied on the rise and fall of the level of the lake to trap the fish. Around the traps you'll find the remains of more than 200 semicircular shaped stone houses which date back between 200 and 6000 years. Unlike most Koories, the tribe in this area had relatively permanent homes.

Nearby is the Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission, built by Europeans in 1867. Take a walk around the mission, through the ruins of the Mission House, bluestone cottages and the site of St. Mary's Church.

Sixty kilometres north of The Grampians National Park is Antwerp. Here you'll find The Ebenezer Mission station which today stands in ruins. Its pale pink stone buildings are surrounded by wheatfields and bush. A tiny cemetery contains graves of Mission Koories and Lutheran priests. An Antwerp Koorie, Bobby Kinnear, who won the rich Stawell Gift footrace in 1883, is buried here. His grave is marked by a Koorie monument erected in 1985 by the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative to remember local Koories.

Another well known Koorie from Western Victoria was Johnny Mullagh. He was a famous cricketer from Harrow, who played with the first Koorie cricket team to visit England, in 1868. His memorial stands in the tiny village of Harrow, 70 kilometres west of the Grampians National Park.

For more information on Aboriginal Heritage:

Aboriginal Rock Art
Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre
European Settlement
Koories in the Gariwerd Area
Yardwadjali and Djap Wurrung Story

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