Kooris in the Gariwerd Area

Two important occupations of Gariwerd/The Grampians are recorded in the more recent history of the area. Firstly Aborigines (or Koori) activity in Gariwerd/Grampians dates as far back as 22,500 years ago. The tribes that lived in the area were Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali. The mountains provided a spectacular backdrop for hunting and gathering resources prior to migrations north, east and west. As hunters-gatherers, the Aborigines took only what they needed to prepare themselves for the journeys from site to site. However, the Kooris of Gariwerd were involved in "farming" of eels and built immensely complex channels below the southern slopes where they trapped the eels.

Aborigines are custodians rather than owners of the land and were careful to preserve it for their future use. The Aborigines did make a vast change to the Australian landscape and ecology through simple but effective technology. Many sacred sites and "factories" (where tools were made) were established in the Rock Shelters which are so prevalent in the ranges, and it is from these that we can gather valuable information about early habitation.

In the south of Gariwerd are some constructions which are unique in Australia. Kilometres of complex channels were carved using simple digging sticks to direct eels into nets, which were then cooked in large earth ovens. The eel catching was an important ceremonial time and neighbouring family groups would gather for the feasting. Fishing was not confined to this method. Long flexible rods with string made from bark had worms tied to them for angling and large nets were used for trolling shallow waters. Fruits, berries, seeds and roots were also gathered, forming the staple part of the Koori diet. However, it wasn't all food gathering.

This area constitutes the most important art sites in south east Australia, with some 276 recorded sites (only about five are opened to the public). Shelters show signs of deterioration through the ages, but mostly because of senslesss vandalism. This has prompted the authorities to fence off the areas which now remain open to the public. The artwork can never be replaced. The earliest known paintings were done 22,500 years ago and the latest ones 5,000 years ago.

Courtesy of:
The Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre

For more information on Aboriginal Heritage:

Aboriginal Heritage
Aboriginal Rock Art
Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre
European Settlement
The Yardwadjali and Djap Wurrung Story

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Dignified band of Victorian Aboriginal people, photographed by A. J. Fauchery in 1858. (Museum Victoria)

Education Officer Warren Meeks with a goanna he has caught for roasting at a tradtional tucker camp in Gariwerd.