The Indigenous Stories of Waurn Ponds

Written by Birchmore Photography by Jane Fitzgerald

Waurn Ponds is on the land of the Wadawurrung People, who were known as the water tribe before European settlement. The lands of the Wadawurrung reach from Ballarat to the Bellarine and feature a unique landscape of volcanic planes, granite hills, wetlands, rivers, and forests.

According to Dreamtime legend, 60,000 years ago, Bunjil – the wedge-tail eagle creator spirit – soared over Wadawurrung Country, shaping the landscape and made all the people and animals. Everywhere that Bunjil rested became a granite hill and you can still trace his journey today. Bunjil made the laws for people to live by, before becoming a star to live forever alongside the stars of his two black swan wives.

Traditionally, the Wadawurrung lived close to waterways, finding everything for food, medicine, clothing, and shelter from the plants and animals that lived in the ecosystem. The name Waurn Ponds comes from the Waurn chain of ponds that was a part of this rich environment. It is believed that the word ‘Waurn’ is derived from an Aboriginal word for camp or settlement.

Many of the roads and highways that now connect Western Victoria were established by the Wadawurrung as they moved for trade, cultural rituals, and seasons.

These were the routes that early settlers followed to colonise the area. First, settlers created large pastoral estates – introducing sheep to the landscape. Then, in the 1850s gold was discovered and a new wave of migrants dug up the creeks and waterways searching for the precious metal. These two actions destroyed the land and an ecosystem that had nourished generations for thousands of years.

We are proud to be working with local government and communities to restore Armstrong Creek which forms part of the Barwon River catchment to re-establish the central role of water for all people who now live on Wadawurrung land. Learning from the past is essential to creating a more inclusive and sustainable future.

This article has been created with resources available from the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Corporation, Deadly Story – a cultural resource portal, and the City of Greater Geelong.


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