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The new Gawa Trail markers are now installed
enabling an enhanced self-guided tour

873 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Watsons Creek (Melway 272 D4)


Launch of the New Gawa Trail markers

Almost 100 people from across Nillumbik gathered to celebrate the installation of new Trail Markers along the Gawa Wurundjeri Resource Trail on Watsons Creek.

People of all ages heard Uncle Bill Nicholson give a Welcome to Country in which he spoke of the Wurundjeri heroes who led their people through the times of white settlement: Simon Wonga, William Barak and his sister Annie.

After a Smoking Ceremony in which everyone walked through the smoke to signify their respect for Wurundjeri lore and land, Mandy Nicholson led the Djirri Djirri Dancers with clap sticks and singing. These rituals are the current form of the ancient Tanderrum.

Then it was time for refreshments and walking the trail. The new markers are bordered with a painting by Wurundjeri artist Judy Nicholson and her Worimi partner Jamie McFayden.

The plaques, which are 80x40cm, give illustrated information about Wurundjeri life and their cultural past.


Click here for some pictures of the launch event.

You can see the new Gawa plaques here (large file: 3.6MB)




Plaque #0
WOMIN JEKA! — the Woiwurrung words for ‘Welcome’

The GAWA WURUNDJERI RESOURCE TRAIL offers you a burra burra yan, a bush walk of discovery through Wurundjeri country. Rich in natural resources, this land sustained the Wurundjeri people for more than 40,000 years because their lore ensured sustainable care of the country.

Imagine this place before white settlers arrived: the land looked different because fire-stick farming methods encouraged open grassland between the trees.

Wurundjeri men, women and children would have camped right here on Watsons Creek.

Imagine that time, when everything you might need was provided by the land. Wurundjeri lore and all knowledge were taught through stories and observation.

So as you take this burra burra yan go respectfully. You are a visitor here, welcomed by the Wurundjeri, and you have a responsibility to care for this place.

“Welcome to Country”

The Tanderrum was a most significant Wurundjeri ceremony. It protected and provided hospitality to visiting clans when they met for trade, ceremony and dispute resolution.

The Ngurungaeta (spokesman for the Elders) would instruct the Wirrigirri (messenger) to convey invitations on a message stick.

The Wurundjeri would form a large circle, men on one side and women on the other. Visiting Elders were invited into the circle.

They were given water and local vegetation, which symbolised permission to use all resources on Wurundjeri land, and reed spears were snapped assuring the safety of the visitors.

Leaves were placed on burning coals to produce smoke – those who passed through it were symbolically cleansed and this reinforced their respect for Wurundjeri culture and lore.

The Wurundjeri people still practise the Tanderrum today to welcome you onto their country. In return they ask you to respect their people, culture and all that is in their land.

Nillumbik Reconciliation Group gratefully acknowledges:

• funding under the Australian Government’s Your Community Heritage Program
• Nillumbik Shire Council for its funding and support
• Wurundjeri Tribe Land & Compensation Cultural Heritage Council, in particular Uncle Bill Nicholson
• Mick Woiwod
• Dean Stewart
• Border artwork by Wurundjeri artist Judy Wilson-Nicholson and Worimi artist James McFadyen
• Design by Deadly Design.

The Gawa Wurundjeri Resource Trail is managed by Nillumbik Reconciliation Group Inc on behalf of Nillumbik Shire Council and Parks Victoria


Plaque #1
TEA TREE Kunzea ericoides
Woiwurrung name: BURGAN

The Burgan’s straight stems were perfect for spears used for hunting and weaponry. A stem was selected and pared down with a stone scraper, its kinks removed by heating over a fire.

Spears were about three metres in length and were hurled with great accuracy using a throwing stick, or murri wan. In 1842 at Yarra Glen it was recorded that three spears thrown from forty paces went accurately through a finger hole in a door.

Spear tips could have a sharpened point, a carved barbed end, an inserted sharp tip designed to separate from the spear while removing it from prey, or a stone flake firmly attached with a glue made from grass-tree resin.

Smoke from Burgan was a natural insect repellent.


Plaque #2
SPINY-HEADED MAT-RUSH Lomandra longifolia
Woiwurrung name: KURAWUN

The leaves, inner bark, and root fibres of many shrubs, trees and reeds were used by the Wurundjeri to make mats, bags, hunting nets, baskets for carrying and cooking and articles of adornment such as necklaces, headbands and girdles. Human hair and animal fur were twined into string, and feathers, kangaroo teeth, echidna spines and ochres were added for decoration.

Women used the partly dried leaves of the Mat-rush, and a small sharpened stick or a bone awl for opening up the weave, to fashion these strong baskets.

A string handle made it possible to sling the basket over the shoulder or back for carrying foods such as yam daisy roots (murnong) or the bulbs of lilies and orchids.


Plaque #3
BRACKEN FERN Pteridium esculentum
Woiwurrung name: the generic name for fern is BUYET

The Wurundjeri used bracken fern as a mattress, an ointment and for making bread.

They used the springy, leathery fronds of the bracken fern covered with soft, possum skin rugs, for bedding.

The juice of the young stems is poisonous and was not eaten, but provided immediate relief for insect stings and bites.

Underground stems, called rhizomes, were fibrous and starchy, and when roasted and beaten to a paste could be made into a type of bread.


Plaque #4
Woiwurrung name: WARENDJI

Wombats sleep during the day in their long, multi-chambered burrows. Young men were sometimes sent along a burrow to signal the position of the wombat, so the men above could dig a vertical shaft, leading directly to their target.

Eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies and emus were stalked and speared.

Ringtail and brushtail possums were smoked or cut from tree hollows and their hides sewn together to make cloaks to keep the clan warm in cold weather.

Insects provided valuable protein when game was scarce. Ant eggs and Bogong moths supplemented their diet and sugar bag honey added a sweet treat and an important energy source.

Traditional lore and ceremony protected all food sources from over-exploitation.


Plaque #5
VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS BUSH Prostanthera lasianthos
Woiwurrung name: CORANDERRK

Coranderrk is a mint bush. The leaves were used by the Wurundjeri as food flavouring and for medicinal purposes.

Coranderrk was important for fire-making. A stalk was twirled rapidly between the palms while pressing down against the flattened flower-stalk of a grass tree. The smouldering ash created by the friction trickled down onto a ball of tinder which, when blown on, ignited into flame.

Women transported fire between campsites by inserting small hot coals into a Bracket fungus (Laetiporus portentosus) – its thickness made the coals cool enough to carry.

Aboriginal people requested the name ‘Coranderrk’ for the Aboriginal Reserve at Healesville, where this shrub grew profusely between Badger Creek and the Watts River.


Plaque #6
Woiwurrung name: GAWARN

GAWA is a derivation of gawarn.

The echidna may have heard you coming and used its long digging claws to quickly bury itself, escaping you as a perceived threat.

Echidna was prized by the Wurundjeri for its fatty delicious meat, which was roasted and eaten only by clan Elders. This lore ensured the slow-moving and easily-captured echidna remained a sustainable resource.

Echidna spines were not wasted. They were kept for Wurundjeri women to thread onto fine bush twine or kangaroo sinew to make intricate, decorative necklaces.


Plaque #7
The creek’s Woiwurrung name was never recorded.

The creek provided seasonal bounty for the clan. When the rains came the creek became a torrent, while in the heat of summer only a trickle remained.

The Wurundjeri knew the ebb and flow of the creek, gathering yabbies and mussels and fishing for eels and blackfish with spears made from the river reed (Phragmites australis).

Wurundjeri men hunted kangaroos and wallabies as they came to the creek to drink. They caught ducks by stringing nets above the water. Women and children collected cumbungi reeds and water ribbons for their starchy bulbs. River mint and watercress were also good for eating.

A river or creek was the place where the clan gathered to make camp and where, at night around the campfire, creation stories were told and Wurundjeri lore was passed down through the generations.


Plaque #8
MANNA GUM Eucalyptus viminalis
Woiwurrung name: WURRUN

The large tree in front of you is a Manna gum, or wurrun. Within wurrun lives a small grub, djeri. Say the two words together to discover the origin of the name Wurundjeri.

The Manna gum had multiple uses:
• a tarnuk, or curved tray, was cut from the bark and used by women for carrying seeds and tubers, even babies
• a tarnuk could also be carved from the burl or knotty outgrowth that develops on the trunk – this could be used as a bowl for water
• the smoke of smouldering manna leaves had medicinal properties
• shields and canoes were carved from the bark.

Today, scarred trees from which tarnuks, shields and canoes were harvested provide continuing evidence of Aboriginal presence in this land.


Plaque #9
RED STRINGYBARK Eucalyptus macrorhyncha
Woiwurrung name: WAYUT

Stringybark was used for building shelters or willams. Bark was cut off in slabs to form the roof and walls, while acacia or similar wood formed the frame. The willam was a simple structure strategically positioned to protect against wind and rain and to maximise the heat from the campfire.

The floor was covered with bracken fern and possum skins to make it warm and comfortable.

The Wurundjeri used the fibrous inner-bark to make string and rope for nets, ties and string bags. The fibres were rolled on the thigh into lengths that could then be combined to make a strong rope.

Ant eggs were mixed with the dry, powdered outer bark of the Stringybark and eaten. The mix tasted like creamed butter and sugar.


Plaque #10
Silver wattle (Acacia dealbata) Woiwurrung name: MUYAN
Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) Woiwurrung name: GARRONG
Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) Woiwurrung name: BURN-NA-LOOK

When the silver wattles bloom it is a time to remember William Barak, the highly respected leader of the Wurundjeri people, who died on August 15, 1903. All past Elders are also now honoured on this day.

Acacia wood is strong and dense, making it suitable for protective shields and hunting clubs for men, as well as digging sticks for women for collecting tubers such as yams. From the angled root of wattle, a Wurundjeri man could carve a boomerang to make a deadly hunting implement.

The gum of the Acacia (djaak) can be dissolved in water to make a sweet drink. When mixed with ash and made into a sticky paste it becomes a sealing agent used to waterproof baskets, tarnuks (water carriers), and canoes.

Acacias also provided food and medicine: seed for bread and flavouring, smoke for coughs, tannin for stomach trouble, bark infusion for rheumatism.






Click here to view or download the Gawa Trail brochure (354KB)

Nillumbik Reconciliation Group conducts school group tours of the trail
– the tours aim to give an understanding of Wurundjeri culture
through the use they made of the flora and fauna of the area.
Please contact the Secretary for further information.


The Gawa Wurundjeri Aboriginal Resource Trail is near Watsons Creek on the Eltham-Yarra Glen Road. It provides a self-guided tour, with markers explaining how the Wurundjeri clan of about 50 people lived near the creek, and used the land to obtain bush foods, medicines, implements, shelter and clothes - all created by their Dreamtime spirits.

The clearly marked 340m looped trail was launched by Wurundjeri elder Jim Wandin and the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group in partnership with the Nillumbik Shire Council on August 12, 2001.

"If the spirit that is evident in the people who were at the launch pervaded the rest of the country, there would be no need for reconciliation," Mr Wandin said.

Nillumbik Reconciliation Group president Mick Woiwod said the trail was made possible with a $20,000 grant from the Natural Heritage Trust and the labour of the Green Corp volunteers.

The resource trail would help the community's understanding of Aboriginal culture and would also be widely used as a teaching aid, Mr Woiwod said. "A lot of people wouldn't last very long out here, but the Wurundjeri people had quite a lot of food because they knew where to get it.

Mr Woiwod said the trail originated from a children's short story competition on Aboriginal life. To help write these stories, the children needed a deeper understanding of Wurundjeri life. "But now everyone can experience and enjoy what this walk has to offer," he said.

Members of the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group at the opening of the trail.
Photo: Lawrence Pinder, Diamond Valley Leader



After the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group had run either one or two Short Story Awards in the 1990s, it had become apparent that the kids hadn’t quite caught on to the local Aboriginal story. So it was agreed that a worthy goal would be for NRG to chase up a piece of bushland for them to walk and learn more about how life had probably played out for the Wurundjeri.
The convenor of the Friends of the Warrandyte State Park at the time had been my good friend Margaret Burke, and when I’d learnt that she’d won an $180,000 Grant from the Federal Government’s Telstra Fund to do restoration work on the Warrandyte-Kinglake Corridor, I approached her about using one of the seven bushland reserves along that Corridor as an Aboriginal Trail.

By arrangement the two of us met at the first of these reserves just across the bridge over Watsons Creek on the Eltham-Yarra Glen Road (right-hand side), and checked it out. I immediately recognised it as being too weedy and unsuited, so we moved on to the reserved area on the other side of the road – and it was just perfect.

So I asked her whether some of the Telstra money in the National Heritage Trust bucket could be diverted to develop it as Aboriginal Walking Trail. Margaret was all for the idea, and so in consultation with Llewellyn Pritchard we marked out a loop.

Seven young members of the Green Team came on board, who developed the present trail in association with Parks Victoria conditional on there being no mechanical clearing. So the paths were cleared by hand, seats and rails installed along with the nine original wooden markers and attached texts.

Mick Woiwod
September, 2013







The Wurundjeri Culture Resource Kit has recently been updated and is now available on CD-ROM. (It's no longer available as a photocopied & bound hard copy because the CD format is far more useful, such as for printing multiple copies of the class exercises.)

The kit is primarily targeted at children in the primary years, and as the title implies it is particularly relevant to the Yarra Valley and surrounding areas – Wurundjeri country.

However, other regions would find much that is relevant, and would also see ways in which they would be able to particularise it to their areas.

You can download a preview of the first ten pages here (1MB pdf file).
The kit includes files to print a board game up to A2 size.

The price of the kit is $20 plus $5 postage.

Please contact the Secretary for further information.