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Aboriginal Land

Aboriginal Land continued

By the 1860s formal moves were being made to contain all members of the Kulin into one area and gazetted areas for Aboriginal stations. A small deputation of Daung wurrung men from the Goulburn and Woi wurrung men from the Yarra lobbied for a site on the northern end of Kulin territory near the junction of the Acheron and Little Rivers across the Dandenongs. They approached Aboriginal Guardian, William Thomas, in February 1859 to request land be set apart for them in the Goulburn area near a sacred site on the Acheron River.

Agreement was given for the station by the Land Board, and Thomas, the deputation and a Government Surveyor left to mark out the land. It was never officially gazetted, so money to enable farming to begin was not forthcoming. However the industrious group of about eighty people had settled and begun to fence, clear and build shelters on the Acheron site. After only not more than a year, in June 1860, land further down the Acheron River was purchased for an Aboriginal Station. The Lands Minister had refused to allow the Acheron Station to be re-established, due to the open hostility of the settlers in that region, but he did agree to reserve any other choice of land which was 'not destructive to the interests of the settlers'.

starting out for Acheron
A re-enactment of starting out for Acheron
Source - Museum Victoria; Indigenous Collections

The Mohican Run, an area of around 16,000 acres lying between the Acheron and the Rubicon Rivers, had been selected. The site, north west of Cathedral Mountain, was not favoured by the Aborigines, and they mostly kept away. Fifty-one of the eighty-six former residents of the Acheron Station refused to transfer complaining of the coldness of the climate. In October 1861, John Green was sent to investigate the Mohican Station, and reported that it was useless and advised an immediate return to the Acheron Station. But Green had to be content with a site five miles north, closer to the Kulin people's choice, but still within the Mohican boundaries, as he was appointed as the new Supervisor.

Green travelled up from Melbourne to take up his new appointment, stopping on the way to visit his friends at the Upper Yarra camp site - this small group being the last remaining of the 'Yarra tribe', Woi wurrung speakers. Green had assured the Board that one hundred Aborigines had promised to settle if given their original selection, including 'my blacks from the Yarra who say they will go with me'. These were Woi wurrung people on 1200 acres at Woori Yallock near the junction of Hoddles Creek and the Yarra River. But rumours of gold led to an influx of diggers. This Upper Yarra Camp was officially gazetted as a new Aboriginal Station on the 17th January 1862; however, within that year, in discussion with the leader, Simon Wonga and his cousin, William Barak, Green planned for the last remaining members of the Woi wurrung clans to be relocated to the Mohican Station. They walked with Green to settle at the Mohican Station, as they had promised him. Three years later Wonga said:

Mr. Green and all the Yarra blacks and me went through the mountains. We had no bread for four or five days. We did all this to let you (Goulburn blacks) know about the good word [Christianity]

However resistance to the Mohican Station continued. What they perceived as 'cold country' in the mountains was not suitable, preferring the lower river flats of the Upper Yarra. In March 1863 after the three years of upheaval, the surviving members of the Kulin, the Goulburn and Yarra leaders led their people and squatted on a traditional camping site on Badger Creek near Healesville. They were anxious to have the land officially approved so that they could move down and establish themselves on their new location. Under the leadership of Simon Wonga, the men of the Yarra and Goulburn tribes walked to Melbourne to present baskets, weapons and a crochet collar, together with an address in the Woi wurrung language, conveying their loyalty.

An area of 2300 acres was gazetted on the 30th June 1863, and called Coranderrk at the Aborigines suggestion. This was the name the Woi wurrung used for the Christmas Bush (Prostanthera lasianthos) which was found growing on it in profusion. However, despite its official name, most called it geringdah, the Daung wurrung name for the same bush. John Green and forty Kulin people began their walk through the bush, slowed by the cattle, the children and various accidents to the over burdened dray. They followed a route over the Black's Spur to Coranderrk. John Green walked ahead of a long line of Kulin led by Wonga and Barak. It is thought that this is how the Black's Spur was given its name.

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