Guidebook So what happened to Melbourne’s original inhabitants?

Sense of place

So what happened to Melbourne’s original inhabitants?

“Dispossession of land, dislocation, frontier clashes and introduced diseases” led to a dramatic decline in the population of the indigenous Wurundjeri people, who were severely impacted by the settlement and development of Melbourne, explains the Aboriginal History of Yarra.

“The traditional owners that shared the Melbourne area were the Woiwurrung (today known as the Wurundjeri) and the Boon Wurrung peoples,” writes historian Meyer Eidelson in Melbourne Dreaming. They were part of the Kulin nation which comprised five related groups that shared similar languages. These wurrungs (language groups) were part of about thirty groups in Victoria, numbering an estimated 60,000 people before Europeans arrived. “Melbourne was a central location where the wrurrungs met regularly for social and ceremonial gatherings, trade, initiation, marriage, and law business in places such as Southbank, Tromgin (the site of today’s [Royal Botanic Gardens](, Yarra Bend and Bulleen.”

Dispossession and Government Control

So how was settlement achieved? Through controversial agreements with the resident Aboriginal people, who granted John Batman 600,000 acres of land in return for blankets, axes, flour and other goods and the promise of an annual “rent or tribute”. But the compact didn’t last – “the imperial and colonial governments didn’t like that deal and declared the treaties ‘null and void’ on the grounds that the Crown had an exclusive right of pre-emption,” explains e Melbourne.

Welcome to Country

The film welcomes people onto Wurundjeri country, performed by Wurundjeri Elder Colin Hunter Jr. at the confluence of the Yarra River and Merri Creek.

Sense of place
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