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The Taungurung people

Nine Taungurung clan groups inhabited the areas bounded by the Broken, Delatite, Goulburn, Cooliban and Campaspe rivers. Some of these clans were:

  • The Waring-illum-balluk 'river dwelling' people who lived near Yea and Alexandra.
  • The Nira-illum-balluk 'creek dwelling' people who lived around Kilmore and Broadford.
  • The Yowung-illum-balluk 'stone dwelling people' who lived around the Mansfield area.
  • The Yeerun-illum-balluk people lived by the Broken River, near Benalla.
Extract of map of Aboriginal clans in Victoria -Tindale

Extract of map of Aboriginal clans in Victoria -Tindale

What happened to the Taungurung people?

In April 1838, 7 members of the Faithfull brothers expedition party were killed at Winding Swamp on the banks of the Broken River, site of today's Benalla Rose Gardens. Captain Lonsdale was quick to dispatch a party to enquire into the matter and mete out punishment.

"The severity of the punishment inflicted on the offending natives may best be judged by the hideous trophy of a string of dried ears exhibited by the party on their return. How many actually fell I do not suppose any record will show, but the number must have been considerable. This however is a page in our history best turned over quickly." Mansfield Courier October, 1909.  

Yeerun-illum-balluk survivors of retaliatory massacres became refugees among the nine Taungurung clans and some escaped to Wappan Station where they were given sanctuary by John Bon.

As this was a main route for travellers from Sydney to Melbourne, the white settlers became increasingly anxious over their safety. In June 1838, 82 colonists signed a petition to Governor Gipps, asking for protection along the Sydney to Melbourne route. Military support was sent and settlers had to pay a levy for the upkeep of the 'troops'.

Meanwhile, in Sydney Governor Gipps was fighting his own battles. He ordered a retrial of 7 white men acquitted for the murder of 28 Aborigines at Myall Creek, NSW. It was a very unpopular decision, but one that set the tone for the years to follow as it was the first time that white people had been accused, tried, and hung for the murder of Aborigines.

There was an outcry in the newspapers and a corresponding change in attitude. No longer was it "safe" to openly exterminate the "troublesome native vermin". Other more covert measures were taken. The Aborigines of this area were thus 'dispersed'. Some were shot, others poisoned. As well, the military police, aided by the infamous native police corps eradicated the 'remaining Indigenous peoples.

Disease, dispersion and extermination all took their toll. With increased white settlement in the area, the Aboriginal people lost their ability to sustain their traditional lifestyle.

In just under twenty years, the Aboriginal population of Victoria was more than halved. After several failed attempts at establishing reserved lands for the Taungurung and Wurundjeri people; in 1863 the Government finally granted 4,000 acres for Aboriginal land on Badgers Creek, now Healesville.

Many Taungurung joined their neighbours south of the divide, the Wurundjeri people, to become pioneers at Coranderrk Station. By the end of the 1800s, most Aborigines in Victoria lived on Government stations or church missions, but by 1930 many of these stations were closed.

The government further dispersed people to Lake Tyers. Only a few families were allowed to remain at Coranderrk. Descendants of those families still live in Healesville today.