Taungurung people are the Traditional custodians of a large part of central Victoria and have lived on this country for more than a thousand generations. The following information is from the Taungurung website under Taungurung Clans (2021) and Taungurung Country Plan (2021). The Taungurung people are many clans sharing one language and deep spiritual connection with country. The current generation of Taungurung people is strongly committed to the resurgence of cultural knowledge and practice, reversing the dire effects of colonisation.
Taungurung country covers over 20,000 square kilometres and stretches from Kyneton in the south-west up to Rochester in the north-west, across to Bright in the north-east and down to Woods Point in the south-east.
Taungurung people identify with the rivers and the mountains, with the Goulburn River running through our heartland country, and the great high-country peaks of Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and Mt Buffalo dominating our eastern uplands. The Great Dividing Range, on which Toolangi lies, marks the southern boundary.
Traditionally, our people lived a hunter-gatherer existence. The various clan groups migrated through their territory dependent upon the seasonal variations of weather, the stars, and the availability of food.
The Taungurung people are closely affiliated with neighbouring tribes through language, ceremonies, and kinship ties. We are part of an alliance with the five adjoining tribes to form the Kulin Nation. Other members of the Kulin Nation are the Woiwurrung, Boonwurrung, Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung.
Land, family, law, ceremony, and language are five key interconnected elements of Indigenous culture. These five elements combine to create a way of seeing and being in the world that is distinctly Indigenous. The people of the Taungurung First Nation share a common understanding of each of these elements – and so share a distinctive culture.
The Taungurung people shared a common social organisation, based on moiety affiliation, with the other Kulin groups. Our society was divided into two moieties: Bundjil (Wedge Tail Eagle) and Waang (Crow). Every member of the tribe identified with one of these moieties and it was this identity that determined the pattern for marriage, ceremonial life, and other activities.
The various Taungurung clans were all associated with defined estates within the tribal lands. Each clan had strong connection with and responsibility for its clan estate, and for the songlines that traversed their estate. The Taungurung people of today, whilst retaining clan affiliation, collectively take responsibility for the entire Taungurung estate. Our continuing strong sense of connection with the traditional lands is at times expressed through ceremony.
Our ancestors had an intimate knowledge of their environment and were able to sustain the ecology of each region and exploit the food available.
A staple plant food was the tuber of the Mirrnyong (Yam Daisy) which provided a reliable source of carbohydrate. Other plants such as the Bracken Fern (food and medicine), the Tree Fern, Kangaroo Apple, and Cherry Ballart were a valuable food source and can still be seen growing on Taungurung country today.
Dhulangi (Stringy Bark) was used to construct Yilam (Shelters) or to weave binak (Baskets) and to make string. Fibrous plants, such as Dulim (Tussock Grass), produced Bilang (Twine) for Garrtgirrk (Nets) while other tree species were utilised for their timber to fashion Malga (Shields), Gadjirroyn (Clubs), Wanggim (Boomerangs), Dharnuk (Water Carriers) and Gurrong (Canoes).
Plants such as Babadiyl provided fibres to weave Garrtgirrk (Nets) for harvesting the nutritious Deberra (Bogong Moth). In the summer, the Taungurung people would travel east for the Deberra season and then return to their clan area when the weather cooled.
The rich resources of the permanent rivers, creeks, tributaries, and associated floodplains enabled Taungurung people to access an abundance of fish and other wildlife. Fish were speared and trapped while water birds were netted and Marram (Kangaroo), Gubil (Koala), and Barrayimal (Emu) provided nourishing food.
The pelts from the Walert (Brushtail Possum) were sewn together to form Gugra (Cloak) ideal for the cold and wet conditions.
Today, Taungurung people are recovering a sense of shared identity, common purpose and cultural vitality. We have embarked upon an intentional journey to reclaim our culture, assert our history, re-awaken our language and embrace our rightful involvement as custodians of Taungurung lands. Evidence of scar trees, rock wells, rock art, cultural artefacts and place names all indicate that Taungurung people have been in this part of Victoria for many thousands of years. There is currently a strong emphasis on facilitating the return of Taungurung people to reside on their traditional estate.
The Taungurung sovereign flag, launched on 7 May 2021, symbolises the reassertion of the identity and pride of the Taungurung people.
Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC)
The Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC) is the corporate representative of the Taungurung people. TLaWC serves to uphold the interests of the Taungurung people with respect to culture and country, ensuring they have a significant role in the management and care of traditional land and waters.
Key functions of TLaWC:
Bringing a raised awareness and respect of Taungurung people and culture in the wider community, as well as a range of benefits including employment, cultural security, and general well-being.
The expression and celebration of unique Taungurung values, and the building of a strong investment foundation that ensures economic strength and security for the Taungurung people.
Increasing shared cultural knowledge and knowledge transmission to the next generation, and reviving language through collaborative community commitment.
Operating as the primary keeper of shared Taungurung property – land, language, intellectual property, assets, and historical research.
Liaising with governmental bodies, private landowners, developers, and other stakeholders to assist with applying protocol for best land and water management practices to ensure environmental and cultural heritage preservation.
Bringing the Taungurung people back to their Country through increased opportunity, shared identity, and connection to culture with increasing success.
Administering agreements and statutory obligations on behalf and for the Taungurung people.
Taungurung Clans: Taungurung Land and Waters Council (2021), https://taungurung.com.au/culture-2
Taungurung Country Plan: Taungurung Land and Waters Council (2016), https://taungurung.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Taungurung_Country-Plan.pdf