We have one of the oldest cultures in the world and that culture has been passed on through many generations. Our culture is embedded in our Country, which is vital to our identity. Our stories and songlines link us to our ancestors, who travelled across Country practising the customs that make us Gunaikurnai.
While the artefacts spread across our Country provide evidence and insights into the way our people lived, our culture is also about philosophies and principles – the traditional rules that inform how women’s and men’s business is practised, how decisions are made and disputes resolved, and how traditions are passed on through dance and song.
There are many cultural artefacts and significant places that are yet to be recorded. We need to keep filling in the gaps of our cultural heritage so that we can continue to learn about ourselves and strengthen our identity.
We need to ensure that our young people know what it means to be a blackfella on our Country, to be part of a living culture. To know that they belong to a proud and strong mob.
We also need to share our stories with the broader community so they better understand our ways and our values, and start to understand that protecting our culture doesn’t mean taking away their rights.
-Gunaikurnai Whole of Country Plan
The Gunaikurnai Cultural Hub based at Forestec provides…
For many thousands of years Gunaikurnai have lived in the valleys, on the fertile plains and up in the mountains of our traditional Country.
Our Country was created by the spirits – the ancestors who link us to the land and bestow on us identity, rights and responsibilities. They defined our relationship with the land – how it should be used, how to move through it safely and how to care for it.
In return, Country provided physical and spiritual nourishment for our people, with plentiful food, medicine, water and natural resources for survival.
Gunaikurnai were regularly on the move. Canoes made from a single piece of river red gum bark or stringybark softened over a fire and bent into shape with an axe and tied at the ends were used to travel the waterways, lakes and ocean.
The movement of tribes was dictated by the knowledge of where food, water and other resources could be found at particular times of the year.
Little was carried on these seasonal migrations, with food being collected and eaten at camps and shelters that were constructed at sites along travel routes.
Stringybark rope was used to tie branches and bark together for shelter and possum skins were used at night for extra warmth. Woven baskets were used to carry items.
Tribal customs dictated that there was no single leader – everyone was equal. Young people respected and obeyed their Elders, who provided advice and guidance to the community and passed on cultural knowledge and practices.
Respect has always been, and continues to be, an important part of our culture. When disputes or problems occurred, our Elders would sit down and discuss them for as long as it took. Everyone would have a chance to voice their opinions, before a course of action was determined that was in the best interests of the community as a whole.