The Wada wurrung clans were first to come into direct contact with the white man around 1802 – Lieut. John Murray in the Lady Nelson chartered part of Indented Indented Head and named Swan Bay’ (Clark 1990 qtd. in GORCC 2010).

Wathaurong people
Source: State Library Victoria
William Buckley
Buckleys Cave 2
Buckley's cave, Queenscliff

The Wada wurrung balug were the clan who adopted William Buckley in 1803 (Clark 1990, qtd in GORCC 2010). He had escaped from the Sorrento convict settlement at Sullivan Bay, and had spent his time in this district before he met two Aboriginal women from the Wada wurrung balug clan (Barrabool Hills) about a year later. When he came across the women he was holding a spear he found near an Indigenous man’s burial mound, consequently they believed he was the reincarnated spirit of their kinsman.

Buckley went with them to their camp where he lived for the next 32 years, becoming a respected member of the Wathaurung community learning to hunt, fish and gather food.

William Buckley’s recollections from this time (documented and published by Morgan in 1852) included many observations regarding the lifestyles of his adopted people. These observations provide the only first-hand written account of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the area before their displacement by Europeans. It must be remembered that Buckley could not read or write, so was unable to verify this account of his story told to Morgan. According to Morgan (1852 qtd. in GORCC 2010) Buckley settled at Karaaf River (Thompson’s Creek), ‘the locality being full of roots’. These roots presumably occurred in the wetlands behind the dunes at Point Impossible, but the type of root is unknown. He also describes an abundance of Bream in the creek (hence the other name for Thompson’s Creek, Bream Creek), large numbers of which he caught by constructing a weir built from sticks and rushes. The exact location of this weir is unknown but occurs some way up the river. Apart from the roots and fish, Buckley mentions yams, gum (possibly Acacia), possums, Kangaroos, wombats, snakes, lizards, rodents and wild dogs as commonly eaten. Buckley rarely mentions the eating of shellfish.

There is a well located at Breamlea which is reputed to have been used frequently by Buckley

when he camped at Bream Creek. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support this information – could it have been a statement made to increase tourism to the area? There is a cairn identifying the hole in the ground as the well but it too states ‘reputed’ to have been the case.

Photographs 2 and 3 (above) show Queen Mary and Queen Rose from the Wada wurrung photographed at Coranderrk between 1876-77. Both are dressed in European clothes but are photographed displaying traditional cultural items including woven baskets, shoulder bags, a nose bone, boomerangs, a possum skin rug and a digging stick.


Marshall, B. and J. MacCulloch 2012

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Conservation Manual: CORCC Crown Land Reserves between Torquay and Lorne.  A Report Commissioned by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC).

Wynd, Ian 1992

Barrabool – Land of the Magpie. Barrabool Shire, Torquay

Pascoe, Bruce 2003

Wathaurong : the people who said no –  prepared by for the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and Coast Action



More to explore

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative

Details of traditional life can be found http://www.aboriginalculture.com.au/socialorganisation.shtml

For a video presentation about the Kulin Nation, please see:

Trevor Edwards is Chairperson of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative in Geelong. Here Trevor talks of the work of the Co-op and of his journey of understanding towards reconciliation.


Wrapped in Culture: Possum Skin Cloak Making Project