The Bunurong People are Indigenous People from south-east Victoria, their traditional lands are from the Werribee River in the north-west, down to Wilson's Promontory in the south-east, taking in the catchments of the old Carrum swamp, Tarwin River and Westernport Bay, and including Mornington Peninsula, French and Phillip Islands.
Bunurong People were part of a language group or nation known as Koolin. Bunurong People prefer to be described as Koolin or Bunurong rather than Koorie, which is a word from another Aboriginal language.
The City of Greater Dandenong lies across the boundary of two neighbouring Bunurong Clans; it takes in the south-eastern land of the Ngaruk Willam Bunurong and the north-west land of the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong.
As with most Indigenous Peoples of the world, Mayone Bulluk and Ngaruk Willam cultural, ceremonial and spiritual life was dictated by the seasons through the availability of their sustainable natural resources. And through thousands of years of observation Bunurong People were able to predict the availability of their seasonal resources by certain changes in plant growth and animal behaviour.
For example Bunurong People knew that when the first Wattles flowered that some species of Fish were about to begin spawning, and this would give them enough time to travel to the River and Creek mouths to net or spear Fish, or to the tidal flats to repair ancient Fish traps.
This sort of knowledge allowed the Bunurong and many other Indigenous Peoples to survive sustainably and comfortably for thousands of generations
Both the Mayone Bulluk and Ngaruk Willam would meet in the area of Dandenong often to hold ceremonies and trade.
These gatherings were often attended by guests from other Bunurong Clans or from neighbouring Tribes such as the Wathaurung and the Wurundjeri Clans from the Woiwurong.
During the summer months the Mayone Bulluk could (and still can) be found at one of their many coastal camps at Mordialloc, Frankston or Warneet on Westernport Bay. Here they would be accessing many of their favourite resources such as bird eggs, fish, shellfish and as always, hunting Kangaroo and Possum. For vegetables they would collect a variety of bulbs, shoots and foliage like the Warrigal Spinach. After eating their meal the Mayone Bulluk would wash it all down with a lovely drink made from the nectar of the Coastal Banksia flowers.
All throughout the summer the Mayone Bulluk would collect their Kangaroo and Possum skins and tan them with the bark from Wattle trees and as summer came to a close they would stitch the skins together to make cloaks and rugs for the winter.
As winter drew near the Mayone Bulluk families would begin to move inland to their favourite winter camps around present day Dandenong, Cranbourne and Moorooduc, where during the coldest months when Kangaroos were frisky, they would meet up with neighbouring Bunurong clans to mount large scale hunts and fulfil ceremonial obligations. They would catch Eels and collect the many shoots and mushrooms that were abundant at that time of year.
Occasionally the women would show the children how to take seed from an ant's nest, which the ants unknowingly stored while collecting their own food. The seed would be used to make a stomach filling bread that would be shared with everyone and with a little Wild Honey was guaranteed to put a smile on everybody's face.
The Ngaruk Willam like all other Bunurong People spent the warmer months of the year along the coast where they took advantage of the abundant supply of Fish, Shellfish, Birds and coastal bush Fruits like the Wild Current. Living in small huts, which are called "Miam'mia", these were made from the boughs of trees or thatched with one of the many grasses or sedges that once flourished where the southern suburbs of Melbourne now stand.
From these huts the Ngaruk Willam would launch excursions to forage for Yams and hunt Kangaroos and Possums whose skins they were continually tanning for the purpose of making cloaks and rugs for the coming winter months. The cloaks were also a valuable trade item and it is said that 1 Possum skin cloak made from 50 hides was worth 1 Greenstone Axe head blank.
Then as the cold winter days drew near the Ngaruk Willam would travel to camps at Dandenong or Merri Creek were they would meet the Wurrundjeri and other Koolin People to trade and attend to spiritual matters. Some would hunt Kangaroo and feast on the sweet piths of the Tree fern or Grass tree while collecting Mushrooms, Bulbs and Shoots, while others would be in the many freshwater streams catching Eel's and fish while gathering freshwater Mussels and Crayfish.
The Men would teach the young boys the art of snaring and tracking small game, as the young girls learnt the art of making Eel traps and basketry. And all the while the Ngaruk Willam would see out the cold in small Houses made from the bark of trees, these huts are known as "Willam". Then when the Elders of the Ngaruk Willam observed the Black Wattle trees first blooms they would begin the trip back down to the swamp and then later onto the coast wHere they knew awaited the plentiful resources of Port Phillip Bay, and once again the seasons changed and the Ngaruk Willam moved with them.
Today very little of the landscape that the Ngaruk Willam and Mayone Bulluk Bunurong utilized can be seen due to introduced land management practices, and wide spread and rapid development. The few remaining sites of cultural, social and spiritual significance to the Bunurong People on Ngaruk Willam and Mayone Bulluk land are under threat from development, and sites are being destroyed or disturbed on a daily basis.
Today, Bunurong People, despite still being totally dispossessed of their Traditional land play an active role in the protection, preservation and awareness of their culture, heritage and environment through the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.
Source - Bunurong Land Council
The term 'Koorie' (sometimes spelt without an 'e') has grown into popular use by the younger Aboriginal activists over the last 15 years or so.
The term is used to announce a seperate identity, to refer to themselves and their families as the indigenous peoples of south-eastern Australia.
Koories is a distinctive term for describing the Indigenous peoples of southern New South Wales and Victoria. Other group terms used are:
'Murri' for northern New South Wales and Queensland
'Nunga' in South Australia.
'Noonga' (or Nyungar) in Western Australia.
'Anungu' in central Australia.
'Yolgnu' in Arnhem Land
'Pallawah' in Tasmania.
Where traditional tribal values were not suppressed, each tribe or community is known by their own language word.
Source: Koorie Heritage Trust
Because the word 'Koorie' is of New South Wales origin, and is very close in pronunciation and spelling to a local word for excrement, some Victorian groups prefer not to be referred to as Koories, but Aboriginal or Indigenous.
Discretion is suggested and it is better to ask what word the local people prefer.