The first full week of July (in 2017 it’s the 2-9 July) is NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week. NAIDOC Week is a time to recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The event itself originated from a protest letter written by Indigenous political activist William Cooper in preparation for the Day of Mourning in 1938, (an important milestone in the Indigenous rights movement). Although there are dozens of celebratory events going on around the country to celebrate NAIDOC Week, we think it is also the perfect opportunity to discover some of Victoria’s important Indigenous cultural and archaeological sites. This week, we look at three important Indigenous sites around Victoria where you can go to learn more about the long history and rich culture of Australia’s First Peoples.
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre
With one of the most significant Aboriginal cultures collections anywhere in the world, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre is a fantastic place to begin learning about the 60,000 year history and culture of Indigenous people. The centre runs exhibitions and events that explore all aspects of Indigenous culture and history. At present, there are two major exhibitions at Bunjilaka; Ganbu Yalingbu. Ngulu-Bulok. is an exhibition to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Referendumand features work by local Koori artists whilst kanalaritja, examines the ancient practice of shell stringing amongst the women of Tasmanian Aboriginal Communities. The centre also has a permanent First Peoples exhibition celebrating the traditions, lifestyles, beliefs and struggles of Victoria’s Indigenous people, and the Milarri Garden trail where visitors can learn more about plants and waterways significant to the Indigenous people of south-eastern Australia.
Grampians National Park
In popular culture, Indigenous rock art is often associated with Australia’s red centre but in fact. cave painting was a widespread practice in many Indigenous nations and in Victoria, 80% of the rock art can be found in the Grampians National Park. Known as Gariwerd, the Grampians played a central role in the Dreaming of the Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali peoples. It is home to over 120 rock art sites between 1000 and 22,000 years old and featuring over 4,000 different motifs. Five rock shelters are open to the public and easily accessible including Bunjil’s shelter, one of the most significant cultural sites in Victoria. Melbourne on the Move run Grampians tours which include a visit to the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre where you can learn more about the Indigenous history of the area.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
One of Victoria’s most unique geological formations, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is located inside the crater of a dormant volcano which erupted some 30,000 years ago. This landscape has long been an important source of food and shelter for clans of the Gunditjmara Nation (the Koroit-gunditj and Peek Whurrong people). Members of both clans still live in the area today and participate in the management of the reserve, running daily guided bushwalking tours where visitors can learn more about the landscape, flora and fauna, and the traditional lifestyle of the Indigenous people who have long called Tower Hill their home.