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Brimbank’s Indigenous History

'The Sunshine Historical Society acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land in Australia. The Society pays it's respects to the Elders, past and present, and all of their communities.

Derrimut, Headman of the Yalukit.william Clan Photo 01.jpg

Photo title: Derrimut

Sunshine Aborigories Photo 01.jpg

Australia’s indigenous people are one of the world’s oldest continuing culture in human history.


Archaeological evidence dates the first people on the Australia continent back to 63,000 BC. Evidence found in Keilor and the surrounding district dates indigenous occupation in the region back to 30,000 BC. To put these dates in perspective, the start of Egypt's First Dynasty dates back to 3,100 BC or the founding of Rome in 750 BC.


The Wurundjeri people, one of the five Indigenous Australian nations in south central Victoria, were the custodians of the land of the Port Phillip Bay Region. The tribe was further divided into a number of clans, “Kurung-Jang-Balluk” and “Marin-Balluk” (also known as the Woiwurung language group). These clans were the custodians of the land where the Maribyrnong River flows through the City of Brimbank including the lands of Keilor Downs and Taylors Lakes. These clans were also further divided into smaller groups that had their own land boundaries for hunting and gathering. Other groups who also occupied land in the area including the “Yalukit-Willam” and “Marpeang-Bulluk” clans.


The land where Sunshine, Ardeer, Deer Park and further east now lies, the traditional owners have not formally been recognised for these areas.


In the City of Brimbank, the Wurundjeri people have left 157 recorded archaeological sites. Artifacts that have been found include bone remnants, ochre, charcoal & hearth stones, tools including blades & scrapers, scarred trees and silcrete quarry sites.


Mary of the artefacts have been found along Brimbank’s major waterways, the Maribyrnong River, Kororoit & Taylors Creeks. There are also many minor creeks in the area that have been altered or destroyed by development since European settlement. Any artefacts in these areas have been lost forever.


Eleven Aboriginal quarry sites have been found along the Maribyrnong River Valley. The hard stone called “Silcrete” has been quarried from these sites for making of small flaked-stone tools.


Two significant archaeological findings were found during quarrying operations. In 1940, at the confluence of Dry Creek and the Maribyrnong River "The Keilor Archaeological Site" unearthed an Aboriginal cranium. The cranium was later dated to be nearly 15,000 years old. Another Aboriginal skeletal was unearthed in 1965, near the confluence of Taylor's Creek and the Maribyrnong River. These remains were later dated to be nearly 6,000 years old.


Artefacts are still being discovered in Brimbank. These are now protected by numerous National, State & Local Acts. If you are in Victoria and you think you've found an Aboriginal cultural heritage place or objects on any public or private land, you must report it to “Aboriginal Victoria” under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.


The waterways of the Maribyrnong River, Kororoit & Taylors Creeks have provided rich hunting and gathering grounds for food, medicines, drinking water and materials used for construction of bark huts & canoes. Stone fish traps have also been found in these waterways.


The Indigenous population also moved across the flat open plains of the district for the purpose of hunting, gathering or interaction with other clans. The indigenous trees, plants, flowers, grasses, and animals provided the people with another source of different foods and medicines.


There are also numerous geomorphological sites that have not changed in their features since the arrival of Europeans. With some imagination one can dream what the region looked like many years ago.


A number of these indigenous vegetation & geomorphological sites within Brimbank have now been protected. A number of these sites have easy access from roads and recreation paths where one can admire their features.

In 1835, Derrimut, the Indigenous Headman of the Yalukit William Clan became well known in the history of Victoria for his actions in preventing a massacre of John Fawkner's working party. Derrimut informed William Watkins, one of Fawkner's young  servants of the impending attack. This warning allowed Fawkner and his working party to arm themselves. Fawkner fired a warning shot into the trees above the assembled natives and subsequently the natives ran away. For his actions, Derrimut was given clothes and food.


Today, Derrimut's named is honored with many district's landmarks being named after him including the suburb Derrimut, Mt. Derrimut, Derrimut Drive, Derrimut Street, Mt. Derrimut Road, Derrimut Trail, Derrimut Grasslands, Derrimut Retrading Basin & Mount Derrimut Nature Conservation Reserve.


With the exploration by Europeans in the early 1800’s, and their subsequent settlement in the mid 1830’s changed the region forever. It is estimated the Aboriginal population declined by 50% mainly due to Aboriginal people being driven from their traditional land, the loss their traditional foods and resources, the introduction of diseases such as small-pox, measles, influenza and ultimately conflict with the European squatters and settlers.

One such early example of the conflict between the traditional Wathaurong people and the Europeans was when in 1836, the bodies of Charles Franks, and a shepherd called Flinders, were found at Mount Cottrell. This led to the retaliation by the Europeans where over 35 Wathaurong people were killed.


Another close contact with the indigenous people was recorded by Thomas Flynn, the Head Teacher of the Braybrook State School. He recorded the memories of Alfred Solomon, whose father was Joseph Solomon, an early settler on the Saltwater River at Braybrook. Alfred recalled that during the early days of settlement, his father had many dealings with the blacks but there were not many of them. They also did not cause him any trouble. It was his rule to allow them to bring their weapons when visiting the homestead to receive food and presents. They rarely showed any signs of hostilities, and his father always displayed a good deal of consideration towards them. The blacks were very much interested in the ways of the white people, and nothing seemed to astonish them more than how his father shaved. The household suffered little from their well-known thieving propensities, although on one occasion, when a suitable opportunity presented itself, they cleared the pantry of all its contents and discreetly retired without delay to some of their other haunts. The blacks seem to be always on the move from one part of their tribal territory to another in search for food. His father also witnessed a corroboree and other customs of their lifestyle.

Ultimately, the Europeans forced the Aboriginal people to move into government mission stations, where Christianity and western education were imposed on them. This behavior and restrictions significantly altered their traditional way of life including being denied access to their traditional lands.


When the Europeans divided the state up into parishes and counties, many of them were given Aboriginal names. The region around Sunshine and the surrounded districts were given names such as, Cut paw paw (Derived from the Aboriginal words for a clump of she-oak trees), Derrimut (Named after “Derrimut”, an Aboriginal Elder who lived in the area in the 1800’s. He warned the settlers of an impending attack) and Maribyrnong (Anglicised version of the Aboriginal term “Mirring-gnay-bir-nong which translates as “I can hear a ringtail possum”). Another Aboriginal name that features prominently in the district is Kororoit. The name is thought to have been derived from an Aboriginal word meaning male kangaroo.


Ref: Glimpses of Early Sunshine, Edith Popp

Ref: History of Braybrook District, compiled by Thomas Flynn, September 1906

Ref: Brimbank City Council

Ref: Monument Australia Website

Ref: Australian Dictionary of Biography

Photo: S&DHS

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