Aboriginal history

Like most of greater Melbourne, Moonee Valley has a rich history of Indigenous life before the arrival of settlers, convicts and the establishment of government.

The Wurundjeri people are the traditional owners of the land. They relied on the Maribyrnong River, Moonee Ponds Creek and Steele Creek for fishing, transport and food. Other places of historical significance include Queens Park, which was the first stopover in Burke and Wills’ 1860 expedition.

The Wurundjeri-willam People

The Indigenous Australians who lived in the area from Healesville to Kilmore and from Dandenong to Werribee belonged to the Woi-wurrung language and belief group.

Within this was a clan called Wurundjeri-baluk, which was divided into two sub-clans, one of which was the Wurundjeri-willam, meaning 'white gum tree dwellers' and which was further divided into three patrilines.

One patriline claimed the area between the Maribyrnong River and Darebin Creek, stretching up to the Dividing Ranges and including the area now known as Moonee Valley. At the time of European settlement the clan-head of this group was Billebellary.

By 1860, just 25 years after settlement commenced, Victorian settlers numbered half a million. By contrast, the Victorian Indigenous population had declined dramatically from approximately 40,000 to 2,000, and some people believed they were becoming extinct. Those who remained of the Kulin Nation were gathered at Mohican Station near Alexandra.

Billebellary's son Wonga was the clan-head of the Wurundjeri. In 1863, Wonga and his cousin Barak led his people in a walk out of the settlement and back to their country at a place near Healesville named Coranderrk (after a tree that blossoms on the river). Wonga and Barak began working with Scottish preacher John Green and they built a thriving economically viable community, turning Coranderrk into a major Kulin settlement.

Wurundjeri names

Moonee Ponds

There are three theories as to the origin of the word Moonee. On instructions from New South Wales, surveyor Robert Hoddle incorporated local indigenous names when naming land marks in the areas he was surveying and portioning. The name 'Mone Mone' was first used by Hoddle when he instructed H.W.H Smythe to survey the area in 1837. It was assumed that Mone Mone was an indigenous word due to its grammatical structure, but Hoddle did not record its meaning.

Secondly, the Agus newspaper in September 1934 claimed that Moonee Moonee Ponds meant 'plenty of small flats'. However, according to the Victorian Aboriginal Languages 'Monee Monee' was the name of a Wurundjeri-willam man who died in service with the Native Corps in 1845.

Maribyrnong River

The name 'Maribyrnong' comes from a number of words in the Woi-wurrung language. It is said to be derived from mirring-gnai-birr-nong-'I can hear a ring tail possum'. The river influenced the seasonal movements of the Wurundjeri and another meaning suggested is 'running water'. Foods harvested from the river included fresh water mussels, water birds, fish and edible plants. The river teemed with fish and the eel run occurred in autumn.

Jika Jika

This is the parish name for an area on the eastern bank of Moonee Ponds Creek, said to be the name of grazier and businessman John Batman’s servant.

Doutta Galla

Robert Hoddle gave this name to the western bank of Moonee Ponds Creek. Dutigalla was thought to be one of the names on the original Batman treaty deed and is claimed to be the name of Jika Jika’s wife.

Wurundjeri sites in and around Moonee Valley

Solomon’s Ford

In 1803, Charles Grimes travelled up the Maribyrnong River and discovered a working fish trap at what was to be called Salomon’s Ford. By placing a weir of basalt or woven rushes across a shallow or narrow stream, fish and eels were guided into funnel shaped fishing pots made of woven plant fibre. The ford was an important crossing point for Indigenous people. A scarred tree and quarry site have been recorded in this area; an indication that it was a significant camping site. Located near Canning Street in Avondale Heights, this area of public land is included in a general heritage overlay area and is cited under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Steele’s Creek

Aboriginal Affairs Victoria has mapped quarry sites and artefact finds on the Steele Creek which indicate its use as a camping area.

Lily Street Lookout

Silcrete was used by Indigenous stone workers to make flaked stone tools. 11 of the 30 recorded Indigenous silcrete quarries are in the Maribyrnong River valley and its tributaries. One of these silcrete quarries is located below the junction of the Maribyrnong River and Steele Creek in Essendon West.

Brimbank Park (Kulin Wetlands)

Brimbank Park is situated adjacent to Moonee Valley in Keilor East. Archaeologists have found 40,000 year old human and animal remains within its close proximity. There are 25 formally identified Indigenous archaeological sites in the park ranging from scarred trees, a burial site, stone quarries and sites containing axes and scatters of stone tools. The area was purchased by the State Government and is now known as the Kulin Wetlands.

Moonee Ponds Creek

In 1991, Aboriginal artefacts were identified along the Moonee Ponds Creek by an archaeological survey team, commissioned by the Board of Works as part of the Moonee Ponds Creek Concept Plan. 31 Aboriginal sites were discovered along the creek, which was part of the territory used by the Wurundjeri.

Indigenous history publication

Wurundjeri Willam: The Original Inhabitants of Moonee Valley (pdf, 1.5MB) provides a history of the earliest inhabitants, the Woi-wurrung people. It lists and describes important Aboriginal sites, places and landscapes as well as their traditional way of life.

Last updated: Sunday, 2 June 2019, 10:03 AM