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Glenferrie's Indigenous History

Each July, NAIDOC week is celebrated here in Australia, which stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. The group aims to increase awareness of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians and stems from the 1920’s movement. During NAIDOC week, which this year is 8-15 July, events are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year’s NAIDOC week theme is 'Because of Her, We Can.' "Celebrating the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made - and continue to make - to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation."

Before Victoria was what it is today, the traditional owners and original custodians of the land consisted of 38 tribal groups. Of these 38 groups the Wurundjeri tribe were the most significant.

Glenferrie Hawthorn and the surrounds were an ideal location with the Birrarung (Yarra River) so close, where tribes spent the summer along the banks trapping fish and hunting other animals. The winters were spent moving to higher areas for more shelter. Large clan celebrations were believed to also take place on the hill which now houses Xavier College. The traditional owners were the occupants of this area up until 1837 when the first Europeans settled in Boroondara.

Wurundjeri people spoke the Woiwurrung language and the word Boroondara translates to ‘where the ground is thickly shaded’. The Woiwurrung language group is one of five related language groups in the south central Victoria area. The five groups are collectively the Kulin Nation people. The traditional territory of the Kulin Nation extends around Port Phillip and Western Port and extends up into the Great Dividing Ranges and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys.

In the 1980’s the descendants of the Wurundjeri people established the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council Incorporated. This incorporation became a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) following the introduction of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Act). The Act recognises Aboriginal people as the primary guardians and keepers of Aboriginal cultural heritage and RAPs are statutory authorities that hold decision-making responsibilities for protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in a specific geographical area. These areas are designated based on applications made by RAPs and presented to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (Heritage Council) for approval.

The Wurundjeri people are now the “recognised Traditional Owners of a large geographically diverse region that includes both urban and rural lands as well as waterways (fresh water and estuarine). Wurundjeri Country lies within the inner city of Melbourne and extends north of the Great Dividing Range, east to Mount Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and to the mouth of the Werribee River.” (

In 2008 the Heritage Council recognised the Wurundjeri tribe as the RAP over the northern area of Boroondara. The southern part of Boroondara, including the Glenferrie Ward, was put under further consideration by the Heritage Council as they had received applications from other RAPs who are seeking ownership of this same area. After conducting two research projects and coming to no concise conclusion, on 3 September 2015 the Heritage Council reported that “the Traditional Owners are the best people to work together to resolve questions about the extent of Country” by sharing stories and reviewing the historical records together. Therefore, the southern part of Boroondara presently has no recognised RAP.

In 2017, The City of Boroondara in collaboration with the Wurundjeri Council developed the Wurundjeri Heritage Trail at Chandler Park (next to Chandler Highway, behind Guide Dogs Victoria). During NAIDOC week 2017 the trail was officially opened with a “smoking ceremony performed by a Wurundjeri Elder, education about Wurundjeri language and culture, planting, children’s activities, short guided walks and light refreshments” (

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