Womenjika! That’s welcome in the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung language groups of the Kulin Nation. The Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung are the traditional owner groups of the area we now call Melbourne. Find out more about the Kulin Nation’s rich, living culture through these places and events.
From 2 to 12 May, more than 100 events will pop-up in Melbourne for Yirramboi Festival – a biennial celebration of First Nations arts and culture, on the traditional lands of the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung peoples. The festival hub this year is at Meat Market, where live music, dance, theatre and more will be showcased.
Make sure your diary is well and truly cleared for Barring Yanabul, a free city-wide festival taking place on 4 May. Be stunned by a children’s choir performing on the steps of the State Library with Deborah Cheetham, hang out at a block party/fashion show in Hosier Lane and view exploratory performance art from Jasmin Sheppard – all in a single day. See our guide to Barring Yanabul.
Art and history
A great place to get a better understanding of Melbourne’s Aboriginal heritage and culture is at the Koorie Heritage Trust. Based at Federation Square, it’s home to an ever-expanding collection of art, cultural artifacts and oral histories, revealed in regular exhibitions. Ask about their workshops and educational walks, and check out the shop. There are books, clothing, jewellery and even traditional handmade possum-skin marngrooks, which inspired today’s Aussie Rules footy.
Their latest exhibition, Undercurrent, showcases a series of large scale landscape photographs that depict frontier violence and massacre sites on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. The striking imagery was produced by Bangarang artist Peta Clancy in collaboration with the Dja Dja Wurrung community, during a 12-month residency at the Koorie Heritage Trust.
A few steps away is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. It showcases the National Gallery of Victoria’s homegrown art, including an impressive collection of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. See visions of the past, such as 19th century drawings by William Barak and 20th century paintings by Albert Namatjira. Contemplate the present through contemporary artists such as Reko Rennie and Brook Andrew.
Just around the corner is Birrarung Marr, meaning ‘river of mist’ in the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung language. This pleasant park by the Yarra includes the Birrarung Willam (‘Birrarung camp’) installation, which celebrates Victoria’s Aboriginal culture. A major feature is a ring of five metal shields, representing the five language groups of the Kulin Nation.
Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre is named after Bunjil, the eagle creator deity of the Kulin Nation. Under his metaphorical wing, the centre presents permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as events and activities.
Bunjil’s story is revealed in the centre’s First Peoples exhibition. From the story of creation stretching back many thousands of years, to the stories of today, this permanent exhibition celebrates Victoria’s Aboriginal people.
Run by the Koorie Heritage Trust, the Birrarung Wilam Walk takes you through Federation Square and down to the Birrarung Wilam Aboriginal art installations. Experience the history of Birrarung Marr and the Aboriginal peoples of the Kulin Nation. Learn how the land on which Melbourne is located has changed over time and the significance of the Birrarung Wilam to the local Kulin peoples.
Find out about the indigenous flora that once thrived along the Yarra on a Royal Botanic Gardens Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Led by an Aboriginal guide, this tour reveals plants used for food, tools and medicine by people of the Kulin Nation. Explore their ancestral lands, and experience a traditional smoking ceremony.