Our Aboriginal history – Wurundjeri story

Before European settlement, the Aboriginal people of the Wurundjeri wilam clan lived on the land that now forms the City of Whittlesea and the northern suburbs of Melbourne. They lived on the offshoots of the Yarra River - along the Merri, Edgars and Darebin Creeks - the Plenty River and the Maribyrnong River.

There are currently between 1000 and 1500 Wurundjeri wilam people living in Victoria.

Many of the names in the City of Whittlesea were inspired by the Wurundjeri culture and traditions:

  • Bundoora – Keelbundoora was a young boy present at the signing of the Batman Treaty
  • Yan Yean – young boy (derived from yan yan)
  • Mernda – young girl (derived from murnmurndik)
  • Wollert – possum (derived from walert)
  • Merri – place of many rocks
  • Wallan – spherical/round (derived from walen-walen)

Wurundjeri wilam people

The Wurundjeri wilam clan is part of the Wurundjeri language group, and speaks the Woi wurrung language. The Woi wurung is one of the many language groups that make up the Kulin Nation, whose people shared the same religion and language, and lived in what is now metropolitan and greater Melbourne.

The Wurundjeri wilam people have a strong connection to the land now known as the City of Whittlesea. They travelled the area in search of resources, fresh water, food and shelter; the Plenty River and many creeks offering various types of fish and birdlife. They held cultural ceremonies and conducted business and trade negotiations at sacred sites. Over 70 of these sites still exist in the City today, as well as many sacred ‘scarred’ trees.

Some Aboriginal clans believe that they are represented by native animals or a ‘moiety’ system. The people of the Kulin Nation were both Waang (the Australian Raven) and Bunjil (wedge-tail eagle – the creator) people. Marriage was regulated by the moiety system. Wurundjeri clan law said that there could only be marriage between different moieties. This meant that a Bunjil man could only marry a Waang woman and a Waang man could only marry a Bunjil woman. This kept the genetic variation strong.

Wurundjeri language – Woi wurrung

Below are some other common words in the Wurundjeri language - called Woi wurrung - and their English translation.

  • Woi – the way we pronounce our words
  • Wurrung – language
  • Kulin – man/people
  • Wurundjeri – derived from the words ‘wurun’ and ‘djeri’
  • Wurun – River Red Gum and Manna Gum
  • Djeri – grubs; found in the River Red Gums and eaten by the Wurundjeri people
  • Wilam – shelter/living place

Further information

For more information about the Wurundjeri wilam clan and the Wurundjeri people of Victoria, contact the following organisations:

Aboriginal Affairs Victoria
Level 9, 1 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: 9208 3244
F: 9208 3294

Central Victorian Regional Cultural Heritage Program
PO Box 2392V
Melbourne VIC 3001
T: 1300 366 356   
F: 9208 3292

Source: The information above about Wurundjeri language was provided by Ian Hunter, member of the local Wurundjeri tribe, 2002.

Last Updated: 28 November 2013