You are in site section: Exhibitions

Birregurra, Victoria

Encounters

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Birregurra, south-west Victoria

Gulidjan and Wadawurrung country

Reconnections

We have never left.

Aunty Edna Arnold, Gulidjan and Gadubanud Elder, 2015

A photo of very green, fertile land with a homestead in the background surrounded by a variety of trees and fences. The sky is blue and cloudless.
Elliminook homestead at Birregurra, Gulidjan and Wadawurrung country. Photo: Dean Golja.

Edna Arnold’s family has always lived in Gulidjan country in south-west Victoria. In 2015 she visited Elliminook homestead, where her ancestors had worked for the Bromfield family in the 1860s.

Oh, my ancestors would have swept that flagstone.

Aunty Edna Arnold, Gulidjan and Gadubanud Elder, 2015

When settlers arrived in the 1830s, Gulidjan people fought hard for their country. But by the 1860s they and neighbouring Wadawurrung and Gadubanud peoples had learnt new ways of surviving in the colonial world. Women often worked in settler households and men performed stock work. Eliza Bromfield, who displayed an active interest in the 1860s, probably at Elliminook homestead.

Spear-thrower made of wood, decorated with complex incised figurative designs, including two human figures; one holding a shield and a boomerang, the other clothed in a decorated skin cloak
Spear-thrower, (right and detail, left) Gulidjan or Wadawurrung people, collected from Birregurra by Eliza Bromfield in 1867, 73 x 11 cm. British Museum Oc.8067.

The spear-thrower is decorated with the image of a person wearing a possum-skin cloak. Such cloaks were used by Aboriginal people throughout south-eastern Australia. Designs on the insides of cloaks relate to clan affiliations of the wearer. Recently there has been a revival in making and using possum-skin cloaks.

You’ve got the beginning of life and the end of life. The babies were wrapped in the cloaks and the people wore the cloaks right through until the people were actually buried in them.

Treahna Hamm, Yorta Yorta, 2005

Old objects

Augustus Wollaston Franks, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities and Ethnography at the British Museum, presented this spear-thrower to the museum in October 1873.

Eliza Bromfield had collected it in the 1860s, possibly from a Gulidjan person working at her family’s Elliminook homestead at Birregurra. Franks bought it from William Cutter, a prominent antiquities dealer located near the British Museum.

New objects

The streams leading up to the centre [of this shield] represent the northern and southern flowing waters weaving in and out of the mountains of the Great Dividing Range ... The diamonds in the middle represent home and a place of ceremony, where our tribes can now come together harmoniously after over 160 years of dispossession and devastation ... to share culture, stories, song and dance, free from the modern laws thrust upon us ... This shield is for the protection of our children, to protect us from history repeating itself.

Sean Fagan, Wadawurrung, 2015

Carved shield with diamond design in three parts
Malka (shield) 2015, by Sean Fagan, Wadawurrung people, south-west Victoria, 74.8 x 13.2 cm. National Museum of Australia. Photo: George Serras.
Aunty Edna Arnold
Aunty Edna Arnold, Gulidjan and Gadubanud Elder, wearing a traditional possum-skin cloak. National Museum of Australia.