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Warrnambool region

Encounters. Indigenous contact and culture: a classroom resource

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

Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong country

Warrnambool region, Victoria

For thousands of years, Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong peoples farmed kooyang (eels) through engineering a complex system of channels, dams and weirs. Explore how their cultural connections are still alive today through harvesting eels and traditional weaving.

  • A map of Australia indicating the location of St Mary's, Warrnambool.
    Warrnambool region, Victoria
  • A colour photo of a green leafy landscape with a stream running through it at Warrnambool region, Victoria
    Setting the scene
  • A necklace made from animal and plant fibre and adorned with wallaby teeth.
    Wallaby tooth necklace
  • A black and white photo of Kaawirn Kuunawarn.
    Kaawirn Kuunawarn
  • Yarruun Parpur Tarneen
    Yarruun Parpur Tarneen (Victorious)
  • A structure woven from plant fibres, consisting of a circular disk with a hole at the centre, from which an elongated cylindrical tube extends, forming a tunnel.
    Woven eel trap
  • Framlingham rangers
    Framlingham rangers


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What do you know about Warrnambool?

Video story

Learn about an ancient weaving tradition

Watch Gunditjmara Elder Aunty Eileen Alberts describing how she learned how to weave. 

Activity: Have a class discussion about why Aunty Connie Hart was reluctant to teach weaving.

More activities

Eel trap

Activity: Look at the images above, then create a model or draw a picture of an eel trap. 

Continuing culture 

Activity: Gunditjmara Elder Aunty Eileen Alberts said: ‘I guess since 1788, we have been doing this adaptation all the time … not a compromise but a new way of doing an old thing. The old ways won’t sustain a future for you, but you need to practise your culture to truly be who you are.’

Find out about some ‘old ways’ in your family. It might be a skill or trade that your parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle or an older friend learned when they were young. Is this skill still in use? Has it been adapted, lost or replaced over time?

Activity: Visitors responded to questions as part of our Encounters exhibition on show in Canberra. Look at the responses to the question ‘What story or skill has been passed down to you?’ on our Articulate website.  Pick one response that you find particularly interesting or surprising. Explain why.

Meaning of objects 

Activity: Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta man Thomas Day said: ‘When I go on country I’m looking for a small window into the past, to see what it may have looked like once.’

Chose an old object that interests you. It might be something at home, at school or in your community. Investigate its story. What is it made of? How is it made? Who used it? When? Why?

Using the results of your research create your own ‘window in time’. Paint, draw, or write your response to create a glimpse of the past for your reader or viewer.

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