The lands of the Wadawurrung

The numbers on the map pictured below indicate the approximate locations of clan estates. The entire landscape was a mosaic of such estates.

Through intermarriage and other alliances people were able to access land and resources far beyond their own estates.

Access to land and resources was negotiated through discussion, marriage, ceremony and adherence to law.

This map is derived from Clark (1990) and shows the language boundary with continuous line indicating boundaries along rivers, streams and lakes.

Table 1: Clans

Table Clan name Approxiate location
1 Barere barere balug
‘Colac’ and ‘Mt Bute’ stations
2 Beerekwart balug
Mt Emu
3 Bengalat balug
Indented Head
4 Berrejin balug
5 Boro gundidj
Yarrowee River
6 Burrumbeet gundidj
Lakes Burumbeet and Learmonth
6a Keyeet balug Mt Buninyong
7 Carringum balug
8 Carininje balug
‘Emu Hill’ station, Lintons Creek
9 Corac balug ‘
Commeralghip’ station, and Kuruc-a-ruc Creek
10 Corrin corrinjer balug
11 Gerarlture balug
West of Lake Modewarre
12 Marpeang balug
Blackwood, Myrniong, and Bacchus Marsh
13 Mear balug
14 Moijerre balug
Mt Emu Creek
15 Moner balug
‘Trawalla’ station, Mt Emu Creek
16 Monmart
17 Neerer balug
Between Geelong and the You Yangs (Hovells Creek?)
18 Pakeheneek balu
Mt Widderin
19 Peerickelmoon balug
Near Mt Misery
20 Tooloora balug
Mt Warrenheip, Lal-lal Creek, west branch of Moorabool River
21 Woodealloke gundidj
Wardy Yalloak River, south of Kuruc-a-ruc Creek
22 Wada wurrung balug
Barrabool Hills
23 Wongerrer balug
Head of Wardy Yalloak River
24 Worinyaloke balug
West side of Little River
25 Yaawangi You Yang Hills

The numbers referenced in Table 1 above relate to the map above (derived from Clark 1990)


The language of the Wadawurrung is most closely related to those of the Daung Wurrung, Bun Wurrung, Woi Wurrung, Djab Wurrung and Djadja Wurrung.

However, it was very much a distinct language.

Relationships with other Language-Culture Groups

Even though they had a different descent system, some Wadawurrung clans intermarried with clans of the Gulidjan, Djab Wurrung and Djargurd Wurrung.

Relations between clans of the Wadawurrung and nearby clans of Djadja Wurrung, Bunurong and Djab Wurrung were friendly and intermarriage occurred.

It is known that Wadawurrung gathered at Mirraewuae Swamp, east of the Grampians, to hunt and conduct ceremony with the Djab Wurrung, Dauwurd Wurrung and Girai Wurrung. It is thought that Wadawurrung and Girai Wurrung similarly gathered at Lake Bolac with the local Djab Wurrung clans for the annual early autumn eel migration - a time of plenty when celebrations and ceremony including many hundreds of people was possible.

In the original account of the Life and Adventures of the convict William Buckley (MacDougall, 1852) who lived with the Wadawurrung prior to the settlement of Victoria, his band met to trade eels with people at a place that may have been present day Barramunga, in the heart of Gudabanud territory. He also travelled to Gulidjan and possibly Djargurd Wurrung territory.

Beliefs and laws

In common with the other Kulin peoples, the Wadawurrung had a patrilineal kinship system, in which a person’s skin-group (otherwise known as a moiety) was inherited from their father. Clans belonged to either the Waa (crow) or the Bungil (eagle-hawk) moiety.

‘Having formed features of the earth Bungil decided to bring humanity into existence. He gathered up a quantity of clay from a riverbed, divided it in two, and placed it on large sheets of bark that had been cut from a gum tree. Bunjil then worked the clay, shaping it into the image of two men. He took stringy bark from the trees and used it for hair. Bunjil was pleased with his work and danced around the figures he had made. He blew air into the mouths, noses and navels of these new creatures and filled them with life. Then Bunjil’s brother Pallian, who had been given control of all the rivers, creeks and billabongs, began to thump the water with his hands. The water became thicker and thicker and eventually took on the shape and appearance of two women. Each man was presented with a hunting spear while the women were given a strong digging stick, to unearth yams and edible roots.’

From People of the Merri Merri by I. Ellender and P. Christiansen (2001).

Way of life

The lands of the Wadawurrung included vast areas of landscape stretching from the eastern Otway coasts and shores of Port Phillip to the central Victoria uplands, including extensive areas of volcanic grassland plains between. A wide variety of food and other resources would have been bountiful in these landscapes, and bands of people would have had considerable flexibility in how they chose to move with the seasons, making use of the shores, wetlands, rivers, woodlands, forests and plains.

In addition, cooperative relationships between Wadawurrung clans and the clans of many of the neighbouring language-culture groups would have greatly extended the territory in which food and other resources were obtained. The gatherings in Djab Wurrung country at Mirraewuae Swamp east of the Grampians, at Lake Bolac for the eel harvest are examples of this.

In his account of life with the Wadawurrung - during the thirty years that preceded the founding of Melbourne - William Buckley describes living with bands of people who travelled extensively around the Geelong area, the Otway Ranges, to Lake Colac and Lake Corangamite (Gulidjan and Djargurd Wurrung country), and across
the intervening plains.1

Aboriginal Languages of Victoria

This map is derived from Clark (1990) and shows the language boundary with continuous line indicating boundaries along rivers, streams and lakes.

Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages

Page last updated: Thursday, 5 March 2020