In order to do justice to the story of Aboriginal Darebin, we need to look further afield to Aboriginal Victoria and even to Aboriginal Australia, as all are inextricably linked.
Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples moved through their traditional lands freely, without boundary fences and walls, so too the Aboriginal history of Darebin reaches far beyond our current municipal borders.
Darebin City Council acknowledges that this is by no means a comprehensive re-telling of the Aboriginal history of the local area, nor is it the only way that even this small part of the story could be told. Council also recognises that contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history within our municipality, and further afield, is constantly evolving. Much of the contemporary history remains with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to whom it belongs. This information may be shared by the relevant parties and this website will be updated in due course.
This resource complements the Darebin Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Recognition Discovery Map.
Aboriginal people believe that the earth, stars, humans and animals were created in a time commonly referred to as the Dreaming/Dreamtime (a non-Indigenous terms created in an attempt to comprehend Aboriginal spirituality). It was during this time that societal structures, spirituality, rules for social behaviour, and the relationship between life and the land (lore) were determined. While the term Dreaming/Dreamtime is commonly used across mainland Australia, the stories from this time differ between different language groups, communities and individuals. Similarly to Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islander people believe in the Tagai, stories which form the cornerstone of spirituality and establish order in the world. A common theme of the Dreaming/Tagai is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a part of, and hold a deep spiritual connection with the land. They do not 'own' the land as we understand ownership today; rather, they are custodians – a part of the land while the land is a part of them.
An estimated 770,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of about 700 different language groups inhabited the whole of Australia prior to British contact (referred to by many people as invasion).
Figure 1: Map of Aboriginal language groups.
These different groups (referred to as clans, language groups or countries – these terms may be used interchangeably throughout this website), lived within different geographic boundaries, such as mountain ranges and rivers, (rather than within state and territory boundaries which didn't exist at that time), and maintained different languages, beliefs, practices and traditions. Clans would have extensive knowledge of the resources, and significant sacred sites within their country, as well as the history, and seasonal changes, of the land and the availability of resources.
Figure 2: Australia's modern-day State and Territory boundaries.