The City of Melton is on ancient land that has taken millions of years to form, from the grassy basalt plains and woodlands, to the rivers and creeks, and the low volcanic peaks that stretch westward.
Kulin custodians are likely to describe their presence around Narrm (greater Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay) as being from time immemorial. A European scientific perspective is that Aboriginal people have lived on this continent for at least 40,000 years. Kulin people lived alongside megafauna, witnessed volcanic activity, and around 12,000 years ago they saw the flooding of the land bridge that once connected the mainland to what is now called Tasmania.
The Kulin Nations comprise five ‘wurrungs’ or language groups, the term Kulin indicating the concept of ‘human being’. Three of these five groups – the Woi wurrung, Boon wurrung (Bunurong) and Wathaurong – occupied territory in and around what is today the City of Melton. Today, ancestors from all three groups continue to maintain vital traditional connections to this area.
The plains and waterways that now lie within the City of Melton are the traditional territory of the Kurun jang balug of the Wurundjeri-willam, a clan of the Woi wurrung. The name ‘Kurun jang balug’ translates as ‘red ground people’ and describes the distinctive deep red earth on which Melton is situated. This name is preserved today in the suburb of Kurunjang. In the 1830s, the Kurun jang balug clan-head or ngurungaeta was Bet Banger, an important leader who worked alongside white settlers and mediated Kulin people’s access to Country.
The resources of Narrm were plentiful. Thousands of years of interaction with the land, combined with an effective system of transmitting knowledge between generations, allowed Kulin people to thrive. Food was abundant, including kangaroo and other mammals, as well as reptiles, birds, insects, mussels and fish. Kulin people used ingeniously designed fish traps that diverted the flow of waterways.
Plants were another major food source. These included the nutritious tuber from the yellow-flowered murrnong (Microseris sp.) or yam daisy. Murnong was cultivated by Aboriginal women in the Narrm area. Plants had other purposes in addition to food, including being used for fibre, medicine, to make implements and cement. Firestick practices saw strategic burning to promote constant renewal of plant and animal life. This also contained the growth of foliage, to facilitate ease of movement through Country.
Additionally, Kulin life allowed time for leisure and for fulfilling social and ritual obligations. With extensive cross-cultural and spiritual affiliations across Kulin clans and language groups, people would meet for ceremony and to discuss important business. A series of earth rings on hillsides around Sunbury are thought to be ceremonial sites that may have been locations for male initiation. Other physical evidence of the presence of Kulin people is still clearly visible today in numerous local scar trees, including those at Pinkerton Forest, Eynesbury Grey Box Forest and the Melton Golf Course.
In the 19th century, the arrival of European settlers from far across the sea, with their animals, fences, diseases, and completely foreign cultures and ways of life, spelled the end of Kulin ascendancy over the lands of which Kulin people had been custodians for more than two thousand generations. The effects of this invasion would be nothing short of catastrophic.