Indigenous group holding hands

The City of Boroondara acknowledges the people of the Kulin Nation as Traditional Owners of the land of Boroondara and we pay our respects to their Elders, past and present. 

While Boroondara has a relatively small Indigenous population today, the City’s Indigenous connections have not been lost. Knowledge of the land and way of life has been preserved by the Traditional Owners.

Today, two community organisations represent the interests of Indigenous people in Boroondara and the Eastern Metropolitan Region. They are the Wurundjeri Land Tribe and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Inc. (Wurundjeri Council) and the Inner East Local Indigenous Network (LIN). 

The Wurundjeri people are recognised as the Traditional Owners of land in the northern area of Boroondara. The Wurundjeri Council represents the Wurundjeri people and is the key contact for activities occurring in the northern area that can only be performed by Traditional Owners.

The Inner East LIN is an Indigenous community organisation representing the interests of Indigenous people in Boroondara and the Eastern Metropolitan Region.

The following information is provided as a resource for the community on the Indigenous culture and history of the City of Boroondara. Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week events are also listed.

For queries or feedback, please contact the Community Planning and Development Department on 9278 4753.

Traditional areas and heritage

Traditional areas in the City of Boroondara

There are currently two traditional areas (northern and southern) in the City of Boroondara. These areas are depicted in the Figure 1 below. Traditional Owners are represented through Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs). The bulk of the land in Boroondara that is north of Studley Park Road, Cotham Road and Whitehorse Road is included in the Wurundjeri RAP area or northern traditional area. The single exception is a block (in Balwyn) bounded by Whitehorse Road, Union Road, Yarrbat Avenue and Kireep Road. This block includes Maranoa Gardens and Beckett Park. The Wurundjeri people are represented by the Wurundjeri Council. In the Central precinct, only northern lots from 511 - 637 Whitehorse Road in Surrey Hills reside within the Wurundjeri RAP area. No RAP for the southern traditional area has been determined. The division between the Wurundjeri RAP area and the southern traditional area or undetermined RAP area traverses Boroondara’s North East, North West and Central precincts.

Figure 1. Traditional areas in the City of Boroondara.

Significant heritage sites

Some places are of particular significance to Traditional Owners, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) peoples and the broader Victorian community, and require special protection. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is able to declare places of particular cultural significance ‘protected areas’, to be protected and preserved for future generations. Landowners and managers are also able to enter into voluntary formal agreements with Register Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to manage and protect important Indigenous places on their properties.

The Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV) manages the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Register and Information System for recording Aboriginal cultural heritage places and objects across Victoria. This information aids Council’s management of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage within the municipality.

Twelve Aboriginal sites are known within the City of Boroondara and registered with the OAAV. Of the 12 sites, two are Aboriginal historic places and 10 are archaeological sites. The 10 archaeological sites are scarred trees, all but one of which is located within parks or reserves adjacent to the Yarra River. One toe-hold tree is located in Boroondara, which is a less common type of cultural scarring. Therefore, the tree is a relatively unique site within the municipality.  At the request of the Traditional Owners, the locations of the sites are confidential so that they can be properly preserved and protected.

In addition to these heritage sites, there are three cultural places in Boroondara, which are significant to local history and reconciliation.

These include:

The Wurundjeri Garden: located in Glan Avon Road, Hawthorn, the Wurundjeri Garden was created as a joint project of the Hawthorn Historical Society and Hawthorn Council (now amalgamated into the City of Boroondara). Dorothy Sutherland started the Wurundjeri Garden with local community members, as part of a Bush Tucker Trail in 1990. Onion weed and ivy were removed and replaced with endemic native plant species and foods. The Friends of Wurundjeri Garden have monthly planting and weeding sessions at the gardens.

Canoe Tree Monument: an Aboriginal monument stone is located on Bowyer Avenue in Kew. The plaque commemorates a significant scarred canoe tree, estimated at the time to be over 1,000 years old, which was felled at that site in the late 1950s. The plaque has the following inscription:

Commemorating the Aborigines and their craftsmanship. This district, formerly their meeting place, was known to them as Bark Hill. On this site grew an immense gum tree from which the Aborigines carved a large bark canoe. This canoe was probably launched on a passing stream which now flows underground to the river Yarra.

The monument was a joint initiative of the Aborigines Advancement League - Kew Branch, and the Kew Historical Society, and was erected in 1965. Former residents recall the site being a regular gathering place for the local ATSI community in the 1960s.

Chandler Park Wurundjeri Trail: Chandler Park is a critical flora and fauna corridor of the Middle Yarra River and, along with Yarra Bend Park and other Yarra River open space frontages, represents one of Boroondara's most significant natural heritage assets.

Honouring Aboriginal people's contribution and leadership

The Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll serves to formally acknowledge and celebrate the wide-ranging achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Victorians, past and present. The 2012 and 2013 inductees connected with the City of Boroondara are listed below.  

For further information about the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll, please see the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website.

Margaret Tucker MBE(C) (1904 - 1996)

Margaret Tucker, or Aunty Marg, was one of Australia’s earliest female Aboriginal activists and a leading figure of the 20th Century. Her optimism and unflagging work ethic helped fuel a movement that won rights once considered unimaginable for ATSI peoples in Victoria and around Australia. Aunty Marg wrote her autobiography If Everyone Cared while living in Camberwell.

William ‘Bill’ Onus (1906 - 1968)

William 'Bill' Onus was a high profile activist and successful entrepreneur. He campaigned to obtain civil liberties for ATSI peoples, and mentored a new generation of leaders who were able to build upon his legacy in Aboriginal rights. Bill, father of Lin Onus, lived in Deepdene with his family.

Harold Blair AM (1924 - 1976)

Harold Blair’s beautiful voice captured the imagination of the Australian public. His unprecedented achievement as the nation’s first Aboriginal tenor opened the door for future generations of ATSI artists, and he used his high profile to demand better treatment for his people. Harold married Dorothy Glady Eden from Camberwell at Camberwell Church of Christ and owned a milkbar in Deepdene.

Mollie Dyer AM (1927 - 1998)

Aunty Mollie Dyer was a staunch defender of ATSI children in care, at a time when their needs were often neglected. Big-hearted and strong-willed, she successfully lobbied for reforms to Victoria's social welfare system and played an integral role in the establishment of several important Aboriginal-run organisations. The Yorta Yorta woman was the daughter of Margaret Tucker, a prominent Aboriginal activist. Mollie spent much of her early childhood with her paternal grandparents in Hawthorn and at the family's orchard in Hastings.

Merle Jackomos OAM (born 1929)

Merle Jackomos is an elder of the Yorta Yorta nation with a strong sense of social justice. She has helped improve lives right around Victoria and Australia. In 1957, Merle started dedicating her time to the fundraising and welfare projects of the Ladies Auxiliary of the newly established Aborigines Advancement League. Merle was a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of ATSI peoples. During the campaign around the 1967 referendum, Merle worked to promote understanding among the wider community, by explaining what the success of the vote would mean for Indigenous Australians. Merle was a founding member of the National Aboriginal and Islander Women's Council. She served on countless committees and organisations, including the NAIDOC committee; as a member of the Victorian Aboriginal Land Council; as an executive member of the National Aboriginal Conference from 1981 to 1985; and as the director of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd from 1979 to 1985. Merle is a resident in the City of Boroondara.

William ‘Lin’ Onus (1948 -1996)

William 'Lin' Onus was a trailblazer who put urban Indigenous art on the map. First and foremost an activist, it was through his paintings and sculptures that he drew attention to the stark realities of life in Aboriginal Australia, while challenging audiences to take action. The Onus family lived in the suburb of Deepdene, and Lin attended Deepdene Primary School and Balwyn High School. 

Peak Organisations

Below are links to the peak organisations building and promoting reconciliation and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.

Reconciliation Australia: The peak national organisation building and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for the wellbeing of the nation. An online calendar of events Australia-wide for National Reconciliation Week is available on their website.

Reconciliation Victoria: As the state peak body for Reconciliation, Reconciliation Victoria Inc. has focused on leading the reconciliation process in Victoria by supporting the growth of local reconciliation groups, promoting cultural awareness and education in the broader community, working with young people, developing strategic partnerships, and building the capacity of the organisation.

Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV): Provides advice to the Victorian Government on Aboriginal policy, planning and delivers key programs. OAAV works in partnership with Indigenous communities, government departments and agencies to promote knowledge, leadership and understanding about Victoria’s Indigenous people.

For advice on acknowledgements of country see the link to the Victorian Government Protocols.