Historically, the lands around Casey were inhabited by the Bunurong/Boonwurrung Peoples. Today, Aboriginal people from all over Australia live in the City of Casey. The Bunurong/Boonwurrung People represent a number of Clans and/or Family groups.
The City of Casey lies within the boundary of the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong/Boonwurrung.
The Mayone Bulluk Bunurong/Boonwurrung
Mayone Bulluk cultural, ceremonial and spiritual life was shaped by the seasons through the availability of their natural resources. Through thousands of years of observation, Bunurong people were able to predict the availability of their seasonal resources by certain changes in plant growth and animal behaviour.
For example, the Bunurong/Boonwurrung people knew that when the first wattles flowered that some species of fish were about to begin spawning. This would give them enough time to travel to the river and creek mouths to net or spear fish. This sort of knowledge allowed the Bunurong/Boonwurrung and many other Aboriginal people to survive sustainably and comfortably for thousands of generations.
Summer at coastal camps
During summer, the Mayone Bulluk could (and still can) be found at one of their many coastal camps at Mordialloc, Frankston or Warneet on Westernport Bay. Here they would access many of their favourite foods such as:
- bird eggs
Abalone (left) and pipis (right) were collected for food from the coastal area
For vegetables they would collect a variety of bulbs, shoots and foliage like the Warrigal Spinach. After eating their meal the Mayone Bulluk would wash it all down with a lovely drink made from the nectar of the coastal banksia flowers.
Huts and trading
The Mayone Bulluk lived in small huts called "Miam'mia". These huts were made from the boughs of trees or thatched with one of the many grasses or sedges that once flourished on Bunurong/Boonwurrung land.
From these huts, the Mayone Bulluk would launch excursions to forage for yams and hunt kangaroos and possums. Kangaroo and possum skins were continually tanning to make cloaks and rugs for winter.
The cloaks were also a valuable trade item. It is said that one possum skin cloak made from 50 hides was worth one Greenstone axe head blank.
Greenstone axe blank (left) and ground-edge axe
Image courtesy Aboriginal Affairs Victoria Mini-Poster series
As winter drew near, the Mayone Bulluk families would begin to move inland to their favourite winter camps around present day Dandenong, Cranbourne and Moorooduc.
Winter foods and huts
During the coldest months when kangaroos were frisky, the Mayone Bulluk would meet up with neighbouring Bunurong/Boonwurrung clans to mount large scale hunts and take part in cultural ceremonies.
They would also catch eels and collect the many shoots and mushrooms that were abundant at that time of year.
Occasionally the women would show the children how to take seed from an ants’ nest, which the ants unknowingly stored while collecting their own food. The seed would be used to make stomach-filling bread that would be shared with everyone. With a little wild honey, the bread was guaranteed to put a smile on everybody's face.
Some would feast on the sweet piths of the tree fern or grass tree while others would be in the many freshwater streams catching eel's and fish while gathering freshwater mussels and crayfish.
The men would teach the young boys the art of snaring and tracking small game, as the young girls learnt the art of making eel traps and basketry. All the while the Mayone Bulluk would see out the cold in small houses made from the bark of trees. These huts are known as "Willam".
Tree with bark removed
Spring and travel
When the Elders of the Mayone Bulluk observed the first blooms of the black wattle trees, they would begin the trip back down to the swamp. Later, they would travel onto the coast where they knew the plentiful resources of Port Phillip Bay awaited. Once again the seasons changed and the Mayone Bulluk moved with them.
The landscape today
Today, very little of the landscape that the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong/Boonwurrung can be seen. This is due to introduced land management practices and widespread, rapid development. The few remaining sites of cultural, social and spiritual significance to the Bunurong/Boonwurrung People on Mayone Bulluk land are under threat from development. Sadly, sites are being destroyed or disturbed on a daily basis.
Despite still being totally dispossessed of their traditional land, the Bunurong/Boonwurrung people play an active role in the protection, preservation and awareness of their culture, heritage and environment. They do this through the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.