INDIGENOUS

Indigenous grind stone, Little Lake Wallawalla. Photo: P.Barnes, Trust for Nature

 

The Indigenous history of Neds Corner Station is as rich as its natural heritage.  In fact, the two are closely connected.  It is thought that the patterns of native plants and wildlife found by the first Europeans were shaped by indigenous use of the region dating from about 13,000 years ago.  The Murray River provided food for large communities of Indigenous people and areas like Neds Corner Station became important sites for trade and cultural ceremonies.  Archaeological discoveries in the area continue to provide us with valuable insights into how the land was managed and the cultural significance it holds for Indigenous people.

Indigenous use of the environment

Covering and protecting Indigenous site cattle yards.
Photo: P. Barnes, Trust for Nature

For the Indigenous people passing through Neds Corner Station, the land and river was the source of a diverse supply of food.  There was the River, awash with fish, turtles and water mussels. And there was the land, where kangaroos, emus, tree goannas and snakes hopped, ran and slithered over soil filled with yams, soft root tubers and other edible roots (often small herbaceous perennials). 

More than just an abundant supply of food, Neds Corner Station provided Indigenous people with Eucalypt sap for the medical treatments of burns and wounds and supplies such as coarse string made from large Acacia species, waterproof resin from the leaf bases of Xanthorrhea species as a commonly used adhesive, and various species from which to make boomerangs, spears, clubs, shields, digging sticks and containers. 

Middens and hearths revealed by archaeological studies in the area have also suggested that Indigenous communities used nets, weirs, fish traps and spears tipped with bone or quartz to fish from the river.  The soil of Neds Corner Station is also thought to be the preferred type for Indigenous burials and the healthy environment was sought after for burial ceremonies.

Cultural objects and sites

Pine paddock enclosure.
Photo: P.Barnes, Trust for Nature

As you walk through Neds Corner Station it is not unheard of to come across giant River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) with scars cut into the length of the trunk.  These so called ‘scarred trees’ have had bark removed by Indigenous people for the creation of canoes or shelters, some as long ago as 200 years.  In fact, Neds Corner Station and its surrounding areas are believed to contain one of the highest densities of Indigenous cultural objects and burial sites in Victoria.

Scarred trees are also used for marking boundaries, ceremonial sites and burial areas. The wood and bark removed were used for shields and bowls, and some of the smaller ‘canoe trees’ were used as floating devices to keep their catch in.

Trust for Nature recognises the significance of these sites and works closely with the Indigenous people of the Murray region to protect them from potential exposure caused by erosion, rabbit burrowing and other animal or human disturbance. Protection of cultural heritage is often best achieved through the promotion of native plants and the Trust, in partnership with the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and Parks Victoria, has undertaken extensive fencing and pest animal control to stabilise areas at threat.  A large scale fencing project in partnership with the Australian Government will be undertaken over the next 12 months to continue to test the relationship between native vegetation regeneration and the protection of Indigenous sites.

Ongoing work

Indigenous Flaked Stone Tool, Little Lake Wallawalla, Neds Corner Station.
Photo: P.Barnes, Trust for Nature

Archaeological studies of Neds Corner Station are being carried out by La Trobe University.  The University has established a field school with students by which Indigenous cultural heritage at various sites on Neds Corner Station will be assessed. These investigations will help to form a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the property, and may extend into wider studies such as  the possible interaction between Indigenous people and megafauna in the area.

The goal of Trust for Nature at Neds Corner is to promote the bond between people and the landscape, a bond demonstrated by Indigenous use of the land for millennia. Achieving closer ties with the Indigenous community will be an important part of our journey.