|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (20/07/2004)|
|Place File No||2/02/137/0001|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
The Tyrendarra Area in Western Victoria, contains the
remains of a complex system of natural and artificially created wetlands,
channels, the stone bases of weirs and stone fish traps that were used by
Gunditj Mara people to grow and harvest eels and fish. The remains on Tyrendarra are part of
the same system as the remains in the Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area, and are
hundreds and probably thousands of years old.
The system is markedly different from contemporary, historical and archeological records of freshwater fish traps recorded in other parts of Australia. The fish traps in other parts of Australia channelled fish in streams or rivers into traps rather than creating conditions for fish husbandry. The remains of the channels, weirs and fishtraps at Tyrendarra show a high degree of creativity not found in freshwater fish traps in other parts of Australia, and contains all the elements that demonstrate the functioning of this system of eel aquaculture.
This system of eel aquaculture in the Tyrendarra area, including modified and engineered wetlands and eels traps, demonstrates a transition from a forager society to a society that practiced husbandry of fresh water fish. This resulted in high population densities represented by the remains of stone huts clustered into villages of between two and sixteen huts. It also provided the economic base for a stratified society ruled by chiefs with a form of hereditary succession to this office, which is unusual in Aboriginal Australia.
European settlement in the area commenced during the 1830s. Like many other frontiers, conflict between Europeans and Aborigines was endemic in the Lake Condah area. Aboriginal people often used parts of the landscape that Europeans found difficult to access as a base for their resistance to encroaching European settlement. The Gunditj Mara people resisted European encroachment of their lands during the Eumerella wars that lasted more than 20 years. Gunditj Mara used the Mt Eccles lava flow to launch their attacks. Because the lava flow is uneven and rocky, Europeans and their horses found it difficult to penetrate the area. This allowed Gunditj Mara to escape from attempted reprisals and to continue their resistance to European settlement. The Mt Eccles lava flow provides a particularly clear example of the way that Aboriginal people used their environment as a base for launching attacks on European settlers and escaping reprisal raids during frontier conflicts.
The story of the Gunditj Mara people of Western Victoria is
intimately related to the eruption of the Mt Eccles volcano, which was active
between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago (Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup
Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993: 35).|
Mt Eccles and the other Western Victorian volcanos are amongst the youngest in Australia. It dates to the Pleistocene with the most recent Tyrendarra lava flow occurring about 20,000 years ago. This means that Aboriginal people would have witnessed the eruption of Mt Eccles.
The Tyrendarra lava flow altered the drainage in the area and helped to create Lake Condah and its associated wetlands. These and other wetlands in Western Victoria were used and modified by Aboriginal people who developed a complex system for growing and harvesting fish, particularly eels (Builth 2002, 2003). This system is markedly different from the contemporary, historical and archaeological record of freshwater fish traps (Sutton 2004) recorded in other parts of Australia.
Aboriginal people dug channels to carry water from streams to low lying areas where a system of weirs was used to pond the water (Coutts et al 1978; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Lourandos 1980, 1983; Clark 1990; Williams 1988; Builth 2002, 2003). The ponds and wetlands allowed Aboriginal people to practice a form of aquaculture in which they grew the fish and eels and then harvested them by draining the water through woven basket that trapped the fish (Builth 2002, 2003). Early descriptions and recent scientific evidence indicates that eels were preserved by smoking them in the hollows of mana gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) trees (Builth 2002).
In one part of Western Victoria, the area between Mt Eccles and the sea, this system of channels ponds, weirs and traps is associated with the remains of circular stone huts (Couts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Builth 2002, 2003). These huts can occur singly but generally occur in clusters of between two and sixteen huts (Clark 1990; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992). The material from the stone huts indicates they are Aboriginal (Coutts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992) and the spatial association between the huts and the fish traps indicates they are part of the same cultural complex.
This system of eel aquaculture provided an economic base that supported large numbers of people organised in a form of stratified society ruled by chiefs (Dawson 1881; Clark 1990a; Builth 2002, 2003).
Permanent European settlement in the area began in the 1840s with the arrival from Tasmania of the Henty Brothers. There was conflict as European settlement expanded into Gunditj Mara lands. Gunditj Mara used the Tyrendarra lava flow as a base from where they launched attacks on white settlers. Because the lava flow is uneven and rocky, Europeans and their horses found it difficult to penetrate the area. This allowed Aboriginal raiders to escape from attempted reprisals (Clarke 1990: 238-250). After a number of attacks on pastoral properties native police were dispatched to the district. By 1849, the native police had broken Gunditj Mara resistance (Clarke 1990: 238-250).
In the 1860s, Victoria began developing a system of Aboriginal Reserves. Gunditj Mara living in the Portland and Heywood areas refused to move to the mission at Framlingham so a new reserve and mission was created at Lake Condah in 1868 (Clark 1990: 232; Context 2000). In 1919, after the First World War in which many Gunditj Mara served, the Victorian Government closed the Lake Condah mission. Ironically, much of the land was sold to the Closer Settlement Board to provide land to returned soldiers. Although attempts were made to settle Aboriginal people on the lake Tyers Reserve many remained or returned to the Lake Condah mission area. The last of the reserved land was revoked in 1959 and the church was demolished.
The proposal by Alcoa to develop an Aluminium smelter near Portland led to protests and court actions by Gunditj Mara who wanted to protect their heritage. Following negotiations between Gunditj Mara, the Victorian Government and Alcoa, it was agreed that the old Lake Condah mission would be purchased and returned to the Aboriginal community (Context 2000). However, the Victorian Government was unable to pass the enabling legislation through its Upper House and turned to the Commonwealth for assistance (Context 2000). Under the constitutional to make laws for Aboriginal people power granted in the 1967 referendum the Commonwealth passed the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Act 1987.
|History Not Available|
|Condition and Integrity|
The system of eel aquaculture within the Tyrendarra area has
been affected by natural decay over the last one hundred and fifty years which
has resulted in the loss of wood and clay features that formed part of the
weirs, fish traps and huts.
However, the stone bases of these structures are still intact. Some of these structures may have been
dismantled by Europeans to construct the dry-stone fences that are ubiquitous
in this area. These processes have
not altered the legibility in the landscape of the Aboriginal settlement and aquaculture system.|
About 275ha, 2km north of Tyrendarra, comprising Lots 158A,
158B, 159, 159A, 159B.|
Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Aboriginal Corporation. 1993. Lake Condah: Heritage Management Plan and Strategy. Melbourne: Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.|
Builth, H. 2002. The Archaeology and Socio-Economy of the Gunditjmara: a Landscape Approach. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis. Adelaide: Flinders University.
Builth, H. 2003. Tyrendarra Property: Plan of Management. Unpublished Report to Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation and Environment Australia.
Clark, I.D. 1990a. The People of the Lake, Lake Condah, Victoria, Australia: an Information Manual. Unpublished Report by Koorie Tourism Unit, Victorian Tourism Commission.
Clark, I.D. 1990b. Aboriginal Languages and Clans: An Historical Atlas of Western and Central Victoria. Monash Publications in Geography, 37.
Coutts, P., Frank, R. and Hughes, P. 1978. Aboriginal Engineers of Western Victoria. Records of the Victorian Archaeological Survey, 7.
Dawson, J. 1881. Australian Aborigines: the Language and Custom of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. Melbourne: Robertson.
Lourandos, H. 1980. Change or stability?: hydraulics, hunter-gatherers and population in temperate Australia. World Archaeology, 11: 245-264.
Sutton, M. 2004. A Comparative Study of Indigenous Fresh Water Fish Traps. Unpublished Report to Indigenous Heritage Assessment Section.
Williams, E. 1988. Complex Hunter-Gatherer: A Late Holocene Example from Temperate Australia. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 423.
Report Produced Sat Dec 21 01:24:32 2013