In 1835 the area that would become Melbourne belonged to Aboriginal clans who spoke two dialects of a common language. The dialects were called Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung, though their parent language has no name and has been labelled by linguists as ‘East Kulin’, after the two dialects common word for ‘man’. It is considered likely that Aboriginals had been settled in Melbourne for over 30,000 years. The word ‘Kulin’ is sometimes used to describe the Aboriginal people of Victoria.
Although there is some conjecture amongst anthropologists, it is generally accepted that the Merri Creek and the current day City of Darebin area belonged to Wurundjeri-willam clan, one of two branches of the Wurrundjeri balug tribe. This tribe was a large Woiwurrung speaking tribe associated with the Yarra River drainage basin. Wurrundjeri-willam is translated as ‘white gum tree dwellers’. Within the Wurrundjeri-willam there were three sub-groups associated with different territories within the clan’s greater territory. By the 1830s, the groups were distinguished from each other by the names of their clan heads (ngurungaeta). Billibellary was one of the most respected clan heads. His people owned the area around the Merri Creek; and their land extended from the Maribyrnong River and the Merri Creek north to Mount William near Lancefield, encompassing much of Darebin.
The banks of the Darebin Creek also provided popular camping sites for Aboriginals prior to white settlement, especially the area that is now Bundoora Park. A number of artefacts have been found spread across a wide area of Preston, which demonstrates a significant Aboriginal presence. The stone used for the implements found was harnessed from Mt Cooper in North-east Preston, and it is considered likely that the quartzite was used as currency by Aboriginals, as it has been found as far away as Brighton.
Clark, Ian D. and Heydon Toby. (2004). A bend in the Yarra: A history of the Merri Creek Protectorate Station and Merri Creek Aboriginal School 1841-1851, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
Ellender, Isabel and Christiansen, Peter. (2001). People of the Merri Merri: The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days, East Brunswick: Merri Creek Management Committee.
Lemon, Andrew. (1983). The Northcote Side of the River, North Melbourne: Hargreen.