Will you take a few moments of your time to learn and honour a valuable piece of Australian history?

Entrepreneurship and technology that fell out of historical accounts in the 20th century, untaught and forgotten?

Did you know Aboriginal and European people built the economy of Victoria together?

Did you know there were no bridges in Victoria in the 1800s?

Did you know Aboriginal people in Stringybark canoes helped transport European people and goods across rivers? 

Did you know many Europeans and migrants were saved by Aboriginal people? 

Just recently there was an analysis of Victorian parliament that found the representation of women in parliament at a low but also that Indigenous representation out of a state population of 0.8% at 0%. This example given by Victoria is not one that makes any other state above Victoria in the recognition and sharing of power with Indigenous people, as Indigenous Australians are still pushed aside like nobodies and non-contributors. The true power and say over Australia is still not shared by the “Australian” brothers and sisters who claim or expect us to walk down the street daily and say ‘We are one”.

“Majority of Australians do not know their history”

Noting Australian history

You cannot look at any part of Australian History without finding Indigenous Australians attached to it like glue. The good and the bad. Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians are chained together in Australia’s Foundation records and the key has been thrown away. Every industry, economy, the war had Indigenous sweat, hands and lives behind it too. That contribution stands out and demands respect of us today if we truly are going to walk together as “Australian” brothers and sisters.
This recognition cannot be something we just talk about, yet walk past each other on the street or do not sit down with each other at school. uni, work. These conversations also need to go beyond any Aboriginal group, community or family. Indigenous Australians are a sharing and caring people, not suicide bombers or a group of people out to target another group of people because of past actions. Indigenous Australians simply would like non-Indigenous Australians to care about and share with them as brothers and sisters. Is it wrong for me to have to often question and ask my people if we are simply stuck in our own humanity? I still do not see the same human concern, loyalty and love shown to Indigenous people as we have shown Australia.

Stringy Bark Canoes and how we built Victoria Together

Many times when a conversation pops up about Aboriginal history many non-aboriginal Australians jump to the conclusion of the conversation leading straight to a story about the massacres and mistreatment. A subject that is part of the Australian Story, it binds us all to this land, and can never be forgotten. This, however, is an uncommon story of History that you may not have heard, and certainly not taught in a school system growing up in Australia. This part of history has been shelved and forgotten for 100 years.

Aboriginal people managed waterways across Australia. In Victoria there are Aboriginal made Stone Fish Traps and water ecology sites that predate Stonehenge and the Pyramids.  

Being just one great social and economical example of Indigenous contribution in Australia’s foundation, the recent documentary Seeing the land from an aboriginal canoe’. sheds light on the history of Victoria. One of the filmmakers Lucinda Horrocks highlights how Indigenous people made a significant contribution to the early economy of Victoria in the 1800s, with canoes being used as transport to help the new European arrivals.

“In a real crucial way Aboriginal people were part of the foundation and the mapping out of Victoria as we know it today” Lucinda Horrocks film maker behind Seeing the land from an Aboriginal canoe on Culture Victoria

During the arrival of Europeans and migrants to Victoria in the early 1800s, it was the Entrepreneurship of Aboriginal people that helped to build Victoria. There were no bridges built-in Victoria back then. The flooding made it hard for settlement. There would have been no Victoria as we know today without the help of Aboriginal people and their Stringy Bark canoes. Aboriginal people were the postal service, e-commerce deliverer, bus and taxi service in the 1800s. They worked transporting all new arrivals and goods across Victoria. They helped to establish the major trade and transport system that built Victoria.

Aboriginal people guided people cattle, pets across the Murray. In one instance even a “Piano” was spoken of being ferried. Alfred Howitt conducting geological research wrote on how he depended on Aboriginal guides to build and man canoes for ferrying the exploration team across rivers. 

Many of the European and Migrants arriving in Victoria did not often how to swim. Aboriginal people would ferry them in their canoes.

TheGraphic-AGB-Inset2.jpg (1)
Photo Courtesy Culture Victoria
When Victoria flooded many lost their lives or found themselves trapped in floodwaters. It was Aboriginal people who would be there to help and save many of Europeans and early migrants. These were different times to live a life being classed as an ‘Aboriginal person’ in Australia. Even though the pain and struggle aboriginal people faced that had been brought with the new arrivals to their country, they were still standing there as a brother or sister when a non-aboriginal Australian needed them.
There is the case of an Aboriginal man going out on his canoe during what is known as one of the worst floods in Australia’s history and saving many Europeans and migrants. During ragging waters he plucked many people hanging on to their houses or rooftops, saving them from almost certain death and risking his own life at the same time. He walked away not asking for any reward or payment. 
Photo Culture Victoria
Aboriginal ‘Wonder Women’ and a female Australian hero of her time.
Another notable case is of an Aboriginal woman and her stringybark canoe who saved a group of men at Moe (Central Gippsland, Eastern Victoria) This European over-landing party in the 1870s who were afraid to cross the flooded water and had eaten all their supplies, were found and saved by an Aboriginal woman. When she heard them ‘cooeeing’ she crossed the flooded waters “twice over” bringing them tea, sugar and damper. These travellers depended on this woman’s canoeing and bush skills for their survival.
The representation of women in Parliament should have improved decades ago. The role that women have played in the foundation of Australia sits in the same line of script in the story of the Australian male. Are we still living in a time when Australian women had hardly any say and were not included in the National anthem? It seems so, the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in the National song is also still totally lacking today. Are we taking steps forward or backwards?
The examples given by Aboriginal people have been left to remind us. Victoria is an example of how Australia was built together. Further examples go right into the Goldrush, where the Aboriginal canoe transport and trade system still played a major role. It is time to re-write our history together.

Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Australia “share” moments in history that stand out and demand respect in how we remember the building of this country. Respect that demands many Australians to go beyond their first conclusions when hearing a conversation involving Indigenous people in Australian History.

Beyond the common “one of those aboriginal history moments, here we go again thoughts. 

Beyond the “ why don’t you just forget the past and get over it conversations”

We share a history together as today so why don’t we start to recognize and teach that fact in our school system?

If we are “Australian brothers and sisters” why don’t we start acting liking it instead of walking past each other on the street and not inviting each other to sit at our dinner table sometime? The true history should be taught to every future Australian sitting in an Australian school chair today. Teaching the kids what we were not taught in school is correcting the mistakes and the only way to a brighter future together.

Time we re-teach the teachers!

We recognize the traditional owners and Elders of all Victorian Aboriginal groups. We write as contributors to sharing Indigenous Australian History.

If you would like to take a moment and learn a bit more of this history, you can find all the information below at Culture Victoria

Culture Victoria –

*Cover image attribute also to Culture Victoria

*Video from Wind and Sky productions on Youtube

If you enjoyed this article please share and follow us below

Further Sources
“To many white men- analysis of Victorians new parliament reveals diversity gap persists” by The Gaurdian

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.