Traditional Owners & languages of our campuses

Victoria University has campuses across Melbourne’s central and western suburbs, and central Sydney, located on Aboriginal land.

At VU, the places you study or work were traditionally owned and named by the Kulin Nations people in Melbourne, and the Eora Nations people in Sydney – for 65,000 years before European settlement.

Find out more about the people, their language and traditions – and the history behind some of the local places that are home to the oldest living cultures on earth.

About the Kulin Nations

The Kulin Nation consists of the five language groups who are the traditional owners and lived in what is known as the Port Phillip region:

  • Boonwurrung (Boon-wur-rung)
  • Dja Dja Wurrung (Jar-Jar-Wur-rung)
  • Taungurung (Tung-ger-rung)
  • Wathaurung (Wath-er-rung)
  • Woiwurrung (Woy-wur-rung), commonly known as Wurundjeri.

Their collective traditional territory extends around Port Phillip and Western Port bays. It extends up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys.

The language groups were connected through shared moieties (divided groups) – the Bunjil (wedge-tailed eagle) and Waa (crow). Bunjil is the creation spirit of the Kulin and Waa the protector of the waterways. A waterfall was once located at Queens Bridge, stretching to St Kilda and Albert Park Lake. This was an important resource for the Kulin people, but it was destroyed in the 1880s and covered by Elizabeth Street.

Archaeological evidence has provided an account of Aboriginal occupation in the Port Philip region. This evidence takes a variety of forms such as the tools or other implements that were used. These artefacts and sites have been found all over the Port Philip region. Within the land of the Kulin there are at least 1500 registered archaeological sites of various types. About 200 of them are within the Melbourne metropolitan area itself.

City campus

Close to our City Campus lies the banks of the Birrarung Marr. The traditional name of the Yarra River that flows through Melbourne city; 'marr' refers to the mist that sometimes settles over the Birrarung. Loosely the words are translated to 'river of mists'.

The river was called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung people who lived in the Yarra Valley and much of Central Victoria prior to European settlement. Europeans gave the name 'Yarra Yarra' believing that this was the name for the river in the Boonwurrung language. However, it’s believed that Yarra means waterfall, flow, or refers to running or falling water, descriptive of any river or creek in the area. Prior to European settlement the river was once an eel breeding ground alive with sharks, stingrays and dolphins.

Travel to our Footscray campuses via Wurundjeri Way – a 1.9-kilometre road running from the CBD towards Melbourne’s west. The road was named in honour of the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung people, Traditional Owners of the region for 65,000 years.

Footscray campuses

  • Footscray Park
  • Footscray Nicholson
  • VU at MetroWest (Footscray)

The area around Footscray has been home to the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung people for over 40,000 years.

The Maribyrnong River’s name comes from the Aboriginal term ‘Mirring-gnay-bir-nong’, which translates as ‘I can hear a ringtail possum’. Shell middens and surface scatters have been recorded near the river.

Many scar trees remain along the river's banks. Canoes were made from bark that was removed from the tree with a tomahawk and pole. Bark was also used to build shields, containers and temporary shelters. Fish and eels were a large component of the Aboriginal people’s diet. These were caught with spears and sophisticated traps made from woven plant fibres and stones.

Brimbank campuses

  • St Albans
  • Sunshine

Brimbank Council lies within the area occupied by the Kurung-Jang-Balluk and Marin-Balluk clans of the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung people. These clan groups form part of the larger Kulin Nation. Other groups who occupied land in the area include the Yalukit-Willam and Marpeang-Bulluk clans.

A total of 157 registered Aboriginal archaeological sites exist within Brimbank. The oldest artefacts found are over 30,000 years old. These include bone remnants, ochre, charcoal and hearth stones. A small number of formal tools have also been found, including blades and scrapers. Indigenous Australian grasslands are still remnant outside of the Iramoo site – centre for environmental conservation and sustainability at VU's St Albans Campus. Iramoo means 'grassy plains' in the Woiwurrung language.

Werribee campus

The Wadawurrung, Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung language groups lived throughout the Werribee region. Recently the State Government Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council assigned the cultural heritage management of Werribee to the Bunurong Aboriginal Land Council.

The name Werribee means ‘backbone’ or ‘spine’ in traditional language. It is thought that this name comes from the shape of the Werribee River valley, which looks like a backbone.

Koori burials were discovered during sand mining close to the Werribee River. The burials were about 7,300 years old.

VU Sydney Campus

Victoria University’s Sydney campus is situated on the traditional lands of the Gadigal and Guring-gai of the Eora Nation. In traditional language, Eora means ‘here’ or ‘from this place’.

Some of Sydney’s main thoroughfares – including nearby King Street, George and Oxford Streets – are said to have followed Aboriginal tracks that served as trading routes between farmed grasslands or fishing areas.

The Aboriginal name for Sydney Cove was reported as Warrane, also spelt War-ran, Warrang and Weerong. This place is highly significant to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as a site of first contact between the Eora and the Berewalgal (meaning people from a distant place: the Europeans).

There are around 20 recorded archaeological sites within the boundaries of the City of Sydney local government area comprising middens, rock engravings, open campsites and burial sites.

Find out more

Moondani Balluk is a culturally safe and supportive place for Aboriginal students and staff at Victoria University. Moondani Balluk means ‘embrace people’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people.

Get in touch with VU's Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit:

  • Phone: +61 3 9919 5681 (reverse charge calls accepted)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Follow Moondani Balluk on Facebook and keep up-to-date with news and events.