Rare link to Indigenous history

One of the Wurundjeri Earth Rings which is currently located on private property. (Supplied: Oliver Lees) 239243_01

By Oliver Lees

A group of “largely unknown” Indigenous sites in Sunbury are an important part of the area’s history, according to Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin.

The Wurundjeri Earth Rings were first designed by local Indigenous tribes to perform ceremonies several hundred years ago.

The ring formations, which include large stones and heaped soil, vary in size from nine to 16 metres in diameter. There are five known sites located across three different areas.

Mr Wandin said although there is no existing written history of the site, they still “tell a story”.

“They became known around the 1970s, there was an investigation done and a woman elder recognised that they’re similar to what is known as Bora rings,” Mr Wandin said, referring to similar Indigenous sites found in New South Wales.

“We believe that they were used for marriage ceremonies where men and women would get prepared separately.

“They’re very rare in Victoria, so many have been destroyed and we don’t know if there are another 10 or 60.”

Each of the five Earth Rings are currently recognised by Aboriginal Victoria as areas of cultural sensitivity, however the Wurundjeri Tribe Land Council currently holds the title for just three of the rings.

Hume council maintains one site with the guidance of the land council, while the final ring is on private property.

Mr Wandin said a greater appreciation of the Earth Rings would help educate people of the sophisticated nature of Indigenous history.

“People have this misconception about Aboriginal people that we were hunter-gatherers, but in actual fact we had a very complex society,” he said.

“As well as the Earth Rings, you can find tools used for scraping down hinds, as spear tips, and stones used by doctors scattered throughout the property.

“It’s important to identify and educate people of their importance, but we do not have enough funding or personnel to make sure they’re not disturbed.

“I would love one day to have the appropriate permits in place to clean up the edges and level it out again.”

National Reconciliation Week (NRW), first started in 1993, was designed to celebrate Indigenous history and culture across Australia.

NRW 2021 is running from May 27 to June 3, with the theme ‘more than a word, reconciliation takes action’.

Last week, the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, which seeks to establish a commission for decision-making between First Nations people and the federal government, was declared the winner of the 2021 Sydney Peace Prize.

Mr Wandin said the Earth Rings demonstrate the importance of reconciliation.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of reconciliation. I’m 60-years-old and I grew up not even recognised as a human being by the Australian government,” he said.

“These rings, they’re not just a bump on the ground, to us they’re what’s left of our history.”

To book a tour of the Earth Ring site, visit: www.wurundjeri.com.au/