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Our park gets a Woi Wurrung name

AT ITS SEPTEMBER meeting, Manningham Council voted to adopt the name wonguim wilam [pronounced “won-goom wil-lum”] as the official name of the park at the base of the Warrandyte Bridge.
Mayor of Manningham Cr Andrew Conlon said he thanked the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation for engaging in this process with Manningham.
“It is a great step in the right direction for us as Manningham as we move towards reconciliation.”
He said adopting a Woi Wurrung name for the park was a “historic moment for Manningham”, and he hoped that this would be the first of many places in Manningham to adopt a Woi Wurrung name.
“But more importantly I hope to maintain this great relationship we have with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Corporation,” Cr Conlon said.

Recognising Lions

Yarra Ward Councillor Carli Lange made a statement at the council meeting acknowledging the contribution Warrandyte Lions Club has made over the last 50 years.
She explained to the Diary:
“The Warrandyte Lions Club past and present members have been custodians of the former tennis courts for the last 45–48 years and have spent their time and resources caring for the local environment, maintenance and tennis courts.
The Warrandyte Lions Club [have said they] would like to take this opportunity to honour our Aboriginal people (past, present, and emerging) and take a leadership role in reconciliation, as we approach the official naming of what we have all known as Lions Park.
Lions Park has never been officially registered as a name, but is well known as Lions Park in the community and by Council because of the significant contribution the Warrandyte Lions Club has had within the park. Moving forward, the park precinct will be given a Woi-Wurrung name approved by the Woi-Wurrung Elders, highlighting our community’s commitment to reconciliation, and honouring our original owners of the land.
Significant signage will be placed throughout the park taking us on a journey of the monumental contribution The Lions Club have had and continue to have in the park, tennis courts, exercise equipment and maintenance of BBQ shelter and BBQs.
The Warrandyte Lions Club are
significant stakeholders in the past, present and future advancement of the park and should be honoured accordingly throughout the whole area.

wonguim wilam park, Warrandyte

wonguim wilam park

I look forward to continual consultation between Manningham
Council, the Warrandyte Lions Club, the Warrandyte Historical Society, and the Warrandyte Community Association on the care, future, and upgrade of the park, while ensuring this area honours all its custodians and future stakeholders”.
Following a unanimous vote, the Woi-Wurrung name was adopted for the park, including the area known as the Federation Playspace, with signage to be installed recognising the contributions made by Lions and other groups over the history of the site.

 

A brief history of wonguim wilam

By VALERIE POLLEY
WARRANDYTE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

THE NEW PARK development replacing the old tennis courts by the bridge has been a huge success and widely used.
It is about to receive a new name.
There are a few more steps to be undertaken before it becomes official, but the process is underway.
Manningham Council has worked with Aunty Doreen and the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, to approve the park’s name of wonguim wilam [pronounced “won-goom wil- lum”], which translates to Boomerang Place.
Wurundjeri’s Aunty Doreen provided the reason below for this name:
“Warrandyte Implement Making Pre‐contact food resources/areas where people continued to procure food.
Aboriginal people were seen making spears and boomerangs from tea tree in the vicinity of Trezise Street and Cemetery Road.”
Bill Onus, who was living in Epping, is recorded as giving boomerang demonstrations at the old Warrandyte cricket ground.
Two of these Boomerangs were given to Bill McCulloch (a local resident).
Bill Onus was born in the 1920s indicating that a possible date for the boomerang demonstrations could be anywhere between the 1940s–1960s.
This may also be the source of a miniature boomerang located at Pound Bend and held at the Parks Victoria office (AAV 7922‐560).
We have a boomerang purchased from an Aboriginal man (who we remember as Bill, so assume was Bill Onus) at the Recreation Reserve in the late 1960s.
It is the only one we have ever bought that actually returns when thrown.
Bill demonstrated the correct throw at the time, and it has been used quite a bit and is a bit battered — Polley Family.
Readers may be interested in the following item which is part of a series on Warrandyte Prehistory written by member/resident Lee Scott Virtue.
Lee has degrees in archaeology and history and ran her own archaeological consultancy business for a number of years.
This record contains historic language that may be considered outdated or offensive.
The original wording and content have been retained in the interests of research and historical data.

WHS Newsletter December 1982

This instalment will be devoted to some of the traditional Aboriginal activities observed in the Warrandyte area.
Whilst it seems most of the old cultural learnings were lost by the middle 1840s a number of traditional activities were observed in the area as late as the 1930s. Several oral traditions mention the presence of a number of clay ovens around Pound Bend and along other parts of the river.
Aborigines were observed baking magpies, ‘blackfellas’ bread and snakes and lizards in clay ovens situated under the original bridge across the Yarra.
The magpies were placed, complete with feathers, in the ovens and baked approximately an hour or until the feathers came free of the meat. Pieces of snakes and lizards were often mixed with the ‘bread’.
Bill McCulloch mentions seeing literally dozens of these mud ovens under and around the old bridge and witnessed a number of the above activities taking place on several occasions.
This appears to have been sometime between the late 1920s and early 1930s.
These activities were probably carried out by Aborigines visiting the area.
It was during this period when Healesville was finally closed down, leaving many Aborigines who refused to go to Lake Tyers to roam the area quite freely.
By this time also there appears to have been no permanent aboriginal
residents left in the area.
Native bread (or Blackfellow’s bread as it was known in colonial times) is a fungus Laccocephalum mylittae (formerly Polyporus mylittae).
It has a texture like closely pressed grains of cereal and was eaten by Aboriginal people.
Bill McCulloch (who died in 1987) was a long-time resident of Warrandyte.
He was the last mounted “postie” in Victoria as well as a gravedigger and a Trustee at the Anderson Creek Cemetery.
The following information has recently been sent to Manningham Council for possible signage for the new park.

Riverside Rallies

It was reported in the Evelyn Observer in 1912 that the Templestowe Shire Council had been successful in having the strip of Government land, including the tennis court up to the battery site, proclaimed a Recreation Reserve.
It was thought that, together with the river frontage, it would create a park, which would benefit both residents and visitors.
Over the decades their foresight has proven very true.
The tennis court mentioned was the first (east-west) tennis court built by Warrandyte Tennis Club volunteers in 1908, close to the river and the picturesque timber bridge.
Matches were soon being organised between adjoining clubs and improvements made with new planting and fencing planned.
However, over the early years the club’s activities waxed and waned according to demand and support and it was not until the later 1920s that the club began to flourish on a more permanent basis.
In 1934, catastrophic floods engulfed the court requiring much remedial work and then the Black Friday fires of 1939 literally melted the asphalt.
Yet the club recovered and continue to play on a new north-south concrete court even during the WWII years and the club continued to prosper.
The 1950s saw the area undergo considerable change with the replacement of the old bridge.
The court was resurfaced with asphalt in 1957.
A second court was added in 1961 and both surfaced with en-tous-cas in 1964 and a modest clubhouse built.
Then, in 1975 the Tennis Club moved to a new home at the recreation reserve where there were four courts and more room to grow.
The bridge tennis courts then fell into disrepair until the Warrandyte Lions Club took over their management in 1981.
The courts were made available for public hire (key to be collected from a nearby milk bar) and coaching classes held.
The Warrandyte Tennis Club could still access the courts when extra capacity was needed.
The Lions Club also provided barbecue facilities and parking and the Lions Park was well used.
However, as private tennis courts became more widely built, public use of the courts gradually declined, and the Lions Club eventually relinquished their management of the area.
From 2018 Manningham Council together with a Masterplan Community Reference Group worked on plans to replace the courts with an attractive riverside park.
Stage 1 was opened in 2020 to general acclaim.
Stage 2, upgrading the children’s play area, is currently underway.

Bridging the Yarra

This was the site of the third (and longest lasting) wooden bridge over the river.
Built in 1875 this was a strongly built, trussed wooden bridge on yellow box piles set into solid rock.
Its length was 308 feet (94 metres) and its height from the bed of the river 33 feet (about 10 metres).
The single-lane bridge provided a reliable link with the Caledonia Diggings and to other areas north of the river.
Over time the bridge withstood both fires and floods.
In the record floods of December 1934, water from the flooded Yarra River covered the bridge decking at one stage, with debris such as trees, cattle, and haystack, pressing down with the swollen water.
A collapse was thought imminent but the bridge managed to survive the intense pressure.
The old wooden bridge was greatly loved by the residents.
There were many stories about it, such as residents who, if challenged for being slow across, would leave their vehicle in the middle thus blocking traffic flow.
It was at the centre of the festivities when seeing in the New Year.
Being very picturesque, the old wooden bridge was painted by many well-known artists and photographed by others.
The well-loved bridge survived until 1955 when it was replaced by a solid two-lane concrete bridge, upgraded to three lanes wide in 2019.

Bridge Café

This was located at the village end of the bridge.
Various families ran the popular Bridge Café during the 1930s and 40s serving Devonshire Teas and refreshments to locals and visitors alike.
There were reports of weekend tourists sitting in a line of traffic while the single-track, wooden span bridge disgorged oncoming vehicles and children took advantage of delays to buy ice creams from the café.
The Bridge Café was sold, and the building removed to make way for the new concrete bridge in 1955.

Kia-Ora and Taffy Jones residence

The two other buildings located here were burnt down in the Black Friday Bushfires of 1939 that swept through Warrandyte.
The Kia-Ora Café dated from the early 1900s.
It grew and prospered under several proprietors over the decades, offering suppers, catering for celebrations and coach parties, afternoon teas, wedding breakfasts and generally catering for locals and visitors alike.
Taffy Jones took over the cafe and residence in the 1920s.
The ruins that remain on the site are all that survive of Taffy Jones residence.

This article first appeared in the Warrandyte Historical Society newsletter, September 2021.