I had a great trip to Gunditjmara Country in Western Victoria last week, kindly hosted by the long term organiser of the Johnny Mullagh XI Cricket Team , Wayne ‘Swisha’ Bell. The team carries the tradition and some of the ancestral links to Australia’s “First XI”, the 1868 side to tour England made up of indigenous shearers and station workers from the local area.
I was drawn back to the area because of the fantastic experience I had in April, where I played a match with Urban Seed’s Credo Cricket team against the Mullagh XI on the banks of the beautiful Glenelg River at Harrow and visited the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Museum.
It was an honour to be shown around Budj Bim (Mt. Eccles), the volcano at the heart of Gunditjmara Dreaming stories and cultural identity. Swisha then took me out to Lake Condah which is presently full of water after many years without, thanks to a recent sustainable development project. The evidence of the stone hut settlements, smoked eel aquaculture and the stories and landscape of the Eumerella Wars of resistance to European settlement were a powerful and humbling eye opener for me.
Such ongoing connections to country have significantly brought Native Title recognition to the area in 2007. As a result Gunditjmara are c0-running the National Park with Parks Victoria and it was very inspiring to see young people from the local community involved in its practical day to day running whilst I was there.
I struck me that these stories and places are of huge significance for all Victorian’s and I look forward to my next cricket and cultural education adventure soon!