Aboriginal people have a deep and continuous connection to the place now called Victoria. Aboriginal people have lived in the Maribyrnong River valley for at least 40,000 years and probably far longer. The City of Maribyrnong was built largely on the traditional lands of the Marin-balluk clan of the Woi Wurrung language group, one of the five language groups of the Kulin Nation. The Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nation is recognised as the traditional custodians of this land. The Kulin share religious beliefs, creation stories or oral history, and are affiliated with one of two groups (moieties) named after creators or ancestors Bunjil (eaglehawk) and Waa (crow). The religious beliefs formed the basis for social organisations and management of land and resources.
It is estimated that when Europeans first arrived some 200 years ago, Aboriginal nations across Victoria sustained more than 60,000 people. These societies were characterised by a complex array of laws, languages, traditions, spiritual beliefs and cultural ties.
European settlement in Maribyrnong in the 1830s had a massive impact on Aboriginal people, as it did throughout Victoria and Australia, decimating communities, displacing families and disrupting lives. Traditional lands were taken over by settlers and graziers and the local "Aboriginal community was subjected to introduced diseases, massacres and discriminatory government policies" (p.86 Aboriginal Heritage Study, 2001 below) that still have inter-generational effects today. And yet in spite of this, Aboriginal culture remains a dynamic force in contemporary society, contributing to the diverse and thriving Western region of Melbourne, including the City of Maribyrnong.
Aboriginal people began moving back into Kulin territories from missions and government reserves in the early years of the twentieth century, particularly in the 1920's and 1930's. They worked in the large industries that were established in Maribyrnong - Angliss and Pridhams Meatworks, the munitions factories, Kinnears ropes and the railways - and were at the forefront of the Aboriginal rights movement during the 1930's and 1940's led by William Cooper. His home in Footscray was one of the early headquarters of the Australian Aborigines League. "The Aboriginal community has never been static, either prior to or after European contact. It has continued to adjust and adapt to a changing environment."(p.86 Aboriginal Heritage Study, 2001 below).