Aboriginal heritage

The Mountains are very old and an ongoing life force that strengthens the ancestral link of our people.
We have a living, spiritual connection with the mountains.
We retain family stories and memories of the mountains, which makes them spiritually and culturally significant to us.
Our traditional knowledge and cultural practices still exist and need to be maintained
– Kosciuszko Aboriginal Working Group

Every summer for thousands of years, Aboriginal people crossed tribal boundaries and travelled hundreds of kilometres to meet on the highest peaks of the alpine region. They came from as far as the coast and the southwest slopes of the mountains for intertribal corroborees, settling of disputes, trading, marriages and the initiation of young men.

During these visits, Aboriginal people feasted on Bogong moth. These moths migrate annually from the central and northwest slopes of New South Wales, and rest over the hot summer months in the cracked rocks and tors of the Alps. The moths would be smoked out of their hiding places then either cooked in ash or ground to a paste, which provided a nutritious food that lasted several months.

Aboriginal people lived in the alpine region during other seasons, particularly in the lower valleys. The most popular area was along the Snowy River valley, where around 280 sites have been identified. Other sites include Cloggs Cave in northeastern Victoria, where 8500-year-old stone tools have been found, and Birrigai, near Namadgi National Park, where archaeologists have found a rock shelter used by Aboriginal people 21 000 years ago. These sites give clues as to how Aborigines interacted with their environment. Preserving them is important to Aboriginal communities, as well as to our understanding of the area’s Aboriginal culture.

It is difficult to estimate the original population of Aboriginal people in the alpine region, as so many were quickly killed (mainly by gunshot and disease) after European intrusion onto their land. Many Aboriginal people were forcibly removed into government reserves and subsequently relocated.

Today, Aboriginal communities in Victoria, NSW and the ACT take a particular interest in the management and heritage of the high country. Much more of the Alps’ Aboriginal heritage was revealed by the fires of 2003 and archaeological surveys were carried out in the following year.

Watch the Dulugar a mythical Aboriginal creature found in the Australian alps courtesy of Parks Victoria

More information can be found in the Australian Alps education kit.