The Wiradjuri people are the largest Indigenous Australian nation of New South Wales, Australia. For more than 40,000 years, they lived in an area of central New South Wales, known as, ‘the land of the three rivers’ – the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee.
The Wiradjuri people were nomadic - hunters and gatherers. Their traditional lands provided everything they needed to survive as they moved around it, according to the seasons. Once their food source began to diminish, they would move on to another area. By allowing the land to replenish itself, they ensured a continuance of food and resources for the future.
There was no ownership of land. The Wiradjuri considered themselves, ‘caretakers’ of it, in accordance with their tradition and law. The Wiradjuri people respected and protected the land. In some parts, they prohibited hunting & fishing, to allow their food sources to breed, and they only returned to the same location once every two years, in permitted areas.
On the flood plains, there were rivers, creeks, billabongs, and lakes, which provided a plentiful supply of fish, mussels, crayfish, tortoises, ducks, ibis, and waterfowl. Alternatively, away from the wetlands, the plains were abundant with kangaroos, emus, possums, goannas, lizards, snakes, native grasses, and the roots and fruit of native plants.
However, they not only travelled around the area for food, but to also trade, and perform important ceremonies to honour their ancestors, their dreaming, and their relationship with the land. Certain areas were signposted with carved trees, marking ceremonial and burial grounds, and stone monuments associated with men’s business.
For shelter, they created a simple structure, called a ‘lean-to’, made by placing a pole along two forked sticks erected at each end, and covered with sheets of paperbark, or branches of leaves. A shelter was used not only to remain warm in winter, close to a fire site, but as protection from a hot sun in summer, when there was no tree cover available.
The Wiradjuri women wove delicately stitched baskets and engraved possum skin cloaks. Spears were crafted from sharpened quartz spearheads, attached to kangaroo sinews, and axe heads, from stone. Canoes were from the bark of trees, and many other tools and weapons were made from natural resources in their environment.
The Wiradjuri people lived in harmony with their environment. In reward, for the way they respected and protected it, the land provided everything they needed. After British colonization, many Wiradjuri people died in attempts to retain their traditional lands and way of life, or they were relocated to non-Wiradjuri areas of Australia.
Today, descendants of the Wiradjuri people are working tirelessly to teach current and future generations about the Wiradjuri culture, and its people from the past.