Connection to Country
Womenjika (that’s Welcome in Woiwurrung language)
Healesville Sanctuary is home to sites of great Aboriginal cultural significance and we understand the privilege and importance of being entrusted as custodians of Traditional Country.
In addition to respecting all Indigenous people, we are committed to building lasting relationships to ensure a joint approach to protecting and managing these valued sites and to nurture and celebrate the connection the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation have with this land.
At Healesville Sanctuary, spiritual values of this ancient land are conserved, shared and celebrated. Both the Sanctuary and adjacent Coranderrk Bushland have significant cultural values. We proudly protect and celebrate the landscapes that have natural and heritage value, both historic and cultural and enrich our visitors’ experiences through cultural and historic overlays.
- Wurundjeri Walk celebrates the life of Aboriginal leader William Barak with a bronze sculpture Between Two Worlds - a man caught between two worlds, but able to bridge both, as ambassador, diplomat, survivor, humanitarian, story teller, artist; a man for, and of his people and protector of Wurundjeri traditions and culture.
Barak was a highly respected Aboriginal leader at Coranderrk Station, established as an Aboriginal refuge from 1863 until its closure in 1923.
Healesville Sanctuary’s connection to Country along Wurundjeri Walk takes visitors past the Barak sculpture to a Dreaming Place used for storytelling, then onto a 250 year old scar tree and bark canoe made by contemporary Wurundjeri canoe maker Ian Hunter.
From there, visitors continue on to another pathway where the story of Coranderrk Station, a significant Wurundjeri spiritual heartland, unfolds.
The experience includes emotive soundscapes comprising four generations of Wurundjeri voices of elders reflecting on Barak, and telling their own family stories of Coranderrk.
- Wurrundjeri Elder Murrundindi is a spiritual and significant part of Healesville Sanctuary’s past, present and future. A personal encounter with Murrundindi allows visitors an opportunity to experience first-hand the rich cultural connections he has to this land and the Wurrundjeri culture. You can meet Murrundindi every Sunday between 10.30am–3.00pm, and every day except Saturday during school holidays and on public holidays.
- Many of our native animals have been given Woiwurrung names to respect the Wurundjeri people and to honour sense of Spirit of the Land so the origins of language are not lost.
- Local Indigenous stories are embedded in Spirits of the Sky and Tales from Platypus Creek presentations. The story of Bunjil and Mindi and how all birds came from the rainbow and the story of Woterang and Gwonawah is told by Murrundindi. The dreaming story of Kuboroo is recounted by Murrundini’s niece, Woterang at Koala Forest.
- Many of our exhibits feature Indigenous stories using the Woiwurrung language. Dreaming stories are embedded throughout the Sanctuary. Don’t miss learning about Bullen Bullen the Lyrebird and the Mist People in the RACV Lyrebird Aviary
- Sculptures telling a number of cultural stories are dotted throughout the Sanctuary.
- Our Learning Experiences team members share first hand cultural knowledge with students who visit. They also offer teacher professional development programs for teachers wanting to embed Indigenous culture into their school’s programs.
- Zoos Victoria proudly launched its Reconciliation Action Plan at Healesville Sanctuary in May 2011. The public commitment marked a significant step forward in recognizing Zoos Victoria's cultural heritage as well as contributing to the national reconciliation effort. The Reconciliation Action Plan was launched as part of Reconciliation Week showcasing performances by renowned musician Archie Roach, the Wurundjeri Jindi Worabak dancers and included a day of Indigenous-themed activities.
Zoos Victoria's Reconciliation Action Plan outlined 20 actions to be implemented, focusing on creating stronger relationships and opportunities through employment, training, social inclusion and economic wellbeing outcomes.
The plan was developed in partnership with Reconciliation Australia, traditional owners and other stakeholders in order to share Aboriginal culture with our visitors, staff and our volunteers.
- Archie Roach returned three years later as part of Healesville Sanctuary’s Camp Corroboree in a live music setting – and set - like no other. Sitting together around a fire pit campfire, Archie took the crowd into the Dreaming time under the Coranderrk sky lit by the spirit of Indigenous ancestors with music to touch the spirit and soul.
Healesville Sanctuary looks forward to a future where culture and heritage and an understanding of contemporary Aboriginality are firmly embedded into everything we do, adding enormous value and respect to our special place.
Triganin (that’s goodbye, have a lovely day, in Woiwurrung language)
The Coranderrk Bushland Reserve, and Healesville Sanctuary as it exists today, is a small representative remnant of the original 1,000ha plus mission and represents an extremely important biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural asset. Reminders of this cultural history rest with a number of recognised scar trees used during post European contact, the historic Water Race (aqueduct), Mt Riddell Bullock Track, and timber mill and redirection of Badger Creek in the Reserve.