Lake Tyrrell is the site of the oldest known evidence of human habitation of Victoria and Tasmania. A site on the north of Lake Tyrrell has revealed humans were in the vicinity of the Lake 44000 years BCE, with evidence of large earthen ovens containing stone artefacts and a range of charred bones and shells being found a metre below the ground.
Lake Tyrrell is part of the land of the Boorong clan of the Wergaia Language Group. The Boorong were famous astronomers, with their dreaming stories told in the skies reflected on Lake Tyrrell.
When Europeans settled the Mallee in the mid 1800’s, the area around Lake Tyrrell was settled by William Stanbridge, on his sheep run Tyrrell Downs. William Stanbridge was unique amongst his peers in that he formed close links with the Aboriginal people on his pastoral lease. Around the campfire, he sat and listened to their stories of their astronomy, and recorded them. He later presented these stories to the Philosophical Society in Melbourne in his essay On the Astronomy and Mythology of the Aborigines of Australia in 1857.
The Boorong people’s astronomy reflected their experiences of the flora and fauna around them, including the changing seasons as well as reinforcing important cultural values.
Constellations such as Bunya the possum, located in the Southern Cross, as well as Neilloan the Mallee Fowl (in Lyra) can be seen amongst the masses of stars in the Lake Tyrrell night sky, but the Boorong were unique in their use of dark patches in the sky to tell stories as well. The giant Emu Tchingal is found in what is known in Western astronomy as the coal sack. This was a menacing figure in the narratives of the Boorong and features in several stories.
It is worth spending some time exploring the stories of the Boorong Night Skies while visiting Lake Tyrrell. A copy of William Stanbridge’s essay can be found here.
For more information on the Boorong Night Skies we recommend the following links: