Black Swans & Brilliant sunsets

Lake Wendouree is earth’s generosity personified.

Situated in Ballarat, an hour and a half from Melbourne, Lake Wendouree was known in the 1800s by white settlers as the ‘black swamp’. A sizeable aboriginal population inhabited the area around the lake at that time. In 1838 William Cross Yuille a white squatter, settled down south of ‘Black Swamp’ in the area which was to later become part of the gold rush settlement of Ballarat. Story goes that when Yuille asked a local indigenous woman what the name of the swamp was, she used the aboriginal word wendaaree which meant ‘go away’ as a reply to him. 

Yuille sold his station two-years later and moved on probably without ever realising the significance of the word ‘wendaaree.’

The First Peoples of every land, whether the aboriginals of Australia, the San of Namibia or the Maasais of Kenya did not own or possess land. They lived off the land without claiming it as theirs and used their indigenous knowledge of local plants, animals and other resources to replenish what they took from the earth.  

In the aboriginal Woiwurrung language from Melbourne region, the concept of Bunjilaka meant, one could not go into someone’s country without permission. ‘Bunjil’ meant the creator and ‘aka’ meant ‘soil or ground’. 

It is the principle of inter-connectedness that underpinned Aboriginal life for the Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal people from north-west South Australia. Their law of Kanyini implied that everybody was responsible for each other. 

For centuries we have been interacting with this earth and benefitting from her bounties. We define borders, declare nationalities and draw boundaries, issue passports, drain resources and claim ownership of lands which were not ours to begin with. To believe that the land we live on is our possession or the space we rent is our domain is a convenient fallacy created by us humans. We have all bought into this without any resistance. 

I often wonder about my connection to this land where I chose to settle into this year. Will I ever be able to repay my dues for the privilege of witnessing the beauty of the sunsets and the elegance of the black swans on the Lake every day while remembering the ‘First People’ who lived off the ‘black swamp’ a century and a half ago?

9 responses to “Black Swans & Brilliant sunsets”

  1. Nice read, succinct and from the heart for sure. Would be interesting to see you reminisce such about Karol Bagh & the formative years, or Mylapore. That’s will be something. Equally interested in Your African journey. Keep it coming. Best wishes


  2. Very well written Madhavi and an interesting topic. Looking forward to your next one already 😊.


  3. Made me think.
    I too have an emotional connection to this place and feel a strong attachment to Lake Wendouree. It is a human connection to home we all have if we are lucky! In this we are all alike, the first residents and us. It is the beliefs about how we relate to the ownership which differ – and how we leave it for the future residents!


  4. Keep it coming! Loved it.


  5. Great start Madhavi, quite informative, great message


  6. Great. Makes me want to join you in Lake Wendouree to experience its beauty, silhouetted against the black swans. Would love to read more of your evocative prose.


  7. Congrats on a great beginning ! I are already paying back through your love for the land and its wonderous beauties and by sharing them with us so we too.can enjoy them vicariously at least.


  8. Elke Krause-Hannak Avatar
    Elke Krause-Hannak

    Thanks of a lovely read. I have just moved (again) and am getting to know the city I will be calling home the next three years and I hope that I will also find places that will fill me with wonder the way Lake Wendourie provides you Inspiration. Many hugs


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