Australian Indigenous volcano stories


The Gunditjmara people live in southwestern Victoria, around Portland. The volcanoes here are on the eastern side of the Newer Volcanics Province which extends across the border with South Australia to include Mount Gambier and Mount Schank.

There are Dreaming beliefs involving the ancestral beings who created and shaped the Gundidjmara landscape. The travels of the ancestral creator being link the prominent high points of the region: Gariwerd (the Grampians), Tapoc (Mount Napier), Colorer (Mount Rouse), Parrang kuutcha (Tower Hill), Benwirra (Mount Richmond) and Budj bim (Mount Eccles). Budj bim is a significant site in Gundidjmara country and from its summit it is possible to see the peaks the creator being visited: Dee mar (Lady Julia Percy Island) to the south, then Budj bim, followed by Tapoc and Mut te tehoke (Mount Abrupt) in the distant Grampians.

Budj bim is highly significant to the Gunditjmara people and is shared by all the clans. When the clans travelled to Bidj bim, the clan Law men would travel alone to the summit. While they were involved in their secret sacred duties, the rest of the men in the clan group would wait in a clearing on the western side of the crater lake. The women and children would be camped further away in the forest. When the Law men were absent, the guardians of Budj bim were the gneering or Weeping sheoaks (Allocasuarina stricta). These trees stand as sentinels close to the summit and it is said that when the wind blows, the trees whisper softly to you.

Sadly, much of the traditional knowledge has been lost, even by the 1870s. Many of the Gunditjmara were forced to live at the Lake Condah mission for many years in the middle of the 20th century and lost contact with much of their tradition knowledge, although some information has been preserved. Some stories were published in the "Hamilton Spectator" during the 1850s and other accounts were recorded by James Dawson in a book published in 1881.


The Buandig people from near Mount Gambier tells of the giant Craitbul and his family who wandered about the area looking for a place to settle and live in peace. They camped and made ovens at Mount Muirhead and Mount Schank but were frightened away from both places by the moaning voice of a bird spirit. They managed to escape from the bird spirit by moving to Mount Gambier where they lived for a long time. Again they made an oven but one day water came up from beneath them and put out their fire. They made other ovens but these were also put out by water coming from beneath them. They made four ovens like this which are now the four craters of Mount Gambier.