Murnongs at MGC

Melbourne Girls’ College acknowledges the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of the land and pays respect to the sustainable way in which they cared for country. As recent custodians of this picturesque site, the MGC community have implemented a plan to reintroduce indigenous plants to encourage the return of native wildlife and to connect to remnant and revegetated bush land along the river corridor.

Since 2010, Year 7 students have been planting not trees, but Murnongs and other culturally significant bush tucker plants along the riparian zone between Melbourne Girls College and the Yarra River. We are honoured to work with the Wurundjeri Tribe Council over this time and have gained a great deal of knowledge working with elders such as Aunty Dianne Kerr, Uncle Dave Wandin and Uncle Bill Nicholson over the years.

In 2015 the Wurundjeri Tribe Council and Melbourne Girls College were awarded a Community Partnership grant from the City of Yarra and we have used this money to develop the Wurundjeri bush tucker garden and to cement our relationship. We continue to work with elders and other Wurundjeri leaders to teach our community about what the land in Richmond would have been like prior to white settlement but also about the way in which Wurundjeri used and cared for the land.

Our students have learnt about bush tucker, bush medicine, ceremonies and traditional sign posts that were crafted by Wurundjeri people. Most significantly, on the 5th of December 2017, we will be hosting our first ever Murnong harvest where we will invite our students and community to harvest Murnongs in the traditional way.

Background on the Murnong

  • At MGC, we are establishing a bush tucker indigenous garden and are trying to bring back the edible Yam Daisy into Melbourne (these roots were cultivated and eaten by local aboriginal tribes, it tells a great story of sustainability, biodiversity and habitat management
  • It is probable that the Wurundjeri and other indigenous groups selectively bred Murnong to the point that larger and larger tubers were developed. These larger cultivars may have been selected against (essentially killed off) with the arrival of white graziers who allowed their sheep to graze natural pasture in prime Murnong habitat close to river banks. As a consequence, the Yam daiseys that have persisted grow much smaller tubers and seem a much less attractive food source than the more common varieties that grew in the 18th and 19th
  • Acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as the traditional owners of the land that covers most of Melbourne and lived largely in harmony with the land
  • Harvesting murrnong is a sustainable form of agriculture using the traditional method
  • Murnong used to be very widespread across Melbourne
  • This was the staple diet of aboriginal people for thousands of years
  • According to historical accounts, an aboriginal woman could collect enough Murnong Roots for her whole family in one hour using a digging stick.
  • Artificial selective forces have worked over thousands of years to increase the size of the average tuber
  • Artificial selective forces have worked over a few decades to not only reduce the abundance and range of the Murnong crop, but also the size of the average tuber
  • These forces were selective breeding by the aboriginal people (increase) and targeting by sheep, cattle and rabbits from 1837 to around 1841, when reports that Murnong were no longer abundant
  • The destruction of murrnong fields made it harder for aboriginal people to survive in their traditional way of life.

We acknowledge the on-going support that organisations like the City of Yarra, the Yarra River Keepers, La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary and the Victorian Indigenous Nursery Cooperative in supporting this important project.