Six Peaks Speak 2

Update 2, FEBRUARY 2023

I’m penning this second, brief reflective monthly update on my Six Peaks Speak Fellowship in late February just before I head off for two long and challenging bushwalks during March. I will return in late March to my previous pattern of local research, field visits, weekly visits to Melbourne accessing resources in the State Library Victoria (SLV) and also the Public Records Office (PROV), meaning that I won’t pen my third update until late April 2023.

What I’ve done & seen, who I’ve met …

Most of the ‘simple’ library searches at SLV and PROV, using the names of the mountains and nearby places and landmarks as key search terms, are now exhausted. I’ve downloaded files and taken photos of lots of original documents (reports, maps, newspaper articles, correspondence) and filed them by peak name, summarising and linking the information using OneNote. The collected hard copies collected are now in six bulging files, which if stacked would be around a half metre high. A seventh file includes ‘general’ material of some relevance to all of the peaks, including resource indexes, theoretical perspectives, research and search methodologies, plus writing and book publishing options.

On days when the recent summer heat has backed off slightly, I’ve done exploratory on-ground field work including climbing Mount Tarrengower (three trips), Mount Beckworth (two trips), Mount Franklin and Mount Alexander (one trip each). Weather willing, more targeted field trips will resume in April inclusive also of Mount Greenock and Mount Kooroocheang. I have identified local informants for targeted, further ground exploration on Mounts Beckworth, Alexander and Franklin. Two public Peak Walks under the auspices of the Great Dividing Trail Association (GDTA) are now locked into the GDTA walk calender for 25 June (on Mount Beckworth) and 27 August (on Mount Alexander). 

I have also penned an outline for a ‘Six Peaks Peek’ on ground activity designed to introduce the public to all six peaks, either on one huge day, or more likely (for most people) over two full days with an overnight stop at the foot of Tarrengower in Maldon. The activity could either be guided or self-guided. In order to ‘field test’ the idea, I’ve tentatively proposed a Great Dividing Trail Association members’ ‘by invitation’, one day ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ reconnaissance tour commencing at my place in Kingston at 6.30am on Sunday 23 April.

This month I met in Bendigo with representatives of DJAARA, the registered Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owner group entity. Harley Dunolly-Lee, a PhD scholar, Dja Dja Wurrung descendant and also Project Officer, Language Repatriation at DJAARA, has helped to unravel the meaning behind some of the poorly documented original peak names. Harley’s generous contribution is acknowledged as ‘personal communication’ in the peak summaries later in this update. I plan during 2023 to progressively give the original First Nations names precedence.

This month I’ve made useful contact with most of the historical societies and museum adjacent to the peaks, and already made productive visits to those located in Daylesford, Guildford and Maldon. During April, I have made plans to visit like organisations in Newstead, Castlemaine, Clunes, Creswick and Talbot.

I’ve made contact with the Parks Victoria Rangers responsible for all five peaks which lie within public reserves, via the Parks offices located in Sawpit Gully, Creswick (responsible for the management of Mount Franklin and Mount Beckworth), in Castlemaine (responsible for both Mount Tarrengower & Mount Alexander) and Inglewood (responsible for Mount Greenock).

My next search strategy will be to focus on documentary evidence of the emergent enumerated themes (that follow): at SLV, at PROV and also online, which are illustrative of these themes.

Serendipity continues to be important vector in my learning. By absolute chance, during a reconnaissance visit to the Mount Beckworth summit I met Leslie Scott, author of a recent book, Once were wild about her interactions with wild brumbies on the flanks of Mount Beckworth. Aside from showing me several springs, Leslie was able to guide me to a remarkable and new (for me) copse of cork oaks within the southernmost extension of the pine plantation.

This month I accidentally discovered the State Library Staff Lounge on Level 6. As the lift opened to the lounge, I was confronted by a refrigerated and illuminated drinks cabinet boasting ‘Mount Franklin’ bottled water. The back story of how the drinks cabinet made its way to Level 6 in the upper bowels of the State Library won’t be in my book. But the story of how an ancient mound spring and nearby volcanic crater on Dja Dja Wurrung Country were both renamed expropriated to become national icon for an American multinational beverage company surely will.

So how has my plan evolved?

I have become aware of three ‘big picture’ insights, common themes and generalities from the Six Peaks research I’ve conducted so far. First, while each of the six peaks is distinct and different, the five peaks which remain publicly owned today were belatedly ‘saved’ as reserves by virtue of their early designation as ‘Town Commons’ for their nearby mining communities. This meant that whilst ‘reserved’ as public Commons, they were unfenced and subject to heavy, prolonged and largely uncontrolled exploitation: for grazing, timber and firewood removal, and in the case of two granite peaks, one or more of quarrying, gold mining or sand extraction.

Second, all of these Commons, later to become Reserves, were subject to almost a century of political and environmental pressure from local (and particularly from adjacent) private landholders seeking their alienation, or an opportunity to lease public land in order to extend their holdings. Third, the intensity of this exploitation was greatest for peaks with rapacious mining underground communities on their flanks. Tarrengower is the prime example. Not a stick of timber was left on the peak by around 1870. And Maldon, ironically, became Australia’s first notable heritage town.

In order to avoid repetition of themes, I propose to introduce each peak in turn, emphasising the most distinctive features summarised under just four to five ‘themes’ for each peak. My short list of emergent theme headings for each peak are enumerated below. While some of these themes are common and will apply to other peaks, they will be dealt with (and extrapolated where appropriate) when first introduced.

At this early stage I propose to introduce the peaks in a clockwise order in the order below, commencing with the only privately owned peak Gurutjanga, whose anglicised First Nations name has been ‘Kooroocheang’. While unique and imposing, looming 200m above its surrounds, the volcanic peak is broadly illustrative of the many issues associated with heritage management of the 400 other volcanic centres (with 700 eruption points), almost all in private ownership within the Newer Volcanic Province. As Costermans and VanDenBerg emphasise in their remarkable Stories beneath our feet (2022, p.426) book, this Volcanic Province is distinctive even by world standards.

Gurutjanga / Mount Kooroocheang

Gurutjanga / Gurutjang = ‘spring of brolga’ (Dunolly-Lee, pers. comm. 9 Feb 2023, needs further research)

Emergent themes:

  1. At Contact: Ceremony & Ovens in Southern Dja Dja Wurrung Country
  2. The uncomfortable legacy of unsettling: John Hepburn as a case study
  3. Towers, memorials & interpretation
  4. Heritage dilemmas on private land.

Nyaninuk / Mount Beckworth

Nyaninuk (‘his, her, it’s back of the neck, nape’), referring to the mountain’s back of the neck: Dunolly-Lee, pers. comm., 9 Feb 2023)

Emergent themes:

  1. Attempts at alienation: the Seeger case study
  2. Exotics as heritage (Aleppo pine, Cork oak plantations, Radiata Pine)
  3. Sand mining, orchids and birds since the 1950s
  4. Rock climbing & bouldering since 1980 (also at Mt Alexander).

The Crown files available from Mount Beckworth include copious evidence of attempted private alienation. The file of correspondence from the Danish born Leberecht Seeger and wife Annie [Lyons] Seeger and their attempt over several decades to secure land from the Crown on the NE of the current reserve, including for their ill-fated daughter, Sophia, provides an potentially excellent case study.

Durt Burnayi / Mount Greenock 

Durt Burnayi (durt = star, burnayi = young women: Dunolly-Lee, pers. comm., 9 Feb 2023)

Emergent themes:

  1. The geological legacy and the carefully managed ‘mammaloid’ hills
  2. Australia Felix and the uncomfortable Mitchell legacy
  3. The contested Talbot Common
  4. Mining legacy of the Greenock Deep Leads.

Dharrang Gauwa / Mount Tarrengower

Dharrang Gauwa (‘big rough mountain’; Dunolly-Lee, pers. comm 2023)

Emergent themes:

  1. The Liarga bulluk Clan / Tarrang tribe and the Raffaello Carboni / Gilburnia / Jerrbung connection
  2. The 1840-1 Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate nearby
  3. The early loss of trees and the recent arrival of Wheel Cactus
  4. Fire spotting and towers on Tarrengower.
  5. The heritage, environmental & community legacy of colonisation and gold.

Liyanganuk Banyul / Mount Alexander

Harley Dunolly Lee provided a copy of a Mount Alexander Report that he undertook on behalf of the Mount Alexander Shire concerning the place name of Liyanyuk Banyul/ Liyanganyuk Banyul ‘Mount Alexander’. Harley notes (pers. comm., 2023) that ‘The community have not chosen an official name but the report looks at all available evidence on the name for this place’. Harleys’ suggestion is to ‘meantime include all variants because Dja Dja Wurrung old people were multilingual and each clan had their dialect and word for specific places’.

Emergent themes:

  1. Harcourt granite quarrying sites on the mountain from the 1860s
  2. Women’s sericulture (silk plantations) in the mid 1870s
  3. Ill -fated Koala Parks
  4. The value of peaks as refugia (Ballantinia: Shepherds Purse case study)
  5. Walking and mountain bike track construction & use in the past three decades.

Lalkambuk / Mount Franklin

Lalkambuk (‘split head’) mountain; Larni Barramul crater (‘home, nest of the emu’: both Dunolly-Lee, pers. comm., 9 Feb 2023)

Emergent themes:

  1. Site of Ceremony
  2. The legacy of the Franklinford Aboriginal Protectorate
  3. The politics of naming: Jim Crow & John Franklin
  4. The legacy of Springs: The Mill Stream & Limestone Spring & Coca Cola
  5. Why are we privileging pines?

The ‘Oval’ Beneath the six peaks: The volcanic plains and woodlands

Emergent themes:

  1. Dja Dja Wurrung people, population, Clans and language
  2. It’s all about the rocks …
  3. The Bacchus Marsh Formation fluvio-glacials & First Nations quarries
  4. Interlocking ecosystems and ecotones.

While it’s ‘all about the rocks’, none of this is yet set in stone. As always, I welcome feedback, comment and suggestions to about ways of improving on and enhancing this project plan, just two months into one year of research and writing.

I acknowledge that this project is an outcome of a generous State Library Victoria Fellowship


Author: barrygoanna

Honorary Professor, Federation University Australia: researcher in men's learning through community contexts, author of 'Men learning through life' 2014) book (NIACE, UK), 'The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men' (2015) & 'Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men's Shed Movement' (2021) books, both published Common Ground Publishing, US.

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