Young – Wiradjuri Country

Young forms part of Wiradjuri Country. The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They occupy a large area in central New South Wales, from the Blue Mountains in the east, to Hay in the west, north to Nyngan and south to Albury. The Wiradjuri tribal area has been described as the land of the three rivers. These are the Wambool later known as the Macquarie, the Kalare later known as the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, or Murrumbidjeri. The Murray River forms the Wiradjuri's southern boundary.

The original people of the Young region appear to have ranged over a wide span of countryside and maintained links with groups in neighbouring regions. The rivers of the district provided a plentiful source of shellfish and fish. The plants, tubers and nuts of the country between the rivers provided seasonal foods such as yam daisies in spring, summer and autumn; wattle-seeds in July and August; orchid tubers in August and September. Larger game such as possums, kangaroos and emus were captured by groups of hunters to make up a varied and nutritious diet.

As Europeans moved into the region they took up the grazing land along the river corridors and Aboriginal people were pushed onto marginal lands. Others lived on the fringes of European settlements ‘out of curiosity or from whence they could participate in reciprocal exchanges’. The first European settler to arrive in Young was James White. Unlike many areas in New South Wales, Young was settled relatively peacefully. Early settlement in Young by Europeans appears to have succeeded largely as the consequence of a co-operative relationship between local Aboriginal people and early settlers. On entering the district James White apparently negotiated possession of the land with a leader of the local Burrowmunditory people who was given the name ‘Cobborn Jackie'.

Interactions with Aboriginal people were recorded by early settlers, including James White’s niece Sarah Musgrave. According to Sarah Musgrave thousands of Aboriginal people occupied the Young district at various times. She recounts some observed aspects of their lives, including preparation for a major feast where wallabies, kangaroo rats, paddy melons, possums, and birds were cooked. Musgrave also noted some Aboriginal ceremonial practices, including elaborate corroborees held at Burrangong and adulthood ceremonies held at a bora ground located in the vicinity of the existing town of Wyalong.

According to Musgrave, Cobborn Jackie chose the site of White’s Burrangong homestead and guided his relationship with the local Aboriginal people. Cobborn Jackie and others also surveyed the routes of roads constructed by White to connect Burrangong to other nearby localities. Groups of Aboriginal men also regularly applied their skills to cut and transport slabs of bark used for roofing by the Europeans.