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Canoe - Woi wurrung, Yarra Canoe, Bark, Melbourne, circa 1860s Object Reg. No: HT 24782

Bark canoe, made by Woi wurrung, a clan of Victorian Aboriginal people, whose land extended from the lower Yarra to the mountains east of Melbourne. This is the only remaining 19th century Aboriginal canoe from the Melbourne region.

Information on the provenance of the canoe is sketchy. It was collected by John Buchan or his son John Innerarity Buchan in Kew, Victoria. It was most likely collected on their property Finhaven, adjacent to the Yarra River in Studley Park, Kew, at the time they acquired the property around 1872.

The canoe is made from the bark of the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). It is therefore probable that the canoe was made in the hills east of Melbourne, and brought down the Yarra River, a distance of over 50 kilometres.

Dating the canoe precisely is difficult. It is extremely unlikely that Aboriginal people would have been camping in the area around Studley Park and Kew as late as the 1870s. The Woi wurrung and many other clans of the Wurundjeri had settled at Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve near Healesville, 65 kilometres east of Melbourne.

It is therefore more likely that the canoe had been sitting near the banks of the Yarra River for some years before being collected and stored by the Buchans.
Sharp marks show that the bark was cut with a metal axe. Charcoal marks suggest that the bark was heated to help shape it into a canoe.

The canoe is tied in several places with rope to hold the bark in place. The two thicker ropes are hand-made, and most likely an original part of the canoe. The thinner twine tying the canoe at each end is machine-made.

Hoops from a barrel have been used to hold the bark. Possibly the Aboriginal makers used these hoops, combining a European material with the traditional design. Or they may have been added by the collector.
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 32 cm (Height), 61.5 cm (Width), 451.5 cm (Length)

More information

Tagged with: canoes, aboriginal history, i love it
Themes this item is part of: John Buchan, Estate Agent (circa 1808-1874), John Innerarity Buchan, Estate Agent (1842-1922), Domestic & Community Life Collection, Transport Collection, The Founding of Melbourne, 1835
Primary Classification: WATER TRANSPORT
Secondary Classification: Rowing & Paddle Craft
Tertiary Classification: canoes
Collector: John Buchan, Kew, Victoria, Australia, circa 1870s
Past Owner: John Buchan, Kew, Victoria, Australia, 1874-1922

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