Arriving in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is a magical moment. As you drive along winding roads, beneath towering trees and through vast open landscapes, feel a sense of calm wash over you.
Many believe this peaceful feeling is due to the spiritual Indigenous connection to the region known as Gariwerd. Gariwerd has been home to the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali people for more than 20,000 years. The Gariwerd Creation Story tells of the Great Ancestor Spirit Bunjil who created the natural world around us. As this ancient story goes, he took the form of Werpil the Eagle as he created Gariwerd’s beautiful sandstone ranges and the waterways, plants and animals within them. You can read more about this evocative Dreamtime story here.
With more than 80% of Victoria’s Aboriginal rock art located in the Grampians, there are around 200 sites in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, most of them open to the public. One of the most well-known and treasured sites in the Region is Bunjils Cave located a little way outside the National Park, in the Black Range Scenic Reserve near Stawell.
Bunjils Cave is widely regarded as a significant cultural site in Australia and one of the most prominent Aboriginal rock-art sites in southern Victoria.
The ancient shelter features a colourful Aboriginal interpretation of Bunjil and his two dingoes. It’s the only known painting of Bunjil to exist in Australia. The exact age of the shelter is still unknown, but it is estimated that the artwork is over a thousand years old.
In Aboriginal culture, Bunjil was the main Dreaming Being of south-eastern Australia. It’s believed that he produced the natural features of the landscapes, from the rolling mountains to the peaceful open ranges. He also gave each tribe their country and created the laws, customs and rites which aided in organising the Aboriginal society.
Traditional Owners from Gariwerd, Wimmera region and south-west Victoria still have significant links to this site. Bunjil is known to remain a protector of the natural world, his people and their beliefs. This is what makes him so significant to the region and Indigenous culture to this day.
To experience this historic site for yourself, take the turnoff on the Stawell Pomonal Road about seven kilometres from Stawell. From there, take the Bunjil Cave Road toward the parking area, and enjoy a scenic 100 metre walk to Bunjils Cave.