Discover stunning views and the rich Indigenous culture of You Yangs Regional Park at Big Rock. The ancient rock wells found here demonstrate the importance of this area for the local Wadawurrung people.
As well as the rich cultural history of the area, the views from Big Rock make for a very special visit to the You Yangs. Image: Parks Victoria
Do you have a place in nature that is special to you? Think about how important some natural areas must be to people who have lived there for thousands of years. The You Yangs are culturally significant to the Wadawurrung people, and are a place where visitors can stop and appreciate this significance, as well as see an example of a special place that humans have long held a connection to.
Why is this place so special?
The name ‘You Yang’ comes from the Wadawurrung words ‘Wurdi Youang’, meaning ‘big hill’. To the Wadawurrung people, Big Rock in the You Yangs holds great significance. Big Rock enabled those living in or passing through the area to obtain extensive views of the surrounding plains. Additionally, the vegetation around Big Rock includes plants such as Cherry Ballart and Kangaroo Apple, which are common bush foods for the Wadawurrung.
Rock wells are holes that were chiseled and burnt out of rock to form a well that holds drinking water. These were relied upon by the Wadawurrung in times when water was scarce. At Big Rock, you can discover an actual rock well and imagine past humans who would have used the well for drinking water. The largest rock well at Big Rock is usually filled with water all year round, and there was once a rock that was placed over the well to keep the drinking water fresh and protect it from nearby animals.
Up on Big Rock, there are no nearby fresh water sources, so the best way for the Wadawurrung to obtain drinking water was by chiseling out a rock well to collect rainwater. It is unusual to see one of the rock wells dry, although this occasionally occurs. Image: Remember The Wild
Can you spot the smaller rock wells located close to the large rock well? Image: Remember The Wild
As well as providing practical benefits, Big Rock is thought to have been the location of initiation ceremonies for young Wadawurrung boys, and is an important part of the group’s storyline. This is a song used by Indigenous people that describes the path across the land, portraying the location of landmarks that are of particular importance.
Today, smoking ceremonies are held at Big Rock, whilst the Mountain to Mouth arts walk begins here when it is held every two years. Over two days, members of the Wadawurrung group and others wishing to take part walk 80 kilometres from the You Yangs, through Geelong, and then along the Barwon River to eventually reach the ocean. Along the way, various artworks have been installed, each of which celebrates the connection between art and land. A canoe, filled with water from the Big Rock rock well, is carried all the way to the Barwon River Mouth where it is set alight on the water. This journey is considered a way to create a contemporary songline across the Geelong and Queenscliffe regions. With Big Rock as the starting point for this walk, there’s no doubt that this landmark is incredibly important in contemporary Wadawurrung culture.
This permanent canoe sculpture can be found at Big Rock and is a reminder that this place marks the beginning of the Mountain to Mouth walk, held every two years. Image: Remember The Wild
What can you do here?
If possible, download the Wadawurrung Language – Introduction app before you leave home. When you arrive, walk 100 metres from the Big Rock carpark and you will find yourself atop Big Rock, where you can admire stunning views across the surrounding country. Use the app and see if you can spot any birds or plants that are listed on it. How do you say their names in the Wadawurrung language? Take a moment to look across the landscape and imagine how it may have changed over the centuries.
‘You Yang’ comes from the Wadawurrung words ‘Wurdi Youang’ , meaning ‘big hill’. You can expect beautiful views of the surrounding plains from the top of Big Rock. Image: Parks Victoria
What interesting landmarks can you spot from where you’re standing on Big Rock? If you look closely, you should be able to locate the sea at Barwon Heads to the south.
See if you can find the large, ancient rock well located at Big Rock. The Wadawurrung relied on this well for fresh water – in what ways are you and your family reliant on the environment for natural resources like water? Once you find the large rock well, can you see any other smaller ones nearby?
Why do you think this area would have been an ideal place for the Wadawurrung people to live? What would have been the advantages and disadvantages? On your way back to the carpark from Big Rock, can you identify any Cherry Ballart trees? Near the amenities block, you might also see some Kangaroo Apple. Both of these plants were commonly used by the Wadawurrung people.
In the Wadawurrung language, ‘parrwang’ refers to what you might know as a magpie. If you have access to the Wadawurrung Language – Introduction app, see what other bird names you can learn. Image: Remember The Wild
If you’re after more of a challenge, hike the 3-km Big Rock Walk from the park office carpark. This will take you around Big Rock and then back to the same carpark. What did you discover during this walk? What native animals and plants did you see?