Untold Indigenous history including massacre and burial sites laying dormant and undiscovered at south-west locations will be revealed this week.
Peek Whurrong Elder Uncle Robert Lowe Senior will tell the stories of the land, sharing his ancestors' stories and some of the region's confronting Indigenous history.
For almost two decades, Mr Lowe has been working to share Indigenous culture and increase community understanding and awareness, especially in school settings.
Mr Lowe, and other Indigenous Elders visit south-west schools to educate and create an understanding of Indigenous history and culture. He takes children on bus trips to show them various sites around the city. He also works in an advisory role for some of the city's organisations, schools and other groups.
He's mindful of sharing his own and his ancestors stories authentically, the same way they've been passed down to him through the generations.
"It's a matter of sitting down and telling the story," Mr Lowe said. "You're not forcing someone to listen to you to change certain things. It's a matter of sitting down and talking to people. Things will change in their own way and that's what happened over the last five years.
"I've been invited to do a lot of talks over the last 19 years to different organisations and the main thing I talk about is my life and my family's life growing up in the area. It's hard for non-Indigenous people to relate to because they don't understand what we went though growing up on a mission station. Over the past five years, organisations are understanding what they didn't know."
Mr Lowe is hosting a bus tour on June 25. It begins in Warrnambool and travels to Yambuk and Port Fairy. The event, Sharing Culture on Peek Whurrong Land, is part of the Warrnambool Storytelling Festival which was launched on Friday night and runs until July 3.
He said three main three sites would feature - Yambuk, The Crags and Port Fairy.
"We start over at Yambuk and come back to Warrnambool along the highway and there's a few sites that we stop and talk about," Mr Lowe said.
"It's to let people know the importance of those sites and what they mean to us as Indigenous people and hopefully non-Indigenous people will understand the stories."
Mr Lowe said the tour would raise awareness and help people to understand what life was like for his ancestors who lost their lives.
He said people would be surprised to hear what went on in and around Yambuk and Port Fairy, as well as other parts of the south-west.
"A lot of people do know about certain areas and the Indigenous involvement but they won't come out and say it until you start talking about it and someone will come out of the pack and say 'I can remember that' and there were remains found in that area."
He said over the years our First Nations people had been subjected to large massacres. "They've been going a long time," he said. "My great grandfather was born in 1853 and massacres took place before he was born and after he was born."
Mr Lowe hosted a similar event at last year's inaugural Warrnambool Storytelling Festival, running a Moyjil-Point Ritchie walking tour to raise awareness and understanding of the site's historical significance and what went on there.
Scientific research suggests people may have been visiting the coastal area for as long as 80,000 years.
"Last year's walking tour made people aware," Mr Lowe said. "We took them down to Moyjil-Point Ritchie, and talked about its history and how old that could be. We're still waiting on some American evidence to come back, but it could be 120,000 years old and that's going to change things."
He said other tours he'd hosted had opened people's eyes to the way Indigenous people were treated, as he helped to educate them and talk about nearby past massacre sites and food source sites.
Part of the process in broader community education is reviving the Peek Whurrong language which is being taught to children and used in the region's signage.
The Peek Whurrong people are the traditional owners of the land in Warrnambool and make up part of the Gunditjmara/ Maar Nation.
"It's well and truly overdue, like talking about our history is well and truly overdue," Mr Lowe said. "If we can relate to some of our history in our language. (Fellow Elder) Locky Eccles is a great advocate of getting the stories and language out there. My role is to keep the history alive and whenever I get the opportunity to talk about history that's what I do."
He said Peek Whurrong language was revived with the help of an Elder who researched it in New South Wales. Along with some others, they worked to research and compile it into a dictionary to record and share the traditional language.
He's proud the language has undergone a resurgence and is being taught to kindergarten children at Warrnambool City Council-run centres. The Indigenous language program is one of the first in Victoria.
"You go back in history, out language was flogged out of our Elders," he said. "There were only three Elders that could speak language and at the end of it they got flogged."
He said when Indigenous people sat around speaking, non-Indigenous people thought they were talking about them.
"They weren't, they were talking in language about other things," he said. "I think my great grandfather might have been one of the last three that spoke the language but I don't have any proof of that yet but the missionary flogged the language out of us."
He said having kindergarten children now sitting around speaking the language was reminiscent of his Elders many years ago.
"What we've been hearing with the younger generation, even in the non-Indigenous kids, it brings tears to your eyes. When you see a kindergarten kid sitting down talking language it takes you back to those ancestor days when people did sit around speaking language."
He hopes to see more of the language used across the region.
"I'd like to see a traditional name come back into it with the English beside it. There's still a lot of things to be done," he said.
"In Warrnambool there's so many sites that people wouldn't know but it's how we go about it. That's the thing. We'll get there one day. There's a few good things happening, slowly.
"Warrnambool's built on Indigenous history but no-one knows that. Well they know it but they don't want to accept it. A lot of our history has been destroyed."
New interpretive signs have been installed at Merrivale's Marrang Park, which is Peek Whurrong language for welcome.
The new signage, in both languages, tells the story of the park and the area's Indigenous history. Mr Lowe designed the sculptures which were carved by Mick Rigg 15 years ago but now, their meanings have been explained.
He said the symbols on the sculptures represented the storyline of his ancestors who camped just over the river and the history in the dunes, the oven sites and campsites and some burial sites.
"The Merrivale community wanted somewhere to tell that story of the Indigenous people who lived around this area and this was the closest to Levys Point and the dunes and around the swamp."
He said there was human remains of a five-year-old child found in the Levys Point dunes in the 1930s.
"They found his skull and he had a hole in his head," he said. "The rest of his body wasn't there. You can just imagine how that little hole got in his head beside the fire and that's the story of the dunes."
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