MEET the man and the community helping to bring our indigenous past to life. SARAH HUDSON reports
When Jeremy Clark was at school in Warrnambool, he was taught more about ancient Roman history than Australia's indigenous past - despite being a member of the nearby Framlingham Aboriginal community.
"If we did learn anything it was "This is a boomerang, that's a didgeridoo and this is a spear", then we'd go and learn all about the American Indians, and celebrate Geronimo's great battles," says the 39-year-old father of five.
"Yet we have stories of great resistance and significance to Australia, like the Eumeralla wars, which were between Yambuk and Portland, where there were resistance groups that tried to stop the squattocracy and which raged for three years."
While Jeremy admits the battle to make Australians interested in our indigenous past continues, he has made significant inroads.
As CEO of the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre, in the Grampians town of Halls Gap, Jeremy oversees what is arguably southeast Australia's most significant indigenous institution, which opened in 1990.
The centre offers rock art tours - 90 per cent of the state's rock art is in the Grampians, which dates back 20,000 years.
The group also provides information to Grampians National Park visitors, cultural activities such as bush tucker tastings, didgeridoo and boomerang lessons, and a host of educational displays.
Brambuk, owned and operated by local Aboriginal communities, is also a storehouse of considerable indigenous history and stories, often accessed by "Aboriginal people, such as the stolen generation, who want to reconnect with their culture".
As a lad, Jeremy helped erect the building that is now home to Brambuk.
The building is designed to represent a cockatoo, with its wings outstretched in flight.
"One of the biggest things we're proud of here is the building itself. It is special to us, with a lot of meaning," Jeremy says.
"It's designed and built to represent each of the communities involved in Brambuk.
"The cockatoo roof-line is the totem animal for this area.
"Internally there's a ramp that represents the eel.
"Inside, tree trunks throughout the building represent the forest people - my people in Framlingham."
Visitors learn of the six seasons of the Grampians, which the indigenous tribes lived and hunted by.
They learn of the creation story for southeast Australia - while the north had the rainbow serpent, the south had Bunjil, whose resting place is the Grampians.
And they learn of early colonial history - how Aborigines were forced from their land and families, banned from speaking their language, told how to dress, who to marry and what beliefs to hold.
There's even a "massacre map" with 68 spots around Victoria highlighted with dates, such as the 1842 Bruthen Creek killings in Gippsland, when hundreds of Aborigines were killed.
"We don't want visitors to feel sad or guilty, but to acknowledge what has happened and then that might explain why there's issues today," Jeremy says.
"I'm always amazed how many non-Aboriginal people have an opinion on Aboriginal issues, yet have little or no knowledge about what it's like to be Aboriginal, or where we have come from.
"Things are better now than when I was growing up, but I still find it quite sad.
"Our culture didn't die out when Captain Cook arrived. Culture evolves.
"We now live in houses and pay bills, but we still have that connection to the land.
"That's why Brambuk is so important - not just for visitors, but our own people.
"To me the Grampians is a very spiritual place, knowing my ancestors have walked this country for thousands of years. It's very peaceful and calming."
- Brambuk Cultural Centre, Halls Gap, brambuk.com.au or ph: (03) 5361 4000.