Gunyuk (Black Swan), Mary Jane Milawa
Gunyuk (Black Swan),
also known as Mary Jane Milawa
Not for download. Please contact the Wangaratta Historical Society.Copyright
In the collection of the Wangaratta Historical Society
Gunyuk (Black Swan), also known as Mary Jane Milawa, was the last member of the family named Milawa. Mary was the youngest sister of Luana, who was the great grandmother of Freddie Dowling. When they were very young, Mary Jane and Luana were accompanied by some Wiradjuri people from their home land to live at a safer place at Lake Moodamoot (now known as Lake Moodemere).
Luana later married a drover Wally Dowling, Freddie’s great-grandfather. Mary Jane, however, pined for home and returned to live her life as a single woman ‘eeking’ out a meagre existence along the river flats east of Wangaratta, just below where the town of Milawa is today. Mary Jane died in 1888, aged about 60, and is buried in the Wangaratta cemetery. This story was told to Freddie by his grandmother and grandfather.
The following is a poem written by Freddie Dowling for his great-great-aunt.
Mary Milawa (Freddie Dowling)
Once in a beautiful valley
A sweet little baby girl was born
And her proud mother said to her father
Our tribe The Pangerang will live on
As she grew up in the valley
That little girl had known a perfect life
But her tribe could never know in their dreaming
That the years ahead were filled with strife
For the White Man came
And tore their world apart
They did not seem to realise
That the Black Man owned this land
So they took the Black Man and his country
And killed the ones who fought for what they owned
And by the time that little girl became a woman
She walked in her world all alone
Then on the sixth day of November 1888
Mary Jane Milawa passed away
And that lonely broken hearted woman in her sadness
Took her final Walkabout alone
So no more the Valley rings with Koorie laughter
And no more Corroborees by the big lagoon
But the gum trees by the river show the shadows
Of Dark People…every night beneath the moon
Freddie Dowling, the consultant on this story, is one of the elders of the Pangerang people. He is a storyteller and published author. His No More the Valley Rings with Koorie Laughter is a collection of stories, the majority of which were told to him by his father and his grandmother, Annie Lewis, the niece of Mary Jane Milawa.
These stories were written down in 1975 for his own family ‘so that their descendants could reflect on who they were and learn something of their culture and how it was before white settlement changed everything’.
The Pangerang/Bangerang people, a nation of sub-clans, occupied much of what is now North Eastern Victoria stretching along the Tongala (Murray) River to Echuca and into the areas of the southern Riverina in New South Wales.