Proficient Women and Men
Native bark canoes, N J Caire, photographer, circa 1886, 1 photographic print : albumen silver ; 15.0 x 20.5 cm. approx., on mount.Contributors
This artwork shows culturally sensitive material. Permission to publish must be sought from the collection holder, the State Library of Victoria.Copyright
This item is out of copyright.
Both men and women were proficient on canoes.
At Moe (in central Gippsland, in eastern Victoria), one European over-landing party in the 1870s, who were ‘afraid to cross the creek on account of the flood and having eaten all their provisions’ received relief from a female Aboriginal guide whose exceptional bush and canoe skills the travellers depended upon for their very lives. Having heard the desperate travellers ‘cooeeing’ the unidentified Aboriginal heroine crossed treacherous floodwaters twice over ‘with a very welcome parcel of damper, tea, sugar and meat’. The travellers fearing they would ‘die by starvation’ and encircled by rising flood waters elected to use the Aboriginal canoe and crossed the floodwaters safely. 
This photograph, taken in Gippsland at around 1886, shows a man, two boys and a girl using canoes constructed in the ‘Gippsland style’ of canoe, which had with a higher freeboard than the flatter ‘Murray River style’ used inland, and where the ends of the canoe were tied up with bark.
 G. Dunderdale, The Book of the Bush. (London: Ward and Lock, 1898) p.280.