MICK WOIWOD - Historian and Author
A listing of books researched and written by Mick Woiwod,
Winner of the 2012 Victorian Community History Award for Research, Sponsored by The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV), and
The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV).
For information on availability and how to purchase books, see next page.
The Christmas Hills Story.
Book 1, 1992
A history of Christmas Hills, a small farming district in what had been known in the early period as ‘the Stringy-bark Forest’, midway between Kangaroo Ground and Yarra Glen. Named after David Christmas, a convict shepherd who had become hopelessly lost in that Stringy-bark Forest in 1842, it had later been settled by selector families on extremely poor soils who for a century or more had struggled to raise themselves much above subsistence farming. The arrival of the rail to nearby Yarra Glen in 1889 had seen these Stringy Bark farmers grasp the moment and convert their farm-houses into Guest Houses taking in paying guests through to the 1980s when the State Government had compulsorily acquired most of their farms to build the present-day Sugarloaf Reservoir.
Reminiscences of Andrew Ross (collated and annotated by the author)
Book 2, 1993
In many ways, Andrew Ross had been a central figure in Kangaroo Ground between 1851 and 1872 in so far as he had been its schoolmaster, preacher, postmaster, storekeeper, publican, electoral officer, registrar of births and deaths, secretary to the local road board, cemetery trust and farmers’ common. Furthermore, he’d been the town's newspaper proprietor, historian, and overall ‘mover and shaker’.
Ross had become the power in the land who organised to have the Shire of Eltham, then far more extensive than it is today, governed from the miniscule Kangaroo Ground for an amazing 66 years.
Kangaroo Ground : the Highland Taken
Book 3, 1996
Commissioned by the late Bruce Nixon (a former Kangaroo Ground resident), to write a definitive history of the district, this was a perfect time to tackle such a project. Many of the old families were still working their farms and thus had been available to recount their sagas.
The book’s subtitle had grown from my then flawed belief that the region’s Wurundjeri people had had their hunting grounds ‘taken’ from them by the arrival of Scottish farmers in Kangaroo Ground in 1847.
This illustrated 300 page hard-cover volume was launched by the former Victorian Premier, the late Sir Rupert Hamer, in the school grounds before a large audience.
The Last Cry
Book 4, 1997
Published under Bruce Nixon’s Tarcoola Press Imprint, this historical novel had placed, for the first time, the tragic disappearance of the Wurundjeri people from their prized kangaroo hunting grounds before the present-day people.
Three separate attempts have subsequently been made to reproduce The Last Cry as a film. The first script was written by Cliff Green who scripted the highly successful film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Funded by SBS Independent, the project successfully reached its final hurdle only to be knocked back by its Production Team who obviously felt too nervous back then in the 1990s to make the final decision for its production. Later however, The Last Cry was successfully reproduced by John Gandy as a Speak-a-Book.
The Last Cry inspired the then Shire of Eltham to make its formal Acknowledgement Apology and Commitment to the region’s traditional owners at a big all-day ceremony performed before an estimated gathering of six hundred of its constituents in a ceremony in Wingrove Park on 9 March 1998. At the Shire's request, the ceremony was especially designed by the author and two other local supporters of Aboriginal Reconciliation.
Against the Odds : Research Rural Fire Brigade 1950-2000
Book 5, 2000
The Research Rural Fire Brigade invited the author to write a book in celebration of its first 50 years of successful operations. Despite no fee being offered, I responded positively, seeing it as an opportunity for me to learn more about what had made it possible for such a local organisation of volunteers to maintain such continuity. Furthermore, it had drawn me into deeper research into the overall nature of fire-fighting regimes, past and present which had, in turn, reinforced my emerging conviction that Aboriginal people in Victoria had never had need to confront a major outbreak because of their underlying dedication to the ethos of fire-stick farming.
Tread Softly : YOU TREAD ON DREAMS
Book 6, 2001
In the year 2000 I was asked to write a history of the Kangaroo Ground Pioneer Cemetery - the oldest operating cemetery in the Yarra Valley. It had been opened in 1851, when the people of Kangaroo Ground had been in urgent need of a place to bury Judith, the 5 year-old sister of John and Joseph Furphy.
Over its first 140 years, the local Cemetery Trust managed their Cemetery on a shoestring budget aware that their family, too, would eventually need to pay burial fees. Over recent years, its Cemetery Trust has been more upfront and has successfully transformed its five acres into a resting place of which the present community can justifiably feel pride.
Kangaroo Ground: the land and its people
Book 7, 2002
This booklet was designed to meet the needs of lay people seeking an understanding of how the Kangaroo Ground we know today had come into being.
The book is not in any way an in-depth study which regardless of such a study’s greater capacity to provide answers, would inevitably not have been widely read by those this publication had set out to reach. Understand it as an attempt to portray Kangaroo Ground as having had a far more extensive story to tell than that which started the day its first European family unloaded its plough.
The thumb-nail sketches it offers are designed to assist local readers to understand its unique landscape as being worthy of preservation.
Golden Days on the Caledonian Diggings
Book 8, 2005
Much of the action in Golden Days on the Caledonian Diggings derives directly from Thomas Young’s two Diaries, 1859-1866 and 1895-1900. These are indeed rare historic records of a Gold Field that otherwise has been only poorly recorded and as such has remained a mystery to this day.
With little further being recorded, let’s then revisit the unruly years of the 1860s and the
arrival of gold-carter, Thomas Young, with his horse-and-dray, a man with a keen sense of
history. A man who for a further seven years would record the everyday action in a diary that he kept of his journeys between various local mines and Nickinson’s Crusher close by the present-day Panton Hill Hotel. This is long since gone now the district’s crystal clear streams and lofty Iron-barks are now simply sullied waters, mullock heaps and shafts being gouged deep into the heart of the forest. Now only dusty roads edged with an occasional slab-clad miner’s hut, perhaps a bush shanty or rare hotel or general store are reminders of the struggle-town of colourful miners, many of them Chinese.
Boat O'Craigo : the Grahams of Montrose, Scotland, Lancefield and beyond
Book 9, 2004
In 2004, the descendants of Robert Straughan Graham had commissioned me to research and write a family history. Robert Graham (1780-1881) was a young Scot who migrated to Victoria
from Craigo on the east coast of Scotland in 1852 to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields.
Back in Scotland, the Grahams could boast Dukes and Earls in their ancestry and this sent me on months of fascinating research into the intricacies of Scotland’s oft-time’s violent past, then further enquiries into the family’s equally fascinating Lancefield, Fish Creek and Kangaroo Ground ventures.
Of importance to any deeper understanding of the family is the ancient port city of Montrose (some five miles south of Craigo), which had received its royal charter from King David I of Scotland in 1352. Here, the records tell an unedifying tale of 'bloodshed and treason.’ As against that, there’s the uplifting statement, ‘but the family of Graham had kept tolerably clean hands, and had played an honourable part in the national history. Sir Jon the Graham, the trusted friend of Wallace, had fallen gloriously at Falkirk. What better accolade could any proud Scot have assigned to his clan!
This book was a hard cover volume, commissioned by Stephen Graham who later transferred to Kangaroo Ground where he established O’Craigo Vineyard next to the Kangaroo Ground War Memorial Park.
This volume was launched on the second storey of Young and Jacksons, a well-known hotel in central Melbourne.
Auld Duncan's Kangaroo Tales
Book 10, 2007
'Auld Duncan’s Kangaroo Tales' relate to an almost forgotten era in this wide brown land of ours: a faraway world of long, long ago within which its players, both black and white, have for decades past lain peacefully in local burial grounds.
Here my chosen audience were the children of the district who, by and large, appear not to have learnt much about the district’s early days.
The players in these tales have all passed on - others might say that they never existed. It is for the reader to gauge their worth by reference to the written record and the land that Auld Duncan and his contemporaries had carved out of the forest all of those years ago.
Our role is to care for that land to ensure its continuity into the future.
At first, I had difficulty writing stories for children until I decided to do so under the nom de plume ‘Sandy McClusky’ and came up with my fictional character ‘Auld Duncan’ based on an old Kangaroo Ground ‘hatter’ who had once lived in a hut above the school. Occassionally he would visit the school to talk to the children about the old days.
Amongst the Old Folks - Rye Cemetery
Book 11, 2007
This slim volume had its roots in a request by my Rye brother to write a history of the Rye Cemetery. Handed a bundle of Cemetery Tour Notes, I used them as the bare bones to be fleshed out into the colourful entities they had indeed been in the then sequestered Rye community.
Back in those days it had been almost as if Rye was on an island. Its usual way into the outer world was on board one of the many small sailing ketches taking the town’s produce into the budding metropolis of Melbourne at the top-end of Port Phillip Bay. Situated as they had been on a narrow isthmus of decidedly poor soil unsuited to agriculture, the townspeople had survived mainly on the business of burning lime, fishing and the provision of firewood for baker’s ovens of bustling Melbourne.
The book developed over the six months of its writing and when it was completed I sent it back to the Rye Historical Society for publication. I later found that I had been relegated to the lesser status of co-author to the compiler of the original cemetery notes.
As Joseph Furphy has put it: ‘Such is Life’.
Another View of Kangaroo Ground - its land and its people
Book 12, 2008
This revised and expanded edition of the author’s 1996 book takes in the rise and fall of the megafauna which once had roamed the district’s hills in association with the rise and fall of sea levels, the evolution of the region’s fauna and flora together with the lifestyles and sudden disappearance of its Wurundjeri people.
Any deep appraisal of history is reliant upon an understanding of the nature of the soil upon
which it had been allowed to unfold. This is particularly true in relation to Kangaroo Ground where geology had been the prime determinant of the success of its Scottish farmers.
Likewise, the success of its earlier Wurundjeri hunters in transforming what had originally
been a forest of large trees into a grassland dotted with simply an occasional tree is argued as the secret of their success in transforming Kangaroo Ground into arguably the best kangaroo hunting ground south of the Murray.
The Christmas Hills Story - once around the Sugarloaf
Book 13, 2010
A mere hour's drive out of Melbourne’s busy CBD through broad-acre Kangaroo Ground lies the very different, far more peaceful world of Christmas Hills, where birdsong and gumtrees set a pace more in keeping with the beat of a human heart.
Learn about how its first farmers had faced the forest with axe and plough to carve out paddocks and build their first homes. Find out about the rustic wayside hotels that once had dotted the old ‘Yarra Track’ passing through what eventually gave way to colourful guesthouses for city holiday-makers to escape the hustle and bustle of city living to a life more in step with the beat of a human heart.
Book 14, 2010
This work challenges the firmly held belief that the people we have come to understand as the pioneers had been the first of the newly arriving settler world to occupy the Yarra Valley. It argues that instead for fourteen or more years an itinerant band of outrageous characters, running mainly cattle and sheep under the everyday care of ticket-of-leave convicts, had been in charge. As such, they were the only real power in the Yarra Valley.
The book argues further that these squatters and their convict stockmen had been responsible for the eviction and ultimate demise of the Wurundjeri people who’d long understood the Yarra Valley as being their own pristine homeland for untold thousands of years.
Round and Round the Mulberry Bush - an autobiography by Mick Woiwod
Book 15, 2011
Who is to say whether or not we as children had actually danced around that ancient mulberry bush all of those years ago? Perhaps, it had been no more than a fanciful dream that has somehow lived on in my subconscious to serve as a metaphor within which my story has been allowed to unfold?
As they say, ‘Life is mainly froth and bubble’ but when one is in the thick of it, it’s seldom possible to place a precise figure on its worth. Having now long-since run my full three score years and ten and hopeful that there are still more to come, it’s been a great comfort to relive them and share their pleasures with readers.
This book outlines Mick's journey from childhood and young adulthood, through parenting and work life, along the paths of all the places Mick and his family lived, through his university life and travel. All of these life stages chart the path of Mick's lifelong passion, that of restoring the lost layer of Victorian history: Indigenous History.
The Diary and Reminiscences of Andrew Ross
Book 16, 2011
This major work derives from a 66 year long, hand-written Diary kept by Andrew Ross, Kangaroo Ground’s first schoolmaster. In 1994, a copy of his 300 page hand-written diary was acquired by the Andrew Ross Museum from the State Library of Victoria and transcribed into print format. This was passed on to the present writer who began the daunting task of researching and annotating its players and illustrating and indexing the final work before adding into it the 43 ‘Reminiscences’ that Ross had despatched back to Kangaroo Ground for serial publication in the Evelyn Observer.
This 365 page A4 volume was launched on 24 July 2001 by Bruce Nixon before a large crowd in the Eltham Little Theatre supported by a Three Act play, ‘The Squire of Kangaroo Ground’. This had been scripted for the occasion by the famed playwright Peter Oyston, featuring Dominique, his opera singer daughter, designed to highlight facets of Ross’s highly innovative twenty-five years in Kangaroo Ground.
Book 17, 2012
This publication runs to more than 140,000 words. Its prime focus is the Yarra River as it had been understood by its Wurundjeri people. The Database was designed to fulfil a perceived need for an easily accessible repository for the data collected by the author when writing his various histories of the Yarra Valley.
Whereas European history has long been comprehensively recorded, much of Australian Aboriginal people’s story had survived only in oral form from brief accounts written by the few early settlers who bothered to put pen to paper. As such, Birrarung Database is an all-inclusive compilation of those sometimes difficult to locate ‘brief snatches of the action’ now collated under manageable headings. In each instance, the provenance as to source details and/or author included.
Amongst the many Yarra River themes dealt with are: agriculture, law, ceremony, language, reconciliation, retribution, lifestyle, art and craft, climate, personalities, disease, death and the river’s flora and fauna. Both Databases include Letters of Support from the Wurundjeri Land Council in Abbotsford and both were launched by a Senior Wurundjeri Elder.
Book 18, 2012
The Coranderrk Database is a 228 page compilation of the author’s extensive research material collected over a 30 year period. This book makes available for the first time to budding historians, intent upon identifying further aspects of Coranderrk’s remarkable story and eventual shameful closure in 1924.
In 2012, this Database won the Victorian Community History Award for Research jointly awarded by the Royal Victorian Historical Society and the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV). Complementary copies of this Database, together with an enclosed readable DVD of its entire text have been donated to every regional library and every Secondary School within Wurundjeri Country.
Paradise Lost : in and around the Great Moorool
Book 19, 2014
Having long since browsed all past and present local histories covering the towns and districts along the mid to upper Yarra, the author had found only brief reference to the Dreamtime stories that its Wurundjeri people had borne with them down the millennia. Paradise Lost is an attempt to reintroduce a number of those stories that have survived for present day reflection.
Paradise Lost is soundly based in Wurundjeri belief and solidly supported within current geological thought. The underlying worth of the story told lies within its capacity to open up a plethora of further regional Dreamtime perceptions. When tested against the geological record, these perceptions are shown to have been the reality.
As such, the book's further strength lies in its capacity to reinterpret the present-day landscapes of the Middle Yarra to tell us more about how its people had presented prior to the European Invasion of the 1830s.
Paradise Lost runs to 149,000 words, 322 pages and includes 163 illustrations and 13 individual maps.
Wrath of the Myndie
Book 20, 2015
This work is substantially revised and now illustrated revision of the author’s 1997 historical novel, The Last Cry, and expands upon the story of how the Wurundjeri people of the Yarra Valley were crushed to the extent that none had ever returned to their beloved Kangaroo Grounds.
This is the story of Ngayuk, a young Wurundjeri lad who, after his initiation on his people’s hill-top Bora (where the stone War Memorial Tower stands today), had set out to learn more about the strange white beings moving up the valley towards them, stealing away his people’s hunting grounds. During the story, Ngayuk makes friends with some of these beings and foes with others.
When Nguyuk's bride and son are brutally slain, he sets out in search of the great Jaga Jaga who has come to see himself as the Myndie dispatched by Bunjil to drive the white intruders back into the sea.
Most of the players in Wrath of the Myndie, on both sides of the racial divide, are drawn directly from the historic records with each performing much as he or she had in real life.
Kangaroo Ground Dreaming
Book 21, 2015
Revealed as never before, the true story of Garden Hill in Kangaroo Ground. This is the story of how its Wurundjeri people were crushed to an extent that none had ever been able to return to area that they had successfully transformed into the most productive kangaroo-hunting grounds in Port Phillip.
Read about how Kangaroo Ground's fire-stick farmers had transformed what had originally been a forest of mature manna gums into a forb-rich grassland jumping with kangaroos and further tasty morsels of marsupial life. This had been a purposely transformed landscape that over millennia had been ingeniously modified to contain stalking trees spaced a handy spear’s-throw or so apart.
Unlike the author’s earlier volumes on Kangaroo Ground which had argued that the Wurundjeri’s hunting grounds had been taken from them, Kangaroo Ground Dreaming argues that instead, the Wurundjeri had been expunged from it to the extent that there is no record whatever of them having ever returned to it.
Barak vs the Black Hats of Melbourne
Book 22, 2017
Deeply researched and exactingly referenced throughout, Barak versus the Black Hats of Melbourne is the product of a decade of research. This story is guaranteed to reignite the History Wars of past decades. It is story providing a thought-provoking reinterpretation of early Victorian race relations and the rationale behind the final closure of the Coranderrk .
In the Victorian context, William Barak (1824-1903), stands tall. Opposed to him is the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, the ASV. The ASV was led by a powerful cabal of Melbourne gentry, intent upon populating the Victorian bush with the wide range of exotic creatures they introduced from Europe and Africa such as deer, salmon, hares, rabbits, pheasants and grouse.
When this powerful group, the Black Hats of Melbourne learned that Barak and his fellow hunters on the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve had shot six of their precious deer they were outraged. They immediately took total control of the BPA - Board for the Protection of Aborigines - and set about the removal of Barak and his fellow Coranderrk residents to a remote location on the Lower Murray.
Alongside the story of the Black Hats is the story of how William Barak fought back to maintain a Wurundjeri presence in their home country.