Yuin PeopleTo People
The Yuin Aboriginal people are considered the traditional owners of the land which stretches along the South Coast of New South Wales, from the Shoalhaven down to the Victorian border. Made up of several tribes including the Walbanga and Djiringanj tribes, the Yuin population was estimated at 11 000 before white settlement in 1788. Like all of Aboriginal Australia, the Yuin people had not been exposed to the diseases of the West and the smallpox epidemic of 1789, along with venereal diseases brought to the South Coast with the whalers and timber getters, would diminish the Yuin population by 90%.
The Wallaga Lake area and Merrimen Island just south of Bermagui are all considered traditional Yuin land and in 1977 Merriman Island was the first place in New South Wales to be officially recognised as an Aboriginal Heritage Site. Named in honour of 'King Merriman' or Umbarra who led the Yuin people until his death in 1904, Merriman Island is now part of the Aboriginal run Gulaga National Park and the Umbarra Centre which operates from the National Park seeks to keep the stories and traditions of the Yuin people alive. The totem of the Yuin people is Umburra the black duck who in a dreamtime story kept the Yuin people safe by warning Merriman of impending danger.