Explore Benalla’s Aboriginal Garden, which is located within Moira Reserve along the Broken River’s banks.
This tranquil bush oasis, nestled amongst a stand of magnificent old River Red Gums, is a place for rest and reflection, as well as for developing an appreciation for Indigenous culture and the natural environment.
Discover Benalla’s Aboriginal Garden and the plants and waterways that were significant to Benalla’s Indigenous people prior to European settlement. Discover the giant stone snakes hidden within the garden’s granite stonewall and the carvings and symbols created by Indigenous elders and community members on the large’resting’ rocks.
Aboriginal tribes inhabited the Benalla region for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.
Aborigines have used indigenous plants for food, medicine, shelter, and utensils for 40,000 years, and thus a special garden featuring indigenous plants seemed an appropriate living memorial to the people who managed the land for so long.
Seven white men and one Aborigine were killed in the so-called Faithfull Massacre in April 1838 at the Crossing Place on the Broken River. Following a series of retaliatory massacres, Border Police Stations were established at the Seymour, Benalla, Wangaratta, and Wodonga river crossings, and the number of Aboriginal tribes declined.
There is a memorial stone near Lake Benalla dedicated to the Faithfull Massacre, but Aboriginal people do not recognize this attempt at the commemoration.
Benalla’s Aboriginal Garden exemplifies the spirit of cooperation required to create a community garden that is approved by Aboriginal elders, a wonderful addition to a town renowned for its gardens, and a healing and knowledge-sharing space beneficial to all.
The garden was inspired by discussions with local Aboriginal leader Chris Thorne, who saw the potential for a community garden as a way to acknowledge the district’s pre-European history and to share knowledge about Aboriginal culture and the environment.
Moira Reserve is home to the Aboriginal Garden, which is adjacent to the Broken River and Lake Benalla’s dam wall. It is sandwiched between the Lake Walk path and the water, surrounded by magnificent old River Red Gum trees.
Because water is necessary for life, it was critical that the garden be located alongside a waterway. The site was chosen by representatives of local tribes in collaboration with a landscape architect and the Foundation’s Advisory Committee.
The garden’s focal point is a wall of local granite shaped like the edge of a Coolamon – an Aboriginal food bowl made of wood. The wall represents the Coolamon, which is tipped on its side and surrounded by food plants.
Another feature of the design is the large’seating’ rocks in the sandy area embraced by the wall. Kevin Cooper and Chris Thorne have worked on a number of rock carvings that add another dimension to the garden under the leadership of Aboriginal elder Uncle Wally Cooper.
The plants in the garden are indigenous to the Benalla area and were once quite common there. Numerous species are now threatened by habitat destruction, agricultural practices, and urban development.
The garden was designed and located with care to allow floodwaters to flow freely through the area with minimal impact on the water flow or damage to the garden.
Actively welcomes people with access needs.