The Bundian Way is a pathway that is possibly more than 40,000 years old, certainly far older than the Pyramids or the Silk Road. In December 2012 it was entered on the NSW State Heritage Register for its Aboriginal, European and shared heritage values.
When Europeans arrived in the SE region of Australia they found the mountainous country a barrier to settlement. Produce of the Monaro, for example, was too difficult to get to market without access to the port in Eden. When travelling and sending freight by sea was the best option, the nearest harbour in Eden could not service the settlers.
The old Aboriginal clans of the region came to the rescue and showed the settlers the way to go. They could follow the pathways that had been used for thousands of years. These became the first roads.
Not only did the Aboriginal people show the settlers how best to get between the coast and the Monaro, they also showed them how to get to Gippsland which was unsettled at the time.
The Bundian Way is a descriptive name as it goes by way of the Bundian Pass, which was the easiest walking route from the tablelands to the coastal plains. It skirts Bondi Creek, the old Bondi Station and the district referred to by names spelt in various ways, such as Bundyang, Boondyang, Boondi and Bondia in early accounts. W.B. Clarke described it during his explorations of the Monaro in 1851. G.A. Robinson in his journeys of 1844 refers to the grassy hills or downs of the south-eastern Monaro and says, in his own phonetic way: ‘The tribe is called Pundeang mittong, Bungunggarley alias John Gow is a native of this place at Pundang.’
Its route mostly follows wild country and local roads and tracks. One spur continues on to Omeo and Gippsland or to the western plains via the Omeo gap. Much of the landscape is extremely rugged and it includes the much-mythologised Man from the Snowy River country. Its very wildness made the pathways all the more important before any roads were developed. It is well recorded how Aboriginal people showed the way first, and subsequent use resulted in exploration and development of places like Gippsland in the earliest days by Macalister, McMillan, highland Scots shepherds, and the horsemen and cattlemen who followed; some who noted and followed the pathways included Lhotsky, Brodribb, Lingard, Ryrie, Lambie, A.W. Howitt, W.B. Clarke, von Mueller, Oswald Brierly, G.A. Robinson and others.
As an ancient pathway it was one of the remarkable trade and cultural routes of Australia, not only connecting the moth sites of the high country with the whale places on the coast but also Gippslamd and the western districts of Victoria and beyond via the Omeo Gap. It predated the Silk Road, the Roman roads and other great roads of world antiquity. In its practical role it connected Aboriginal people and their kinship and landscapes, their special places and ceremonies.
Today, the Bundian Way has a symbolic role that demonstrates the Aboriginal people’s deep connections with their much-varied environment and how, in an ever-changing world, some things remain.
You can still walk all the way along it, mostly through wild country or minor country roads, from the highest part of the continent to the coast. Many traces still remain in the present day.
‘These are the things that make us who we are today. They promote better understanding and relationships.’Ben J. Cruse, a spokesperson from Eden Local Aboriginal Lands Council