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For thousands of years in late summer, Aboriginal clans from areas surrounding Buluk (Lake Bolac) gathered annually at the lake and along the Salt Creek, when the eels began their migration from the lake to the sea to spawn.

This time was known as kuyang (eel) season. At Buluk, the Aboriginal clans harvested the eels, traded and held ceremonies. 

In 2005, Neil Murray, singer/songwriter from Lake Bolac and founding member of Aboriginal rock band, ‘Warumpi Band’ talked with Uncle Banjo Clarke’s family.

He proposed a walk from Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve and Forest, back to Country from which their ancestors had been removed, to emulate the traditional journey to Buluk for the eel harvest gatherings.
In late March, Gunditjmara and Kirrae Wurrung members of Uncle Banjo’s family and a group of non-Aboriginal locals walked from the mouth of the Hopkins River in Warrnambool to Lake Bolac over nine days.

The walk became known as the Healing Walk.

They decided to organise a music festival to revive the idea of a celebratory gathering by the lake during kuyang season, the traditional eel harvest gatherings prior to colonial invasion.

The first festival in 2005 opened with a Welcome to Country by Uncle Banjo’s son, Lenny Clarke, and a dance by the Kuyang Dancers from the Warrnambool area.

From 2005-2014, the festival was held annually, and, thereafter, biennially.

In 2020, the festival was postponed due to COVID pandemic restrictions.

The timing of the festival in late March/early April continues to reflect the timing of the traditional pre-colonial eel harvest gatherings.

The event has won several awards, including Outstanding Festival at the Australian Business Arts Foundation (ABAF) Awards in 2011 and Best Festival in the Community Engagement Category of the 2018 Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together (HART) Awards.

From 2005 to 2014 the festival was held annually and since 2016 biennially.

The Eel Festival
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