Ballardong traditional way of life

The Ballardong people are the traditional owners of Goomalling. Goomalling’s Oak Park is one place you can still see evidence of their traditional way of life. Goomalling’s Indigenous heritage is also reflected in local place names.

Prior to the arrival of European settlers the Ballardong people had their own systems of social arrangement and land management, including regular firing of the land to increase pastures for game such as kangaroos.

Each person had their kaleep, an area of land which they knew intimately and had recognised rights to hunt and forage in.

The knowledge of where food sources were, particularly plants and when they were ready to be harvested, governed the Ballardong pattern of movement across the land. These staple food items were generally harvested and prepared by women.

The Ballardong people had sacred knowledge and understanding of the land that brought groups together for celebratory and ritual purposes.

Bush food

For the Ballardong people, plants were an important food source providing carbohydrates in the diet. Early explorers and missionaries recorded a wide variety of plants used for food including an underground vegetable resembling a potato or yam known as warran. Other important plant foods were the edible root of typha augustifolia, a species of flag, known to the Ballardong as yanjidi; the rhizomes of reeds; zamia nuts; acacia seeds; wattle gum; mushrooms and bulbs.

The desert quandong (santalum acuminatum) tree yields an edible fruit with red flesh and a kernel that has high oil content. As well as being a food source for the Ballardong, the early settlers used the fruit to make jam, pies and jellies. The quandong continues to be a popular ingredient on the menus of bush food restaurants.


The origin and development of gnammas is not known with any certainty but it is thought that they were initially formed through weathering of faults in granite which Aboriginal people then enlarged by using fire. Gnammas can vary in depth from a few centimetres up to 10 metres and their maintenance was of prime importance to Aboriginal people who relied on the water contained in them for their survival. The Ballardong freely shared their knowledge of the land and the location of gnammas and springs with explorers.

You can see gnamma holes at Oak Park.