Glenaire is the western side of the beautiful Aire River valley near where it joins the Ford and Calder Rivers to form a fertile estuary before emptying itself into the mighty Southern Ocean.
The Great Ocean Road skirts the Aire Valley and the gazetted locality of Glenaire sits in a pocket just beyond a huge bend. At this point the pounding, wild ocean is only 400 meters away…next stop south is the Antarctic.
As there is no actual township it is difficult to gauge population but if you take in Laver’s Hill, according to 2011 census, we are looking at about 200 people in the Aire Valley, so there is likely to be more cows and sheep than humans (would need to fact check that…)
This is a unique part of the Otways, one that is rich in history, both ancient and modern, a place that has sustained life literally for millions of years. If these hills and valleys could speak, what tales they would tell and this area is a prime example of why Australia is known as the oldest continent on Planet Earth (which really could be called Planet Ocean as we are 71% covered by salt water…but that’s another story..)
The story of Glenaire starts at around 110 million years ago when dinosaurs were roaming this part of the world, and when Australia was still part of Antartica, with long, dark polar nights. Dinosaur Cove is located a little further west than Castle Cove, but is now inaccessible. This is where fossils were found that proved that these ancient creatures did in fact once live in the southern hemisphere – a most important discovery. (see article in this issue)
Fast forward the geological time clock to 30 – 50,000 years ago when the Gadubanud (Katabanut-King Parrot ) people occupied the rainforest plateau and rugged coastline all along the Aire Valley and into Cape Otway.
There is evidence along the Aire River estuary of many middens and fragments include turban shells, abalone, periwinkle, elephant fish, chiton, beaked mussel and limpets. It is known that seals, cape barren geese, eels and ducks were also eaten, along with New Zealand spinach, tubers and berries. What a rich and healthy life it must have been feasting on the region’s abundant game and seafood. The Gadubanud also made bark canoes for use in the rivers, lakes, estuaries and along the coast.
Now let’s move the clock to just less than two hundred years ago…
During the 1830s Gadubanud successfully avoided interactions with European settlers. Early squatters thought the Otways were uninhabited and the thick forest was impenetrable to European explorers. Superintendent Charles La Trobe made three expeditions to try and reach Cape Otway, and on his third attempt in March 1846 came upon seven Gaduband men and women in the Aire valley.
Later in 1846 George D Smythe was contracted to survey the Otways. One of his surveying party, Conroy, was murdered by a party of Gadubanud, although there are no details on whether they may have been provoked in some way. Smythe returned to Melbourne to organise a retaliatory expedition which took place in August 1846. The party, which included several Wada Wurrung people, came across seven Gadubanud at the mouth of the Aire River and attacked and killed them in what became known as the Blanket Bay massacre. Today the Gunditjmara people are the traditional custodians of Gadubanud lands, although there are Aboriginal people in the area today who trace their ancestry to the Gudabanud.
A report on the massacre was published in the Argus on 1 September 1846 according to Ian D. Clark, pp119-123, Scars on the Landscape. A Register of Massacre sites in Western Victoria 1803-1859, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1995
The fertile alluvial soil of the valley offered productive farming lands for the early European settlers beginning in the 1830’s few of which remain today.
More recently, the area has seen the development of holiday accommodations and a tasty variety of eateries catering to the growing number of visitors driving along the Great Ocean Road. For the more intrepid travelers, Glenaire also provides the perfect rest stop along the Great Ocean Walk.
The challenge now, for both residents, farmers and visitors, is how to maintain the fragile balance between agricultural needs, tourism and conservation so that the Aire Valley can continue to flourish and provide clean water in a future time that will come to value water more than oil.
Photo Credit: Chi Medicinal Farm