December 8, 2021

Old Places

Where we study the past to define our future

Wallan Sign

Wallan Sign

The meaning of Wallan Wallan

Most people interested in the history of Wallan Wallan consider the aboriginal meaning of our town is associated with water. Other people say it is related to wind. Who is right?

References to the meaning of Wallan Wallan

Wikipedia page for Wallan Wallan states “large circular place of water“ 1

The website TourismInternet states that Walla Walla means “lots of rain” and Wallan Wallan means “a circular piece of ground covered with rain water” 2

In relation to Wallan Wallan, Maya V Tucker, in the book “Kilmore on the Sydney Road”, page 98, states “Wallan Wallan had emerged from the Whallan Whallan swamp of the 1850s.” Tucker does not mention the meaning of Wallan Wallan nor Whallan Whallan.

An internet search for Whallan Whallan produced no results. And the same for searching the websites of the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office of Victoria.

J W Payne’s book Pretty Sally’s Hill makes no mention of the meaning or origin of the name Wallan Wallan. He does not use the term Whallan Whallan.

The website VICNAMES – The Register of Geographic Names, under the Mitchell Shire records Wallan Wallan “Traditional name: Walla Walla. ‘Much rain, a great flood.’ and ‘Wallan-Wallan,’ ‘round’”, that it is indigenous, and gives the source as a book by Thomas O’Callaghan titled “Names of Victorian Railway Stations” published in 1918.3

The 1878 book The Aborigines of Victoria by R Brough Smyth, states on page 105 that Wallan Wallan means “round”. 

The City of Whittlesea website states under the heading “Local Aboriginal History, Wurundjeri Willum People” that Wallan means “spherical/round (derived from walen-walen).4

I sent an online enquiry to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation on 12 June 2020 asking if Wallan Wallan had a meaning in their language, but to date no reply. The lands of the Wurundjeri people extends northwards from Melbourne to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and includes the Parish of Wallan Wallan.

The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages published a book in 2011 titled liwik-nganjin-al ngula-dhan yaawinbu yananinon, compiled by Lee Healy which is an analysed dictionary of the Taungurung language. This lists the Taungurung words that mean round and includes wallan wallan.5

When was the Parish of Wallan Wallan established? 

In relation to Wallan Wallan, Maya V Tucker, in the book “Kilmore on the Sydney Road”, page 98, states “Wallan was first surveyed in 1856 before the first land sales took place.

On page 24 of J W Payne’s book “Pretty Sally’s Hill”, Payne states “On the western side of Sydney Road allotment 34 bears the name R Mason, probably Robert Mason the surveyor who laid out so many parishes and townships in the 1853-8 period.”  

“Wallan Structural Plan and Infrastructure Coordination Plan, Victoria : Historical Assessment, 2014” states that the pastoral run Wallan Wallan was established in 1840, Also this report states that the Parish of Wallan Wallan was first surveyed in 1853 and the town in 1856/57.6

The website Victorian Places entry for Wallan Wallan states “It was named after the Wallan Wallan farm or pastoral station occupied by Major John Boyd (1839). The Wallan Wallan township was surveyed in 1853.”7

It is reasonable to conclude that the Parish of Wallan Wallan was surveyed and mapped in about 1853. As the outline of the town appears on the Parish of Wallan Wallan map, it is reasonable to say the town was named in about 1853, at the time of the survey of the parish.

Local Aboriginal Communities 

The squatting run Wallan Wallan held by J and J S Boyd appears to be on the lands of either the aboriginal people of the Wurundjeri nation or to the north, the Taungurung nation. These two nations were closely associated with each other. As stated above in the language of both these nations, Wallan Wallan means ‘round’.

The Wikipedia entries8 state :-

The Taungurong people, also known as the Daung Wurrung, were thirteen clans who spoke the Daungwurrung language and were part of the Kulin alliance of indigenous Australians. They lived to the north of and were closely associated with the Woiwurrung speaking Wurundjeri people. Their territory was to the north of the Great Dividing Range.

The Wurundjeri are an Aboriginal Australian nation of the Woiwurrung language group, in the Kulin alliance. They occupied the Birrarung (Yarra River) Valley before British colonisation of the area, around the present location of Melbourne.

Major John Boyd and his family probably had contact with aborigines of both the Wurundjeri and Taungurung nations, but probably because of their connections to Kilmore, mostly with the Taungurung people.

The Wallan Wallan Run

It is likely that the recently arrived settler, Major John Boyd, obtained a squatting lease for a 2700 acre run in about 1840. It was not immediately named Wallan Wallan. It was located to the west of Big Hill, later called Pretty Sally’s Hill, and extended west about 5.5 miles to just north of Darraweit Guim. The story of this run and the Boyd family can be read here.

By 1848 the run was called Wallan Wallan. What made Major Boyd select this name? As the town (and parish) Wallan Wallan did not develop until the late 1850s, the Boyd family would have looked towards Kilmore (established in 1841) for goods and services, and entertainment. Kilmore was about 10 miles away to the north east from the homestead. They probably made contact with the local aborigines, either members of the Wurundjeri or Taungurung nations. 

As can be seen in the map of his homestead block, north of the homestead was a reasonably flat area which was fenced and to the south east was a shearing shed. This generally is a circular level area. The aboriginal word for round is Wallan Wallan.

Above is from the book Pretty Sally’s Hill by J W Payne

Another possible factor in choosing Wallan Wallan could be the fact that the Boyd family came from Scotland. People with the surname Wallan, although in small numbers, can be found there.  The earliest use of the surname Wallan in Scotland was Janet Wallan, who died in 1724 in Edinburgh. It is an older surname in England.9


The name Wallan Wallan is a local aboriginal term meaning round.  The term Wallan Wallan was used as the name for a squatting run west of Pretty Sally’s Hill some time before 1848. There may be a connection to the Scottish surname Wallan. The parish of Wallan Wallan was created in about 1853 and the town was probably named in that year. There is no indication of a connection to water or wind.     


[1]  Wikipedia –,_Victoria – accessed September 2020

[2]  Tourism Internet – – accessed September 2020

[3]   VICNAMES – – accessed September 2020

[4]  The City of Whillesea website – – accessed September 2020

[5]  The National Library sent to me extracts of selected pages from this book in July 2020.

[6]  Mitchell Shire – – accessed September 2020

[7]  Victorian Places website, – accessed September 2020

[8] Wikipedia –, – accessed September 2020

[9] Scotlandspeople, Church registers, – accessed September 2020.