When we were sitting on the beach at Mordialloc, enjoying the overcast but warm day, I was struck by the fact that Mordialloc sounds as if it might be an indigenous place-name and that it phonetically resembles Woori Yallock, the name of a town in the Upper Yarra Valley.
When I looked on the Dictionary of Aboriginal Placenames in Victoria, I found that the traditional name for the beach I was sitting on was Murdayaluk, with murda meaning low/short and yaluk meaning river or creek.
Woori Yallock means running creek.
There were other places in the database with Yallock in the placename.
As I sat there, I wondered who had rested on this beach in the past, and how they had lived. And I wondered when they had told the newly-arrived Europeans what they should call the place.
Given that before the nineteenth century place names were recorded orally rather than in written form, I guess it's not surprising that the written forms of names were not consistent.
At the Victorian Government's Land Channel, it says:
The widespread use of Indigenous names provides a strong connection to our Indigenous heritage and acknowledges Indigenous culture. However some names may not be strictly accurate because of unfamiliarity with Indigenous language and culture at the time they were originally recorded.
Most of the Indigenous languages did not have a written form when Victoria’s places and features were being named under European settlement (although some Indigenous communities used message sticks to convey information between groups).
The people who first recorded fragments of these languages were not linguists paying careful attention to subtleties of pronunciation they were generally surveyors and explorers, who were usually the first Europeans to travel through the land and record names in their maps, charts and fieldbooks.