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Culture and heritage

The local Brataualung Aboriginal clan of the Kurnai (Gunai) lived in South Gippsland for over 6,000 years. The Brataualung people travelled the estuaries in their canoes (gri), beside pelican (baran) and swan (gidi). They hunted and gathered seasonally abundant food including the eggs of Black Swans and shellfish.

The colonisation of South Gippsland by Europeans resulted in the displacement of the Brataualung people from their traditional homeland. The confrontation of the two cultures led to some violent clashes. In July 1843, a local pastoralist, Ronald Macalister was speared to death near Port Albert. In response Angus Macmillan, one of the first white settlers in Gippsland organised a party of whites that massacred approximately 90-150 Brataualung on the banks of Warrigal Creek very close to the reserve.

The remains of many camps (boangs) containing charcoal, stone, flints and shells are scattered throughout the Reserve. A number of burial sites are also known.

Declared in 1958, Jack Smith Lake was the first State Game Reserve in Victoria. This means that it has been set aside for habitat protection, wildlife management and hunting of game species.