The Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation, a Registered Aboriginal Party since 21 May 2009, represents the traditional owners for the Geelong and Ballarat areas, though there is considerable internal disagreement between the two regional groupings, which regard themselves as heirs to culturally and linguistic distinct groups. The Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, based in Geelong, also has a role in managing Wathaurong Cultural Heritage, for example through its ownership of the Wurdi Youang Aboriginal stone arrangement at Mount Rothwell.
Wathaurung territory extended some 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2). To the east of Geelong their land ran up to Queenscliff, and from the south of Geelong around the Bellarine Peninsula, to the towards the Otway forests. Its northwestern boundaries lay at Mount Emu and Mount Misery, and extended to Lake Burrumbeet Beaufort and the Ballarat goldfields.
Coastal clans of the Wadawurrung may have had contact with Lieutenant John Murray when he charted Indented Head and named Swan Bay. Matthew Flinders met several Wadawurrung when he camped at Indented Head and climbed the You Yangs in May 1802.
When Lieutenant David Collins founded the colony at Sullivan Bay, Victoria in October 1803, he sent Lieutenant J. Tuckey to survey and explore Corio Bay which resulted in several Aborigines being shot and wounded. William Buckley, a convict who had escaped from the abortive Sullivan Bay settlement in December 1803, lived with a group of Victorian aborigines, commonly identified with the Wathaurong. In his reminiscences, Buckley tells of his first meeting with native women. Buckley had taken a spear used to mark a grave for use as a walking stick. The women befriended him after recognising the spear as belonging to a relative who had recently died and invited him back to their camp. The tribe thought he was the resurrected Murrangurk, an important former leader. He was adopted into the horde and lived among them for 32 years, being treated with great affection and respect. Buckley states he was appointed a headman and had often witnessed wars, raids, and blood-feuds. He adds that he frequently settled disputes and disarmed warring groups on the eve of some fight. As a revered spirit, he was banned from participating in tribal wars. According to Buckley warfare was a central part of life among the Australian hunter-gatherers.