Parliament

Cummeraganja Walk-off

February 06, 2019

Members Statement - 

The 80th anniversary of the Cummeragunja walk-off was celebrated at Cummeragunja last weekend.

This is an important part of the history of the Yorta Yorta people.

Cummeragunja is located in southern New South Wales and is just across the Murray River from Barmah in the north of my electorate. It was established in 1888 to house displaced Aboriginal families from many areas of Victoria as the dispossession from land took place.

Managers appointed by the New South Wales government under the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act controlled the lives of residents, and the living conditions by 1939 were dreadful, despite petitions to government for improvements.

Elders tell stories of big black cars coming into Cummeragunja and how parents would tell their children to run away and hide so as not to be removed from them.

To escape the harsh conditions approximately 200 Aboriginal people left their homes and crossed the Murray River to Victoria. Most moved to the flats at Mooroopna, finding work picking fruit and shearing.

Two prominent Aboriginal men, Jack Patten and William Cooper, became spokesmen for the dispersed Aboriginal communities. Patten is said to have received a jail sentence for his part in inspiring the walk-off, and both have since been honoured for their contribution and sacrifice.

Congratulations to all of those involved in the recent commemorations of this most important event in the lives of the Yorta Yorta people. And while I could not be there in person, I walk with you.

 

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  • Michael Oakes
    commented 2019-02-07 22:51:39 +1100
    Is important to note that the Bangerang have long been recognised as prior occupants of the area. Before the push by then Victorian Labor Government’s push for aboriginal land rights in the 1980’s, it seemed nobody had heard of the Yorta Yorta. Also apparently at this time, they made little or no consultation with the then leading aboriginal organisation in Victoria, the Aborigines Advancement League about their proposals. This city centric government also wanted Barmah Forest to become a National Park. The Bangerang organisation led by highly regarded Chief Elder, the late John “Sandy” Atkinson supported all the other local organisations who wanted the Barmah Forest maintained in a multiple use productive state. So the government recruited people who could claim to be aboriginal who would go along with its agenda – Including activists from outside the area and cranked up the Yorta Yorta organisation. It has since been regarded by the government as a Recognised Aboriginal Party while the Bangerang have not. Even to the extent that the government would not recently help fund the long established Bangerang Cultural Centre in Shepparton to keep it open.