A Short-lived Reserve
The Chief Aboriginal Protector, George Augustus Robinson fought to secure land for the Wurundjeri people, noting in his diary on May 3rd 1839:
‘Had a long conversation with surveyor Mr. Hoddle. Showed me a map of the county, marked off into allotments comprising I think fully 30 square miles and not a single reserve for the blacks except the mission which I have no wish to retain. I said if that or a similar map was exhibited to the people of England they would at once see the way the natives are treated. Their lands sold from them and no provision made for their maintenance, and this by the government who are bound to protect them.'
It took until 1852 for a 1908 acre Aboriginal Reserve to be formally set aside at Pound Bend. However, gold had been discovered at Warrandyte in 1851 and the Reserve’s future was doomed. The Wurundjeri knew this and decided to hold one last corroboree. The Aboriginal Protector William Thomas described the event held in March 1852 as follows:
‘They had not met for many years and wanted to have once more some corroboree together….and night after night for fourteen days they did indulge themselves.’
However after the corroboree some of the Wurundjeri decided to go on one last walkabout to Melbourne. Not having permission to leave the reserve they were arrested at Bulleen and sent to the Police Paddocks at Dandenong. Others continued to live on creek-side encampments or work on local stations, while others moved to the safety of the Upper Goulburn until land was reserved for them at Coranderrk in 1863. Pound Bend served as a ration station until closed in 1862.
Nillumbik Reconciliation Group, in partnership with Reconciliation Manningham, has erected plaques on two boundaries of the former reserve: at the confluences of Stony Creek and of Anderson Creek with the Yarra River. The plaques were unveiled on 23rd March during the Warrandyte Festival.
You can download a flyer with more information and directions to the sites here.
Auntie Di Kerr speaking at the plaque unveiling. Photo: Diana Warrell
Presented by ELTHAMbookshop, Shire of Nillumbik,
Nillumbik Reconciliation Group,
Australian Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne,
Montsalvat & leading publishers
You can download the full Past Matters 2012 program here.
The Past Matters reviewed by Ann Curry
Writing for Rights. Montsalvat April 28 2012.
(There had been a session the previous evening at Melbourne University.)
A steadily growing and enthusiastic audience were treated to a most interesting, and at times charming, line up of authors.
Jan Aitken, president of the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group, gave the introduction, which included a very cordial welcome to country. She told us what an invaluable experience it is to hear real Aboriginal people giving an unadulterated view of their experiences and observations, as written in their books.
Phillip John Morrissey, Academic Coordinator, Australian Indigenous Studies Program, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, was chairman for the two days.
He pointed out that Aboriginal leaders of the 70’s and 80’s were writers, not high profile academics in universities etc. The importance of writing to Aboriginal people is to give them a voice. He used the example of Kevin Gilbert, in Living Black, 1977, who wrote one of the most important documents about Aboriginal people in society. Aboriginality needs, above all, community and sharing. His other example is Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) whose 1964 book of poems, We are Going, was a best seller but was not recognised as ‘real’ poetry by academics but labelled propaganda. By the 1980’s Aboriginal writing enters academia because of literary criticism. Now there have been two Aboriginal winners of the Miles Franklin Award.
Ali Cobby Eckermann made a return visit to us this year to discuss her verse novel Ruby Moonlight. She is a winner of several poetry competitions and awards and is known for her lucidity and intelligence, and her mastery of mixing Aboriginal English and English to give voice to the brutal realities of Aboriginal experience. We were horrified when she gave some illustrations of discoveries she had made about the stories of places like Mount Gambier where torture was what was meted out to local Aboriginal people a few generations ago. The book echoes Ali’s need for contact with society and nature. Such a natural communicator, she is a delight to listen to as she discusses her life dispassionately and takes us with her on her journey from Titjikala (NT) to South Australia and her success with writing. Again she brought to life her written words with her reading. In her words she is not a political but an emotional poet, but to readers her message has a lot of power.
Between sessions, a real treat was the recitation of his poems, and singing in language by Lionel Fogarty. ‘I write to get my truth out’, is a simple but profound statement by Lionel. He also accompanied Ali’s reading of verse with his didgeridoo playing. At question times he was an interested and vocal participant.
A couple of charming writers were Nicole Watson, from Sydney, and Marie Munkara, from Darwin, who discussed their work and life with Morag Fraser. They were both fresh and natural and completely in charge of their subject matter; and both seemed a little bemused by their success. Marie’s book, Every Secret Thing, inspired by things that happened in her family, is about interactions between groups. On Bathurst Island when she was 28, she met her mum who told her to learn by sitting and listening. Marie said it was meant to be a sarcastic book but the result is humorous. In fact she broke up into giggles as she read from the book, which she said she also did while writing.
On the other hand, Nicole’s reading from her book, The Boundary, was rather chilling. She had found the writing of this crime fiction, set in Brisbane, very draining and had no mentors to bounce off, except for the great crime writers she had read.
A change of pace came with two very different books about football by Titta Secombe and Bruce Hearne McKinnon. Titta, who works for Parks Victoria, wrote her book, Marngrook for the Grampians region, which had no relevant children’s books. It is inspired by her own children’s footy. Her ancestors, at Hall’s Gap played with a possum skin ball. It is a book about a parent making a toy for a child.
Bruce Hearn McKinnon’s trinity is 1, his clan (family), 2, class politics and 3, Collingwood football. He belonged to a group of industrialized workers who instigated the reconciliation of footy and remote Indigenous communities. They adopted Yuendumu, recruiting players, especially Liam Jurrah, whose story is the subject of Bruce’s book. Bruce became like Liam’s older brother and guided this incredibly talented player through the lonely journey from Yuendumu, where he lived in the Warlpiri clan in a traditional lifestyle, to the foreign environment and all the demands of a football club. Bruce states that the book is not written for initiated reconciliation supporters like ourselves, but for the wider community.
Bill Gammage gave us a very comprehensive account of his book, The Biggest Estate on Earth, which sets out to prove that Aboriginal pastoralists, all over Australia, managed the land through fire to make the useful plants and animals more abundant, and left the landscape of 1888 far more viable than it is now. Paintings by 19th century artists, Joseph Lycett, Eugene Von Guerard and Fred McCubbin illustrate the open areas that confined forest and divided up scrub that existed when the first settlers arrived. This system not only encouraged plentiful grasslands for native animals to graze but also protected from the type of enormously destructive fires that we experience these days.
The final book for the day, A Different Inequality, was written by anthropologist and emeritus professor, Diane Austin-Broos. In a very erudite, research-based, university style lecture she told us about the relationship between law and economics that is essential for self-determination. Economy needs law and vice-versa. The impact of pastoralism on the hunter-gatherer economy re-defined the Indigenous autonomy. It can only be restored by both law and economic evolution. Since the 1960’s, 37% of the continent has been returned to the Indigenous people, enabling many to move back to their traditional lands. But the evaporation of the old economics of hunting and cottage industries has resulted in poverty. Many have moved into welfare and remain reliant. The overwhelming majority of early deaths are caused by lifestyle and disease. Although Aboriginal communities are diverse, they are more or less travelling in the same direction towards unemployment and welfare. Indigenous people deserve the same political and economic rights as the rest of Australia.
The day finished with a film about the Daly River Region, “Tales from the Daly: Nauiyu Nambiyu”, and twilight drinks but it was well and truly dark by then. We had been fed gastronomically and intellectually and went home satisfied. Congratulations to Meera and all involved for a wonderful festival.
Poetic Past: Ali Cobby Eckermann in conversation with Alexis Wright
Ali Cobby Eckermann
Winner of the inaugural black&write! kuril dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship (verse novel).
Ruby Moonlight is a historical tale set in South Australia around 1880. The main character Ruby, refugee of
a massacre, shelters in the woods where in time she befriends an Irishman trapper.
The poems convey how fear of discovery is overcome by the need for human contact, which in a tense
unravelling of events is forcibly challenged by an Aboriginal lawman. The natural world is richly observed;
Ruby’s courtship is measured by the turning of the seasons.
Ali will be in conversation with Miles Franklin winner and activist Alexis Wright author of Grog Wars, Carpentaria and Plains of Promise
Dreaming Fiction: Marie Munkara and Nicole Watson
Every Secret Thing
When culture and faith collide . . . nothing is sacred
In the Aboriginal missions of far northern Australia, it was a battle between saving souls and saving traditional culture.
Every Secret Thing is a rough, tough, hilarious portrayal of the Bush Mob and the Mission Mob, and the hapless clergy trying to convert them. In these tales, everyone is fair game.
At once playful and sharp, Marie Munkara's wonderfully original stories cast a taunting new light on the mission era in Australia.
'told with biting wit and riotous humour'
Judges' comments, Queensland Premier's Literary Awards (2008)
Winner David Unaipon Award 2008
Winner NT Book of the Year 2010
An award-winning crime novel that breaks new ground in Australian fiction
Winner of the 2009 David Unaipon Award
Long ago, Meston Park in Brisbane's West End marked the city's boundary. A curfew kept its Aboriginal population outside the city limits after dark. When the park becomes the site of a multi-million dollar development, the Corrowa People vow to fight and file a native title claim. Hours after rejecting the claim, Justice Bruce Brosnan is brutally murdered.
Some believe it is the work of an ancient assassin, returned to destroy the boundary. While the investigation forces Detective Jason Matthews to confront his buried heritage, lawyer Miranda Eversely battles a sense of personal failure at the Corrowa's defeat
How far will it take her to the edge of self-destruction?
The two debut writers will be in conversation with Morag Fraser, writer, Chair of Australian Book Review and former editor of Eureka Street.
Marngrook is a children’s story based on the sometimes controversial theory of how Australian Rules Football developed from ‘marngrook’, a ball game played by Aboriginal people in north-west Victoria more than 150 years ago. This fictionalised story of Marngrook takes place at the foot of Duwul, the highest mountain in the spectacular Grampians region of north-west Victoria, the traditional country of people from the Djab-Wurrung and Jardwadjali clans.
Titta Secombe is descended from the the Djab-Wurrung and Jardwadjali clans of the Grampians region of north-west Victoria. She has worked for many years in education and sports programmes to develop the talents of young Indigenous Australian Rules Football players. Illustrator Grace Fielding grew up on the Wandering Mission near Perth in Western Australia. She has illustrated several children’s books and is celebrated for her traditional and contemporary art styles. In 1991, Grace won the National Crichton Award for Illustration in 1991.A Home for Bilby, written by Joanne Crawford and illustrated by Grace won the Children’s Award at the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards in 2005
The Liam Jurrah Story is an eye-witness account by Bruce Hearn Mackinnon. Known as the "Warlpiri Warrior", the "Jurrahcane" and "Cougar", Liam Jurrah is a rising star of the AFL, known for his startling displays of skill, artistry and the "deadly" impact of his football ability.This book tells the incredible journey travelled by Liam, a fully initiated Warlpiri man, from the remote Aboriginal desert community of Yuendumu to the MCG, as the first of his kind to play football at an elite level.Along the way the book describes how the author and his family came to understand and treasure the richness of Liam's Warlpiri culture. According to Martin Flanagan, ‘Liam Jurrah is like no other sports story in Australia, and possibly the world, at this time.'
Bruce Hearn Mackinnon is a senior lecturer with the School of Management and Marketing at Deakin University and a researcher in the university’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Community. Bruce is also vice-president of a maverick coterie, the Collingwood Industrial Magpies, an organisation committed to reconciliation between black and white Australia, and which formed a special relationship with the remote Central Australian Aboriginal community of Yuendumu in 2002. This relationship with Yuendumu led to Liam Jurrah first visiting and later living with Bruce and his family
This session is facilitated by Philip John Morrissey
The Biggest Estate on Earth: Bill Gammage introduced by Philip John Morrissey
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia
Winner, 2011 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards (Individual category)
Explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people.
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.
Bill Gammage is a historian and adjunct professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. He is best known as author of the ground-breaking The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.
Chair: Philip John Morrissey
Why does our society seem to get it so wrong for remote Aboriginal communities? Why, despite decades of consultation and policy shifts, can’t governments introduce initiatives that will really close the gap? Professor Diane Austin-Broos in this special address shares her insights and experience to suggest ways to acknowledge both cultural difference and inequality to overcome this impasse. Finalist of 2011 Human Rights Awards, Literature.
Diane Austin-Broos is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Diane has particular interests in the relation between culture and economy, fundamentalism, and in the history of anthropology, both in the trans-Atlantic world and in Australia. She is the author of amongst other books Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, violence and imagination in Indigenous Central Australia and A Different Inequality.
Chair: Jan Aitken, Nillumbik Reconciliation Group
Tales From the Daly River - Nauiyu Nambiyu.
Film screening: free session.
In the Monsoon season, the Daly River region is lashed by savage storms which bring the landscape and river to life. Legend says it is the Sugar Glider, traveling across the sky mischievously moving the clouds around, which brings the rain. But amidst the tropical beauty lies danger. Stories about the monsoons and the river have been told to children for generations, to teach them to have respect for the bush and to be wary of its dangers. The Wabuymem is one of these stories.
Indigenous filmmaker Steve McGregor has been making films in the Daly River region for 15 years; it is also his wife's country.
With thanks to the Black Screen program of the National Film & Sound Archive.
Adelaide based poet Lionel Fogarty will present compelling poetic interludes between each session.