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Cummeragunja Reserve (1883 - )

From
1883
Murrary River, New South Wales, Australia
Occupations
Aboriginal Mission or Reserve

Summary

Cummeragunja Reserve was established in New South Wales in 1883 when some of the Aboriginal residents from Maloga Mission, five miles down the river, moved in order to be free of the strict religious lifestyle. It became a thriving and prosperous community and a site of Aboriginal activism in the early twentieth century. On 9 March 1984 the title deeds for the land passed to the Yorta Yorta people through the newly created Yorta Yorta Land Council. Today, many Aboriginal families reside on Cummeragunja.

Details

By the turn of the century Cummeragunja reserve was a prosperous community, and by 1908 it became a neat village with 300 residents. Its communal farming was appreciated by local farmers who persuaded the Aborigines Protection Board to commit funds to expand farm production on the reserve. However, in 1915 the local farmers committee was abolished, and the Board took over. The Aborigines Protection Act 1909 empowered reserve managers to remove residents for misconduct or because it was believed they should be earning their living elsewhere. Soon, the police started to remove 'half-caste' children to the Board's training institutions. Many families responded by fleeing across the Murray to Victoria to live in riverbank camps. On 6 February 1938 about 170 residents walked off the mission in protest of the way they were treated by the Manager, and crossed the river to settle in Victoria. Some of the women were especially vocal, including Margaret Tucker, Geraldine Briggs and others.

In 1953, Cummeragunja was closed as a station and reduced to reserve status. Despite the Board's assimilation policies, the few remaining residents agitated for the right to begin farming again. In 1965, the company Cummeragunga Pty Ltd was registered. On 9 March 1984 the title deeds for the former reserve passed to the Yorta Yorta people through the newly created Yorta Yorta Land Council. Today, many Aboriginal families reside on Cummeragunja.

Sources used to compile this entry: http://www.philanthropy.org.au; interviews with Elizabeth Cham, 2005.

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