RiverConnect: An Aboriginal Oral History, The Cultural Landscape of the ‘Flat’ is an important rendering of the personal stories of the Cummergunga Walk Off, living on the Flat, and the slow, steady integration of the Yorta Yorta peoples into the communities of Mooroopna and Shepparton. A worthy project funded by the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation and the City of Greater Shepparton.
The RiverConnect Oral History Collection Program, funded by the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation and the City of Greater Shepparton, gives ‘voice’ to the Aboriginal people’s stories, remembrances and experiences. Some of the memories and experiences of that period may not be particularly palatable in the context of the contemporary cultural vibrancy of the City of Greater Shepparton. However during the period in which this story is told Aboriginal people were not treated as full citizens of Australia and faced many legal disadvantages and discriminations.
Oral history is a systematic collection of living peoples spoken testimony about their own experiences — not stories, myths, gossip or fantasies. These supplement the written historical record in an authentically important way. The accounts collected through this project redefine and question the more formal, historical record because they record ephemeral and easily lost ‘social history’. The Elder’s recollections gathered in this project are primary historical material collected by a well-informed interviewer. They are not meant to present a complete historical narrative. These spoken accounts of personal experience, feelings, memories and opinions are of people who participated in historically significant events in which they were deeply involved; whose feelings and memories are far from detached, and Which are accordingly incredibly valuable. This report gives an overview of what they said, and What this may mean for the people of Shepparton and the Goulburn.
The contents gives maps and photographs of where families lived, their Hessian-bag residences and one photograph records that Daish’s Paddock was in fact the local rubbish tip for the Shire of Rodney. The spoken narratives give account of the mission on the Murray river having a sense of place, and how important it is that these indigenous people were a ‘river people’.
The Cummeragunja ‘Walk Off’ is then retold from multiple points of view – that of adults, men and children. Arrival at the Flat and the rivers resources – including springs with pure water were narrated. Living on the river, the floods and having to move up to Daish’s Paddock when the waters entered the houses – usually happening overnight – were told. The social life, concerts and choirs have both oral history and photo history. Pastor Doug Nicholls is there, along with the opening of the Aboriginal Church in Mooroopna.
Participation in sports is covered – especially Australian Rules Football, along with school events and school photographs. Intercommunity relations were covered as families frequently visited each other and the gradual move off the Flat into homes in Mooroopna and Shepparton and the ten model homes in Rumbablara are noted. There are reflections on the native title struggle and the process of story-telling. Illustrated with many important photographs of Yorta-Yorta elders and their story, this book, RiverConnect: An Aboriginal Oral History, The Cultural Landscape of the ‘Flat’ is an important rendering of the personal stories of the Cummergunga Walk Off, living on the Flat, and the slow, steady integration of the Yorta Yorta peoples into the communities of Mooroopna and Shepparton. A worthy project funded by the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation and the City of Greater Shepparton.
RiverConnect: An Aboriginal Oral History, authored by Dr Lois Peeler AM, is available at the Goulburn Valley Regional Library