Tag Archives: Australian Aboriginies

Katherine and the Nitniluk Chalets

Okay. So I’ve been busy working through all the facets of self publishing and have neglected my blog. I promise I will finish it and get back on track again in the New year. At least I now have a cover for the next book, but now comes the formatting etc. I guess I was spoilt with my first two publishers doing all that for me, but at least I will know all of the process involved when talking to my memoir writing class next year. We break up for the Christmas holidays on Wednesday 4th December 2019. But for now it’s back to the Darwin blog

Top of my ‘to do’ list was a boat trip to see Katherine Gorge.

When we were last here in 1975 we couldn’t afford to go on this tour. This year, Paul had booked us into the Nitniluck Chalets, The name is indigenous . Nit (the sound cicader’s make) niluck (country) means cicader country in the local language. This time, instead of camping we were in a stand alone chalet with two bedrooms and a large living space with all mod cons. Even a full sized refrigerator. Paul and Marian had their own chalet so we could spread out to our heart’s content. Alan was soon ‘testing the bed’ and gave it a big thumbs up.

The next morning I walked over to the swimming pool while Alan had his shower. In a chair in the open camp kitchen I waited for for the pool to open at 8:am It was so peaceful listening to the birds and watching Rosellas squawk and flit amongst the gum trees. I’m amazed at how different they are in colouring to those at home. Familiar Plovers stately patrolled the grass and tiny birds searched for a breakfast of bugs and worms. Overall was the distinctive call of a black crow. The breeze made the trees, and our washing, dance. The pool didn’t open at the prescribed 8am (the chalet owners obviously hadn’t made the transference from the wet season to the dry season) so I’ll walk back to our chalet in warm tropical sunshine enjoying every moment, especially after a cold Melbourne winter.

  

Over a cup of coffee out on the chalet deck we began reminiscing about our trip in 1975. How different this trip is compared to then when there was no air-conditioning and certainly not in our truck, no mobile phones, little money, a fridge that didn’t cope with the heat and bush camps most nights. But I fondly remember two small boys, cooking over open fires, being warm, stars that beamed rather than twinkled in a huge open sky, of being able to see for miles.

Tues 23/4/2019. We finally make it to the Katheryn Gorge Cruise. Paul wheeled Alan down the long ramp and onto the first boat. We look up at high red cliffs on either side of the first gorge. There are thirteen individual gorges, all connected during the rain fed wet season and separated in the dry, but only two are ever open for public viewing. Today’s trip comprises of those two gorges with a walk from our boat to another in the second gorge. Alan and I decided to wait in the shade for our group to arrive back from their second gorge tour. Our leaders had put chairs under a strategically placed shelter on the natural rock landing . Iced water is nearby in case we get thirsty. It is easy to dehydrate here. We found it such a delight to quietly sit listening to the water and feeling the cool breeze fan our faces.

I saw steps up to my right and decided to have a look. They led to rock paintings on an overhang, drawn many years ago by indigenous people while they waited on this Arnhem Land Plateau  for the wet season to end. Hidden for many years it is just now being set out as a place to visit. I hurry back to tell Alan all about it when we see a line of people heading back to the landing and our barge appearing.

 

Katherine Gorge was named by Scotsman John MacDow Stuart in 1862 after the daughter (Katherine) of his Adelaide sponsor, James chambers. 

Paul had to push Alan’s wheelchair back up the slope and two people offered to help. It is amazing how many kind people offered while we were away. I love it when Paul calls the small tent- like cabins with wire netting for back packing tours ‘Budgie cages’.

 

We relax in our luxurious surroundings. It is so peaceful here but we still need Paul and Marian’s anti mozzie wipes, jell and coils when we sit outside. Washing dries so quickly. I washed out a blouse in the morning, hung it on a hanger and wore it that afternoon. Alan is happy and well as this trip is a great pace for him,

Tomorrow we go to Mataranka and I can’t wait to see what it is like now.

What Happened at Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve, Victoria Australia

May we never forget what happened at Coranderrk Reserve. 

barak (2)

Winter in Victoria. Every Saturday at 5am, I still dream I will throw snow chains in the back of my car, grab my skis and head for Healsville and the the cross country skiing at Lake Mountain. I love driving through the tall mountain ash forest near wild dog creek, over the black spur into a pristine world of white. The air crisp and clear, the only sound the swish of my skis and the gentle plop of snow falling from trees.

On the way home I deliberately divert down piccaninny lane (piccaninny means an Australian indigenous child) and slowly climb to a fenced area surrounded by tall trees. Opening the gate I quietly stand by Barak’s grave and gaze over rolling green hills towards where Coranderrk once was a thriving community. In the past, Coranderrk was a government reserve for Australian Aborigines in the state of Victoria between 1863 and 1924, located 50km north-east of Melbourne..

S0mething in the sound of the wind in the grass and the gently sighing of trees keeps drawing me back time and time again to this place. There is a sense of longing I can’t explain. I always knew some facts but I didn’t fully understand what had happened here, so when I had the opportunity to see the play Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country based on actual transcripts from the  records of the 1881 Government Inquiry into self determination, I could not resist.

King William

William Barak (1824-1903), Aboriginal spokesman, variously called ‘King William, last chief of the Yarra Yarra tribe’ or ‘Beruk (white grub in gum tree) belonging to the Wurundjeri Willum horde whose country lay along the Yarra and Plenty Rivers’. This is from his official biography

William Barak, by Florence Fuller, 1885

With his Gippsland-born first wife Lizzie, he was among the first group of Goulburn Aboriginals who settled at Acheron in 1859, hoping to have the area reserved. After much official indecision Coranderrk, near Healesville, was gazetted and he settled there permanently in 1863, in a ‘neat little cottage and garden, most tidy and comfortable’. Barak worked for a small wage on the station farm and acquired a few horses. Further schooling and religious instruction were undertaken; he could read but not write. He was baptized, confirmed, and took a second wife Annie ‘of the Lower Murray’ (Lizzie died before 1863) in a publicized Presbyterian ceremony in 1865. The fate of his family was typical of the time; two infants died of gastro-enteritis, David and Annie of consumption. When he married Sarah (Kurnai) on 7 June 1890 he was the oldest man at Coranderrk and only full-blood survivor of his tribe.

Following the reservation of the land, Barak and the Kulin together with the first managers, John and Mary Green, enthusiastically embarked upon the task of making Coranderrk their new home. Their vision was to make the station fully self-supporting.

However,soon vested local interests began to agitate to move Barak and his people off this land, and so began a sustained, sophisticated campaign for justice, land rights and self-determination.  In collaboration with white supporters, the Kulin people used the legal and political system to force a Parliamentary Inquiry.

In the late 1870s when management of Aboriginal affairs came under vigorous public criticism Barak emerged as a respected spokesman. Until his death he was the acknowledged leader at Coranderrk and a liaison between officialdom and the native population.

His petitions and public appearances were important spurs to action, especially the government inquiry of 1881. Barak outlined a plan for autonomous communities under Coranderrk’s first manager, John Green:

‘give us this ground and let us manage here ourselves … and no one over us … we will show the country we can work it and make it pay and I know it will’.

Lisa Hill’s excellent review of the play and the book Coranderrk: We Will Show The Country from La Mama Courthouse Theatre Carlton Victoria Australia can be found at ANZlitlovers blog

Coranderrk

Lisa says the play is unique because it’s based entirely on transcripts from the 19th century paper trail of an heroic struggle for Aboriginal self-determination.  Having been dispossessed of their ancestral lands by European settlement, a small band of survivors from the Kulin Nation petitioned the colonial government for a land grant to set up the Coranderrk Reserve.  There they created an award-winning farm and an impressive settlement.

The outcome of the Inquiry?

In the short term the inquiry marked a clear victory for the Corranderrk community, for they succeeded in publicly exposing and preventing the Board’s underhanded plans to close down Coranderrk. John Green was never reinstated as manager as they requested, but the despised Rev. Strickland was dismissed and living conditions improved. Finally in 1884, Chief Secretary Graham Berry ordered that Coranderrk should be permanently reserved as a ‘site for the use of Aborigines’. It was a short-lived victory, however. In 1886, the Victorian Government passed the infamous ‘Half-Cast’ Act, designed to push so-called ‘half-cast’ men and women off the reserves and facilitate their assimilation into the white population. The 1886 Act caused the breaking-up of families and separation of the younger, literate, generation from their Elders. As a direct result, Coranderrk was eventually closed in 1924.

Barak and the Coranderrk community’s fight for self determination should never be forgotten. Finally I am beginning to understand the sense of longing I feel when I stand on that high rolling hill in Healsville.

It’s a story every Victorian should know.

Many thanks to Jason and Karen Whitting for supplying the tickets and to Lisa Hill and Maureen Hanna for accompanying me. An excellent, thought provoking play, good company and plenty of strong coffee. What a great way to spend a Sunday in Melbourne