YORTA YORTA COMMUNITY
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Cummeragunja Walk Off PDF File
The Cummera Walk Off and the return to Base Camp Politics
The 1939 ‘Walk-Off’ when hundreds of residents walked of Cummeragunja in protest of the oppressive conditions and management of A.J. McQuiggan and camped on the Victorian side of the Murray River, is still a focal memory point in the Yorta Yorta community. It is still seen, as a defining moment in our people’s ongoing struggle for self-determination, civil rights and rights to traditional lands. But what is remembered of Cummeragunja itself? Just how difficult was it for Yorta Yorta people to permanently leave the one place that many had come to regard as ‘home’?
In order to understand the significance of Cummeragunja to the people that lived there, it is necessary to place the 1939 walk-off in its proper historical context. ‘Cummera’ as it is affectionately known, came to symbolise Aboriginal survival in the face of dispossession; a flourishing community that defied the widely-held narrative of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: that the fate of the Aborigines was hopeless and that these ‘poor’ ‘wretched’ people and their culture would eventually ‘die out.’ It was a place that represented resistance to government control over Aboriginal affairs and the continuity of culture and identity. At the same time, those who lived on Cummera were constantly answerable to the Aborigines Protection Board, which had the power not only to take away their land but also the children who did not meet the Boards imposed and stereotypical criteria of Aboriginality. It was a place of freedom and recreation, yet Aboriginal people’s opportunities, from access to employment and land, to welfare and equal wages, were invariably restricted by the prejudice and ignorance of the wider community. Cummera is remembered bitter-sweetly, with pride and sadness, but it connects generations of Yorta Yorta people together, and it is tied up in all our success stories and achievements under extremely difficult circumstances...
TO READ MORE PLEASE OPEN ATTACHED PDF FILE