Aglow International hosted NAIDOC 2015 at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, 1st July. Indigenous Men, women and families across the region were invited to a gathering for the 3rd NAIDOC luncheon at Kyabram Bocce Club. There was a welcome to country and guest speaker Dayana Woodbury from Tamworth community (Gamiloi nation).
Aglow International Kyabram Branch dedicated its monthly meeting to the celebration of NAIDOC Week. Indigenous people from Kyabram and surrounds – including Barmah – were invited to lunch and the monthly meeting. At the meeting the Koori Flag and the Murray Island flag were displayed, along with the Star of David. During the event, a Yorta Yorta song Bura Fera was sung by all present.
Bura Fera, sometimes called Ngarra Burra Ferra, is a traditional Yorta Yorta song, the language spoken by the Indigenous peoples of the Goulburn Valley and Murray Valleys centred around modern-day Echuca. The history of Bura Fera suggests a story that stretches across several continents and thousands of years.
Womriga Moses yinin walla Walla yupna yeipuch Nara Bura Fera yumena yalla [Chorus] Nara Bura Fera Yumena yalla yalla Nara Bura Fera Yumena yalla yalla Nara Bura Fera Yumena Bura Fera Yumena Bura Fera Yumena Yalla yalla Nyundo peco Jesu Bora bocono yumena Nara Bura Fera Yumena yalla [Chorus]
The Dry Bones of Ezekiel:
The speaker then went on to talk about the Hebrew Bible and the story of the Dry Bones in the book of Ezekiel, Ch 37. The point was made that the dry bones of the indigenous peoples of this land will come to life and lead people back onto the path that yields life to all, and not to a few. It is the indigenous peoples of this land who will show humankind how to live in harmony with the land, for “the land owns us, we do not own the land”. And so it is the valley with the dry bones wherein life will come forth again.
Significant Yorta Yorta People
A flyer was put out for all present, featuring significant Yorta Yorta People, and the story of the Cummeragunja Walk Off.
William Cooper (circa 1861 – 1941), a Victorian shearer and handyman, was a spokesman for Aboriginal people in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He sought relief for communities affected by drought and economic depression. As secretary of the Australian Aborigines League he presented a petition and led deputations to authorities, calling for direct representation in parliament, land rights and federal control of aboriginal affairs. This Yorta Yorta man brought change and fought for the human rights of several groups of people who were victims of persecution. It was William Cooper, who led a protest march in Melbourne against the treatment of Jews in Germany only weeks after Kristallnatch and is now honoured in the Holocaust museum in Israel
Hyllus Maris (1934 – 1986) was born into the Yorta Yorta tribe, the original inhabitants of the River Murray area and traditional owners of that region. As a child, Maris participated in the walk-out from Cummeragunja, a government mission. That episode inspired Women of the Sun (1981). She co-wrote Women of the Sun, which won a number of prestigious awards including the United Nations Media Peace Prize and the Australian Writers Guild Awards in 1983. A sociologist and prominent activist in Aboriginal community development, Maris was the founder of Worawa Collge, Frankston, the first Aboriginal school in Victoria. Hyllus was appointed as the inaugural chair of the Victorian Government’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee. Hyllus passed away in 1986 after a battle with cancer. The illness had done little to diminish her commitment to the Aboriginal community and she remained active until the end of her life.
Sir Douglas Nicholls
Sir Douglas Nicholls (1906 – 1988) played football for Fitzroy in the VFL, was a pastor, and in 1976, was appointed Governor of South Australia. He was born on 9 December 1906 at Cummeragunja mission, the fifth child of Herbert Nicholls, seasonal worker, and his wife Florence, nee Atkinson. Doug grew up at Cummeragunja on the Murray River near Barmah, in its golden years of Aboriginal autonomy. Sir Douglas passed away on 4 June 1988 at Mooroopna, predeceased by his wife and survived by his five children. He was buried in tribal ground in Cummeragunja Cemetery.
The Cummeragunja Walk-Off
The 1939 “walk-off took place when hundreds of residents walked out of Cummeragunja Mission in protest against the oppressive conditions and management of A.J. McQuiggan and camped on the Victorian side of the Murray River. This is still a focal point in the memory of the Yorta Yorta community. It is still seen as a defining moment in Aboriginal people’s ongoing struggle for self-determination, civil rights and rights to traditional lands. “Cummera” (as it is affectionately known) came to symbolise Aboriginal survival in the face of dispossession.
Yorta Yorta – land of the long-necked turtle
2015 NAIDOC Week
The 2015 National NAIDOC Week theme is We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate.
This year the theme highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea. The theme is an opportunity to pay respects to country; honour those who work tirelessly on preserving land, sea and culture and to share the stories of many sites of significance or sacred places with the nation.
The National NAIDOC Committee encourages all Australians – young and old – to embrace the 2015 National NAIDOC theme and to celebrate local and national sacred places, taking the time to learn of their traditional names, history and stories.
To learn more about National NAIDOC Week, go here.
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