Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Cummeragunja Reserve

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Cummeragunja Reserve or Cummeragunja Station, alternatively spelt Coomeroogunja, Coomeragunja, Cumeroogunga and Cummerguja, was an Australian Aboriginal reserve established in 1881 on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, on the Victorian border near Barmah. The people were mostly Yorta Yorta.

Many of the original residents moved there from Maloga Mission, 3 miles (4.8 km) away, where they had grown tired of the strict religious lifestyle. Maloga Mission had been established in 1874 by Daniel and Janet Matthews. At Cummeragunja Station, on 1,800 acres (7.3 km2), they established a farm with the aim of communal self-sufficiency. When Maloga finally closed the remaining residents were relocated to Cummeragunja after successfully petitioning the British Crown for their own land.

The residents of Cummeragunja shaped most of the land into a productive farm, producing wheat, wool and dairy products.

In 1915 the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board took greater control of Cummeragunja and its residents. The farm's committee of management was disbanded, and residents were subjected to confining and restrictive conditions. All the funds raised from the farm went to the Board, which 'rewarded' workers by doling out inadequate and unhealthy rations.

By the 1930s conditions had drastically deteriorated. Residents were confined to the station and many of their relatives were forced away. Decent rations and supplies were lacking and residents were forced to share blankets and live in rag huts. Tuberculosis and whooping cough dramatically affected the elderly and young.

Tired of the conditions and treatment, in 1939 over 150 residents left the Reserve in protest in the Cummeragunja walk-off. This was the first mass strike of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Notable people from Cummeragunja

  • Jack Charles, actor and co-founder of Australia's first indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, in Melbourne
  • William Cooper, founded the Australian Aborigines League.
  • Jimmy Little, musician, singer, songwriter and guitarist.
  • Sir Douglas Nicholls, leading Australian rules footballer, Churches of Christ pastor and Governor of South Australia.
  • Jack Patten, founder of the Aborigines Progressive Association and organiser of the 1938 Day of Mourning in NSW.
  • Margaret Tucker co-founder of the Australian Aborigines League and author of If Everyone Cared (1977) one of the first autobiographies to deal with the experience of the Stolen Generations
  • Margaret Wirrpanda, niece of Margaret Tucker, activist
  • References

    Cummeragunja Reserve Wikipedia