Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Cummeragunja walk off

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Location  Cummeragunja Mission
Date  4 February 1939 (1939-02-04)
Participants  Jack Patten Bill Onus Eric Onus William Cooper

The Cummeragunja walk-off in 1939 was a protest by Aboriginal Australians at the Cummeragunja Mission in southern New South Wales.

Contents

Background

The Cummeragunja Mission was mostly home to Yorta Yorta people who had been relocated in the late 19th century from the Maloga Mission. In January 1935, according to W B Payne, a Church of Christ missioner, Christian churches were indifferent and neglecting aboriginals at the mission, "While thousands of pounds were being raised for missions in foreign countries the aborigines in Australia were regarded as outcasts". Over the years, the New South Wales government had tightened its control on the operation of the mission. By late 1938 people had become unhappy with the management of the mission, living conditions and restrictions on their movement.

Protest

On 4 February 1939, when Jack Patten was arrested and removed from the mission after trying to address the local people, as many as 200 residents of the Cummeragunja Mission walked out of the mission and crossed the Murray River leaving the state of New South Wales. This was in contravention of rules set by the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board.

Legacy

Many of the people who left the mission in February 1939 settled in northern Victoria in towns such as Barmah, Echuca and Shepparton.

The third episode of the 1981 miniseries, Women of the Sun, is a fictional story based on the walk-off.

In October 2010, the opera Pecan Summer, based on the walk-off, opened in Mooroopna, near Shepparton. Deborah Cheetham – whose uncle Jimmy Little was born at Cummeragunja Mission – wrote, composed and performed in this production by the Short Black Opera Company.

References

Cummeragunja walk-off Wikipedia


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