Coranderrk: First Nations Farmers and Market Gardeners

Coranderrk Hop FarmingThe successful Coranderrk hop farm - Published in 'The Illustrated Australian News', May 1872
(Culture-Victoria collection)

Coranderrk was an Indigenous Australian mission station set up in 1863 to provide land under the policy of concentration, for Aboriginal people who had been dispossessed by the arrival of Europeans to the state of Victoria 30 years prior. The mission was formally closed in 1924 with most residents removed to Lake Tyers Mission. Five older people refused to move and continued living there until they died. James Wandin was the last person born at Coranderrk Station, in 1933, in the home of his grandmother, Jemima Wandin.

Settlement
In February 1859 some Wurundjeri elders, led by Simon Wonga (aged 35) and brother Tommy Munnering (aged 24) petitioned Protector William Thomas to secure land for the Kulin at the junction of the Acheron and Goulburn rivers. Initial representations to the Victorian Government were positive, however the intervention of the most powerful squatter in Victoria, Hugh Glass, resulted in their removal to a colder site, Mohican Station, which was not suitable for agricultural land and had to be abandoned.

In March 1862 after three years of upheaval, the surviving leaders, among them Simon Wonga and William Barak, led forty Wurundjeri, Taungurong (Goulburn River) and Bun warrung people over the Black Spur and squatted on a traditional camping site on Badger Creek near Healesville and requested ownership of the site. They were anxious to have the land officially approved so that they could move down and establish themselves. An area of 9.6 kmĀ² was gazetted on 30 June 1863, and called 'Coranderrk', at the Aboriginal people's suggestion. This was the name they used for the Christmas Bush (Prostanthera lasianthos), a white flowering summer plant which is indigenous to the area.

Coranderrk Station ran quite successfully for many years as an aboriginal enterprise selling wheat, hops and crafts to the growing market of Melbourne. The produce from the farm won first prize at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1872.

By 1874 the Aboriginal Protection Board (APB) were looking at ways to undermine Coranderrk by moving people away due to their successful farming practices. The general community also wanted the mission closed as the land was too valuable for Aboriginal people.



A Royal Commission in 1877 and a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881 on the Aboriginal 'problem' produced the Aborigines Protection Act 1886, which required 'half-castes under the age of 35' to leave, meaning around 60 residents were ejected from Coranderrk on the eve of the 1890s Depression. This made Coranderrk a non-viable enterprise, as it left only around 15 able-bodied men to work the previously successful hop gardens. Almost half the land was resumed in 1893; and by 1924 orders came for its closure as an Aboriginal Station, despite protests from Wurundjeri returned servicemen who had fought in World War I. Many people were relocated to Lake Tyers in Gippsland though a few people did refuse to move.

In 1920, Sir Colin MacKenzie, a leading medical researcher, leased 78 acres (320,000 m2) from the Aboriginal Protection Board to begin his work in comparative anatomy with Australian fauna. This was the catalyst for the creation of the Healesville Sanctuary.

Coranderrk eventually became unoccupied, and in 1950 the land was handed over to the Soldier Settlement Scheme. Aboriginal Returned Servicemen were not allocated Soldier Settlement Blocks in Victoria.

Many Aboriginal families remain around the Upper Yarra and Healesville area. In March 1998 part of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Station was returned to the Wurundjeri Tribe Land Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council when the Indigenous Land Corporation purchased 0.81 kmsq.

Content Source: Treaty Republic and Wikipedia