Author(s): Mick Woiwod
Most Victorians would agree that, yes, European settlement had indeed removed the Wurundjeri from their hunting grounds in the Yarra Valley in the first instance, but surely not from their very last acre later on in 1924. In 1863, after twenty-eight years of dispossession and the death of most of the Colony's 'first people', a repentant government had returned 4,860 acres of land to its Wurundjeri people - they named it Coranderrk. Upon it, the survivors had enthusiastically built a village of twenty-three slab cottages with around it some 500 acres of cleared land grazed by a dairy herd, plus further paddocks devoted to wheat, oats and hops. Enter the 'Black Hats of Melbourne' a wealthy lobby-group committed to the introduction and release into the Victorian bush of such alien creatures as deer, hare, salmon and grouse. In 1874, intent upon additional introductions onto their land, these Black Hats had organised the dismissal of Coranderrk's high-achieving manager. Then, when later informed that senior Elder William Barak, had shot five of their released deer they'd taken control of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) and set about the expulsion of its residents to a remote location on the Murray. Standing four-square in their way had been William Barak who, by leading a series of deputations into Melbourne, had blocked every move by the Black Hats to close Coranderrk. Undeterred, these determined intruders had starved Coranderrk of funding and appointed a succession of scurrilous managers with instructions to run the station into the ground. The result was its closure in 1924.