Bangerang community

16 August 2016

16 August 2016

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — (8110) The urgent matter I wish to raise tonight is for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In light of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council's recent refusal of the Bangerang's application to become a registered Aboriginal party (RAP), the action I seek is for the minister to meet with Bangerang elders to outline a way forward for the recognition of their people. The council's decision, after almost two and a half years, to reject the Bangerang's second application for RAP status has come as a real blow. Registered Aboriginal parties are responsible under Victorian law for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage in specified geographical areas. The stated purpose of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council is to ensure that Aboriginal people throughout Victoria play a central role in the protection and management of their heritage.

Many people in northern Victoria are aware that Bangerang leaders, including Freddie Dowling, Vicki Atkinson and Kevin Atkinson, have been fighting for recognition of their people for many years. In the past 12 months Wally Cooper and Sandy Atkinson, two much-loved and respected elders who dedicated much of their lives to this bid for recognition, have passed away. In June I sat down with Uncle Freddie Dowling, who showed me early maps where the lands of the Bangerang are clearly recorded. He has also recently completed a book documenting maps and evidence as far back as 1878, which he feels shows beyond doubt that the Bangerang were the original people of the area.

The land of the Bangerang runs from the Great Dividing Range in the south to Waddi in New South Wales and from Chiltern in the east to Echuca in the west. Uncle Freddie believes there is a lack of understanding about the Bangerang's history and that irrefutable evidence is being ignored. He feels that Victorian government agencies are erasing the history of his people, and as more of their elders pass away he fears that history will be lost forever. It is for that reason I would like to invite the minister to come and hear the stories of the Bangerang elders and explain to them how she will ensure that they are given the recognition that they deserve.

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