On Monday 24 April 2023, the staff at Preshil had the privilege of engaging with the Yorta Yorta community in Echuca for a cultural immersion day. The experience was an opportunity for the Preshil staff to learn about the Yorta Yorta people, their history, culture, and customs.
The day began with a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony, which was delivered by a Yorta Yorta elder Uncle Dixie. The ceremony was a formal recognition of the Yorta Yorta people’s connection to the land and their history. Uncle Dixie shared stories about the significance of the area and how the land has been used by the Yorta Yorta community for thousands of years.
Following the ceremony, the Preshil staff participated in a range of activities that allowed them to learn more about the Yorta Yorta culture. This included a yarning circle with Wanyara facilitator Sarai Roe. Staff learnt about the significance of the 1939 Cummeragunja walk-off where the majority of indigenous residents protested against the oppressive living conditions, the leasing of most of the reserve land to a European, and the oppressive laws of the reserve system, by packing up and walking off the reserve. This event was a clear demonstration of the residents’ dissatisfaction and the deep-seated issues that they faced. It also represented a powerful act of resistance against the systemic injustices faced by Aboriginal communities in Australia at the time. The 1939 walk-off serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for Aboriginal rights and the importance of standing up against injustice. We also had the opportunity to experience a walk from Barmah to the Cummeragunja school house and used this opportunity to reflect upon what we learned.
We are grateful to Auntie Greta and Auntie Linda who took valuable time out of their afternoon to share their important work and Joint Management experience with Parks Victoria. The complexities faced by the Yorta Yorta nation, spanning territory across both Victoria and New South Wales, are significant and staff were in admiration of the resilience and fortitude demonstrated by both leaders. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.
On reflection, many staff valued the opportunity to speak with members of the Yorta Yorta community. Elders and members of the community shared their personal stories and experiences, providing insight into the challenges and triumphs faced by the Yorta Yorta people throughout their history. It was a humbling experience that allowed the Preshil staff to gain a deeper understanding of the resilience and strength of the Yorta Yorta community.
The cultural immersion day provided an opportunity for the Preshil staff to reflect on their own culture and the role they play in promoting diversity and inclusivity in their work. It highlighted the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the diverse cultures that make up our society and the need for ongoing education and awareness.
Thank you to Sarai Roe and the Wanyara team for their care and support, facilitating such an important experience for Preshil teachers and staff.