The Kulin Nation people have been connected to Naarm, the traditional lands we now know as Melbourne for thousands of years. The Kulin Nation is a collective of five major Aboriginal clans: Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wathaurrung, Taungurung and Dja DjaWrung. Their collective territory extends around Port Phillip and Western Port Bays, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys. The Kulin Nation inhabited the area and prior to colonisation consisted of more than 20,000 people.
The Kulin Nation lived by fishing, hunting and gathering, making a good living from the rich food sources of Port Phillip and the surrounding grasslands. Birrarung, today also known as the Yarra River, also played a crucial part in Kulin Nation culture. This whole area was where thousands of people gathered together for ceremony and celebration, for trade and to hold inter-Nation business.
Today, more than ever before, we see an appreciation of understanding Melbourne has an Aboriginal history. The Koorie Heritage Trust, located within Federation Square on the other side of Birrarung, offers this understanding. Established in 1985, The Koorie Heritage Trust is committed to protecting, preserving and promoting the living culture of the Indigenous people of south-east Australia.
The Trust has an extremely significant, extensive and irreplaceable collection of pre-contact, historic and contemporary items from south-eastern Australia, that provide a tangible link to connect the community to the past and assist in the rebuilding of Koorie (Eastern Kulin Nation) culture. The Trust boasts an extensive range of artefacts, paintings, photographs, oral history recordings and library materials. These items act as an invaluable resource to Koorie artists who are looking for inspiration for their artwork or community members who are looking to strengthen their traditional links and identity. The Trust’s collection is also very important symbolically for instilling pride in the Koorie community and in the celebration and promotion of Koorie culture.
The word ‘Makarrata’ does not translate directly into English. A Yolnu (north-west Arnhem Land) word, it translates most closely to a treaty or agreement and describes the process of conflict resolution and peacemaking.
A National Makarrata has been widely discussed in the past year. On the 25th to the 27th of May 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders met on Anangu land in Central Australia, eventuating the delivery of the Uluru Statement From the Heart. A primary goal was to create a Makarrata, with the aim of building and maintaining fair and truthful relationships with all Australians, including all First Peoples – together with creating a just future based on self-determination.
The Uluru Statement From the Heart calls on the government for two main goals:
1. To have the voice of First Nations enshrined within the constitution
2. The establishment of a Makarrata commission to assist centuries old disputes and as a guide to current challenges.
A Makarrata is used to move forward in solidarity. It is not only an agreement but shows ongoing respect. Leaders must always seek a full understanding of the dispute: what lies behind it; who is responsible; what each party wants and all things that align to peacemaking efforts.
We are proud to call Naarm home, with its 60,000 years of rich Indigenous history and look forward to learning more from Kulin Nation traditional wisdom.
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