National Heritage List inscription date 7 June 2011
The Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve influenced the development of protection, segregation and assimilation policies for Aboriginal people in Victoria during the 1860s. The system implemented at Coranderrk in its early years included a court managed by the Kulin people and provided for the economic development of the reserve by its Kulin residents.
The Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve influenced the development of protection, segregation and assimilation policies for Aboriginal people in Victoria during the 1860s. Approaches to the 'administration' of Aboriginal people developed at Coranderrk provided for a degree of autonomy and self determination unavailable elsewhere in Australia until the 1970s.
The location and economic circumstance of the reserve, and the successful governance and leadership by the Kulin residents during this time, resulted in media attention, numerous government inquiries and debates. Practices and policies developed and implemented at Coranderrk were adopted elsewhere. It is one of the few missions or reserves showing the implementation of policies of both segregation and absorption, and the impact these policies had on an Aboriginal community.
Early Indigenous self-determination
While the majority of missions and reserves around Australia were characterised by systems of separation, paternalistic control and direction, in the early years of Coranderrk, the manager, John Green, permitted the Aboriginal residents to control decisions that affected their lives—an uncommon and unusually early approach that provided for autonomy and self determination. Three features of the early years at Coranderrk were central to the Kulin sense of autonomy: a court headed by the senior Aboriginal man, the ngurungaeta, and John Green; the layout of the reserve; and the economic development of the reserve by its Kulin residents.
The management of John Green was important in reinforcing the Kulin belief that the reserve was land where they were sovereign. Green believed that the Kulin people should be left to determine their own needs and manage their own affairs on the land granted to them. This approach enabled the Kulin people to retain kinship relations and many of their cultural practices while living in the institutional context of a reserve. It also meant that they could interact with white society largely on their own terms, particularly in the early years of the station's existence.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Coranderrk national heritage listed place
Indigenous people are the primary source of information on the value of their heritage and should be consulted on a proposed action likely to significantly impact on the listed Indigenous heritage values of the place and/or on a protected matter that has Indigenous heritage values (like listed threatened species).
Prior to undertaking any action, proponents should contact the appropriate Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of the land on which the action will occur that has listed values that may be significantly impacted, as well as the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of adjoining lands that may be significantly impacted by the action.
A letter from the appropriate representative bodies declaring that they have been adequately consulted on the action informs the Department that a best practice approach has been undertaken. Further information on Aboriginal representative bodies is available from Native Title Corporations or via local Aboriginal Land Councils. Guidance about best practice Indigenous engagement can be found at Engage early – guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).