Yorta Yorta

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"Bangerang" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Bangarang.
This article is for the Indigenous Australian group. For their language, see Yorta Yorta language.
Map of Victorian Aborigines language territories

The Yorta Yorta people are the Indigenous Australians who traditionally lived around the junction of the Goulburn and Murray Rivers in present-day northeast Victoria.

Yorta Yorta Family Groups include the Bangerang, Kailtheban, Wollithiga, Moira, Ulupna, Kwat Kwat, Yalaba Yalaba and Nguaria-iiliam-wurrung clans.[1]

The language is referred to generally as the Yorta Yorta language.


Native title claim[edit]

In a Native title claim submitted in 1995 by the Yorta Yorta people it was determined by Justice Olney in 1998 that the ‘tide of history’ had ‘washed away’ any real acknowledgement of traditional laws and any real observance of traditional customs by the applicants.[2] An appeal was made to the full bench of the Federal Court on the grounds that "the trial judge erroneously adopted a ‘frozen in time’ approach" and "failed to give sufficient recognition to the capacity of traditional laws and customs to adapt to changed circumstances". The Appeal was dismissed in a majority 2 to 1 decision.[3] The case was taken on appeal to the High Court of Australia but also dismissed in a 5 to 2 majority ruling in December 2002.[4][5]

In consequence of the failed native title claim, in May 2004 the Victorian State Government led by Premier Steve Bracks signed an historic co-operative management agreement with the Yorta Yorta people covering public land, rivers and lakes in north-central Victoria. The agreement gives the Yorta Yorta people a say in the management of traditional country including the Barmah State Park, Barmah State Forest, Kow Swamp and public land along the Murray and Goulburn rivers. Ultimate decision making responsibility was retained by the Environment Minister[6]

Prominent people[edit]

Tony Briggs is an Australian actor, writer and producer. In 1988, Briggs had the recurring role of Pete Baxter on television soap opera Neighbours. This was followed by many roles in television series, such as Blue Heelers, Stingers and The Man From Snowy River. From 1997 he appeared in the children's television series Ocean Girl as Dave Hartley. From 2009, he appeared in the television series The Circuit as Mick Mathers. In 2011, he played Bilal in The Slap, based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas. He also had a small role in Redfern Now in 2012. Briggs wrote the Helpmann Award winning play The Sapphires which was first performed in 2004. It tells the story of the Sapphires, a singing group of four Koori women who tour Vietnam during the war. It is inspired by the true story of his mother, Laurel Robinson, and aunt, Lois Peeler, who toured Vietnam as singers in 1968. Briggs adapted the play for the 2012 film The Sapphires. His movie roles include Australian Rules (2002), Bran Nue Dae (2009) and Healing (2013).

Jack Charles (born 5 September 1943) is an Australian Aboriginal actor, musician, potter, elder and "national treasure".[not in citation given][1] Born at Cummeragunja Mission on the Murray River, Charles was raised in a boys home in Box Hill, suburban Melbourne, where he was the only Indigenous child.[2] Charles was involved in establishing Indigenous theatre in Australia.[3] In 1971 he co-founded Nindethana ('place for a corroboree') at The Pram Factory in Melbourne, Australia's first Indigenous theatre group. Their first hit play was called Jack Charles is Up and Fighting.[4] In 2010, Ilbijerri Theatre staged his powerful one-man show called Jack Charles v The Crown.[not in citation given][1] In 1972 Charles auditioned for the role of an Australian Indigenous character in a television show but was knocked back because they were "looking for an actor with blue eyes." The job infamously went to an actor of Sri Lankan descent.[4] In 1974 Jack played Bennelong in the stage production of Cradle of Hercules which was presented at the Sydney Opera House as part of its opening season. Also in the cast was a very young David Gulpilil. In 2012 Charles performed in the Sydney Festival production I am Eora. His stage work includes Jack Davis' play "No Sugar" for the Black Swan Theatre in Perth. His screen credits include the landmark Australian film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith[6] (1978), Bedevil (1993), Blackfellas (1993) and Tom White (2004), among others.[7] Jack Charles was the subject of Amiel Courtin-Wilson's 2008 documentary Bastardy[8] which followed him for seven years. The film's tagline describes him as: "Addict. Homosexual. Cat burglar. Actor. Aboriginal." The film was in the official selection for Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and Sheffield Doc/Fest film festivals. 1972 First Indigenous Australian theatre company formed: "Nindethana" (founded by Jack Charles and Bob Maza

Lynch Cooper – 1929 First Indigenous Australian to win the World Professional Sprint Championship: William Coopers son Lynch was an outstanding runner who won the Stawell Gift 'in1928 and the world sprint championship in 1929.(1928)

Les Bamblett (born 5 August 1963) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Melbourne and Footsray in the Victorian Football League (VFL). An Indigenous Australian, Bamblett played as a forward and who won the 1982 Morrish Medal, as the best and fairest player in the VFL Under 19's competition.[1] The following year he made his senior debut, against Collingwood in the opening round of the 1983 VFL season, kicking two goals.[2] He made a further 10 appearances that year.[2] Bamblett trained at Richmond in the 1984 pre-season but they couldn't come to an agreement with Melbourne on a transfer fee. He instead joined West Australian Football League club Claremont for the 1984 season. Clearance issues meant he was unable to play a senior game and upon receiving an offer from Footscray, returned to Victoria during the season. He kicked 51 goals for Footscray in 1984, to finished second in his club's the goal-kicking behind Simon Beasley.[2] His 24 games that season included three finals.[2] Over the next three years he struggled with injuries and was only able to add a further six games to his tally.[2] Two of his nephews, Chris Egan and Andrew Lovett, both played in the Australian Football League.

Nathan Lovett-Murray (born 18 November 1982) is a former Australian rules footballer with the Essendon Football Club. Lovett-Murray was initially rookie listed by Collingwood, playing for the Williamstown Seagulls in the Victorian Football League. After switching to the Bendigo Bombers, he was rookie listed by Essendon in the 2003 Rookie Draft. Lovett-Murray was promoted to the senior list early in the 2004 season and played 20 games. He spent the 2005 season on the rookie list again, he was promoted again that season and stayed on the senior list since then. Lovett-Murray belongs to a sporting family and is the great-grandson of pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls who played for Fitzroy Football Club. In addition he is the cousin of former Essendon Football Club player Andrew Lovett.

Jarrod Atkinson is an Australian rules footballer who played for Essendon. He began the 2008 season on the rookie list but was elevated to the senior list to replace Andrew Lovett[1] and debuted in round 7. He was a mature-age draftee aged 23 when he was picked up by Essendon in the 2007 rookie draft after impressing selectors as a defender in the VFL with the Bendigo Bombers in that same year. He started the 2008 season showing great potential playing in the pre-season cup where his size and speed suggested he could succeed at the elite level. Jarrod also showed he is out to make the most of his opportunity at Essendon by breaking the Club's sprint record over 20m with a time of 2.73 Seconds previously jointly held by Alwyn Davey, Courtenay Dempsey and Leroy Jetta. Atkinson's efforts were rewarded by being promoted to the senior list in April 2008 after Scott Lucas was placed on the long-term injury list. He played his debut game for Essendon, along with fellow debutants, Darcy Daniher and David Myers, in Round 7 against Port Adelaide at the Dome. He finished the year playing five senior games. He played a further five games in 2009 and seven in 2010.He was delisted by the club before the 2011 season[2]

Sean Charles (born 18 May 1975)[2] is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Melbourne, Carlton and St Kilda in the Australian Football League (AFL). Seen as a great talent from early on, he was promoted from the reserves after showing average form. His playing career had several interruptions, due to injury and a desire to spend more time at home. Throughout his career he suffered from a recurring scaphoid problem, and in his only game for Carlton he broke his leg. He was away from the game until 2000 when he was a surprise selection for St Kilda.[1] He stayed with the club until 2001 when a lack of enthusiasm pushed him into retirement.[1] Charles too is a relative of Andrew Walker, David Wirrpanda, Jarrod Atkinson, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Port Adelaide's Jarmen Impey & Les Bamblett.

Chris Egan (born 26 October 1986) is an Australian rules footballer in the Australian Football League. Picked up by Collingwood with their first round draft pick, tenth overall, in the 2004 AFL Draft from Rumbalara on the Murray. He represented Victoria Country in the 2004 AFL National Under 18 Championships.[1] Egan made his debut for Collingwood against the Tigers in Round 8 of the 2005 AFL season, and only missed two games for the remainder of the year. He played a total of 24 games for 21 goals in 2005 and 2006, but only played three games in the following two seasons before being delisted in September 2008.[2] He is the nephew of Phil Egan, who played for Richmond and Melbourne and Les Bamblett who played for Footscray and Melbourne.[1] A cousin of Sean Charles, Andrew Walker, David Wirrpanda, Jarrod Atkinson, Nathan Lovett-Murray & Port Adelaide's Jarmen Impey (2013 National Draft No. 21 overall).In early 2010, Egan signed with the Echuca Football Club which plays in the Goulburn Valley Football League.[3]

Jarman Impey (born 9 July 1995) is an indigenous Australian rules footballer for the Port Adelaide Football Club in the AFL. Impey was drafted by the Power with their first selection, pick 21, in the 2013 AFL Draft.

Deborah Joy Cheetham (born 24 November 1964 in Nowra, New South Wales) is an Aboriginal Australian soprano, actor, composer and playwright. Cheetham is a member of the Stolen Generations; she was taken from her mother when she was three weeks old[1] and was raised by a white baptist family. Jimmy Little is her uncle. Cheetham graduated from the NSW Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music Education Degree. In 1997 Cheetham wrote the autobiographical play White Baptist Abba Fan which tells of her experiences of coming to terms with her sexuality and racial identity while trying to reunite with her Aboriginal family.[1][3] White Baptist Abba Fan has toured internationally.[4] As a soprano Cheetham has performed internationally in France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand[5] She sang the for the opening ceremony of the 2003 Rugby World Cup[6] and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics.[7] In October 2010, Cheetham's opera Pecan Summer, based on the Cummeragunja walk-off, opened in Mooroopna, near Shepparton. She wrote, composed and performed in the production by the Short Black Opera Company.

Adam Briggs, hip-hop artist

William Cooper (1861–1941) – helped establish the Australian Aborigines' League in 1935. He led the first Aboriginal deputation to a Commonwealth minister, and another to protest the treatment of German Jews in 1938. His daughter, Amy Charles, was the matron of the first Aboriginal hostel established in Melbourne. In August 2010, the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum in Israel announced they would honor William for his protests on behalf of Jews after Kristallnacht. Yad Vashem plans to endow a small garden at its entrance in Cooper's honor. Cooper's name was submitted for recognition when it was discovered that Cooper's rally was the 1938 Only known private protest against Kristallnacht: Australian Aborigines League, led by William Cooper [7]

Jimmy Little (OAM) (1937–2012) – was a musician whose career has spanned over six decades. First song written and recorded by Indigenous Australians in 1958: "Give the Coloured Boy a Chance" (written by Jimmy Little, Snr and recorded by Jimmy Little). First Indigenous Australian entertainer to appear on television: Jimmy Little In 1999, ARIA inducted Little into its Hall of Fame.

Sir Douglas Nicholls (1906–1988) – was a professional athlete, pastor with the Churches of Christ, pioneering campaigner for Aboriginal reconciliation, the first Aboriginal person to be knighted, and the 1976 First Indigenous Australian to hold vice-regal office (Governor of South Australia): Sir Douglas Nicholls , serving as Governor of South Australia 1976–77. 1935 First Indigenous Australian to be selected in the Victorian interstate Australian rules team.

Burnum Burnum (1936–1997) – was an activist, actor and author.

Eric Onus – played an active role both politically and socially among Victorian Aboriginal people. He was also a founding member of the Australian Aboriginal league established by William Cooper in mid 1930's.

William Townsend Onus (15 November 1906 – 10 January 1968), known as Bill Onus, was an Aboriginal Australian political activist.[1]

William McLintock Onus Jr (Lin Onus AM) (4 December 1948 – 23 October 1996[1]) was born Lin Burralung McLintock Onus, his father was political activist and businessman, Bill Onus. His father became the founder of the Aboriginal Advancement League and the first Aboriginal JP, dying in 1968, a year after the fruits of a long campaign, the referendum giving Aborigines the right to vote.[3] Onus was a largely self-taught urban artist who began as a motor mechanic before making artifacts for the tourist market with his father's business, Aboriginal Enterprise Novelties.[4]

Margaret Tucker – an activist who grew up on Cummrugunja reserve. She was also a musician who sung at social occasions raising funds for war efforts.

David Wirrpanda – current AFL player with the West Coast Eagles, known for his community work in helping to improve the lives of young indigenous Australians. The David Wirrpanda Foundation was launched in 2005. He was named the 9th most influential Aboriginal Australian by The Bulletin magazine on 30 November 2007.[1]

Andrew Walker – a current AFL Player with the Carlton Football Club. He is a number two draft pick overall (2003 National Draft) and took one of the contenders for "Mark of the Year" in 2011. Andrew has Indigenous Australian heritage and his tribal ancestry can be traced to the Yorta Yorta.[1] He played his early career in country football and represented Bendigo in the TAC Cup before catching the eye of talent scouts. He was educated at Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne, Victoria, and graduated in 2004. In Round 18 2011 against Essendon, Walker took a huge specky over Essendon player Jake Carlisle, which was considered by many football observers, including The Age's Rohan Connolly,[10] and both match-day coaches, Brett Ratten and James Hird,[11] to be one of the greatest marks of all-time – although ultimately it did not win the season's Mark of the Year award.[12] He was awarded life membership of the Carlton Football Club in December 2011.


Indigenous pop, R&B, and soul singer Jessica Mauboy performs "Ngarra Burra Ferra" at the 2013 Mbantua Festival in Alice Springs, Northern Territory with Aboriginal Australian students from Yipirinya State Primary School, of which Mauboy is the official ambassador.

The track "Ngarra Burra Ferra" sung by indigenous artist Jessica Mauboy from the 2012 hit film The Sapphires is a song based on the traditional Aboriginal hymn "Bura Fera." [8] The song is in the Yorta Yorta language and speaks of the Lord God's help in decimating a Pharaoh's armies. The chorus, Ngara burra ferra yumini yala yala, translates into English as "The Lord God drowned all Pharaoh's armies, hallelujah!" These lyrics are based on an ancient song in Jewish tradition known as the “Song of the Sea” or “Miriam’s Song”, as it was composed and sung by Miriam, older sister of the prophet Moses. It can be found in Exodus 15, especially verse 4, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea." Aboriginal communities of Victoria and southern New South Wales may be the only people in the world who still sing the piece (in Yorta Yorta).[8]


  1. ^ Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreement
  2. ^ Federal Court of Australia, Members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria & Ors, [1998] FCA 1606 (18 December 1998). Accessed 11 September 2011
  3. ^ Federal Court of Australia, Members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Stateof Victoria (Including Corrigendum dated 21 March 2001), [2001] FCA 45 (8 February 2001) Accessed 11 September 2011
  4. ^ High Court of Australia, Members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria, HCA 58; 214 CLR 422; 194 ALR 538; 77 ALJR 356 (12 December 2002). Accessed 11 September 2011
  5. ^ The World Today, Reporter: Louise Yaxley, Yorta Yorta lose native title case, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 12 December 2002. Accessed 11 September 2012
  6. ^ Fergus Shiel, Yorta Yorta win historic deal, The Age, 1 May 2004. Accessed 11 September 2011
  7. ^ http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/news.aspx/138896
  8. ^ a b "The lyrics to Bura Fera". towalkwithyou.com. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2014.