Cummeragunja walk-off

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Cummeragunja walk-off
Date 4 February 1939 (1939-02-04)
Location Cummeragunja Mission
Participants Jack Patten
Bill Onus
Eric Onus
William Cooper

The Cummeragunja walk-off in 1939 was a protest by Aboriginal Australians at the Cummeragunja Mission in southern New South Wales.


The Cummeragunja Mission was mostly home to Yorta Yorta people who had been relocated in the late 19th century from the Maloga Mission. In January 1935, according to W B Payne, a Church of Christ missioner, Christian churches were indifferent and neglecting aboriginals at the mission, "While thousands of pounds were being raised for missions in foreign countries the aborigines in Australia were regarded as outcasts".[1] Over the years, the New South Wales government had tightened its control on the operation of the mission. By late 1938 people had become unhappy with the management of the mission, living conditions and restrictions on their movement.[2]


On 4 February 1939, when Jack Patten was arrested and removed from the mission after trying to address the local people, as many as 200 residents of the Cummeragunja Mission walked out of the mission and crossed the Murray River leaving the state of New South Wales. This was in contravention of rules set by the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board.[2][3][4][5]


Many of the people who left the mission in February 1939 settled in northern Victoria in towns such as Barmah, Echuca and Shepparton.[6]

The third episode of the 1981 miniseries, Women of the Sun, is a fictional story based on the walk-off.

In October 2010, the opera Pecan Summer, based on the walk-off, opened in Mooroopna, near Shepparton. Deborah Cheetham – whose uncle Jimmy Little was born at Cummeragunja Mission – wrote, composed and performed in this production by the Short Black Opera Company.[7]


  1. ^ "Aborigines Neglected – Missioner's Complaint – Churches not Doing Enough". The Mercury. Davies Brothers Ltd. 22 January 1935. Retrieved 4 April 2012 – via National Library of Australia. 
  2. ^ a b "Cummeragunja – Mission History". Mission Voices. ABC Online. Archived from the original on May 27, 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "Struggle for Justice". Mission Voices. ABC Online. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  4. ^ "New DVD tells story of Shepparton Koori Community". Victorian Department of the Attorney General. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  5. ^ "NSW Station – Man Convicted". The Argus. 11 March 1939. Retrieved 19 November 2009 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. ^ "Cummeragunja Mission – Significant Events". Mission Voices. ABC Online. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  7. ^ Short Black Opera Company proudly presents Pecan Summer – World Premiere (retrieved 10 October 2010)

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