Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council
The Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council was established in 1985 by descendants of the Wurundjeri people who are the traditional custodians of the country around Melbourne. There are three family groups in the council: the Nevins, Terricks and Wandins with 30 elders and about 60 members.
The members of the Council are all descendants of a Woiwurrung / Wurundjeri man named Bebejan, through his daughter Annie Borate (Boorat), and in turn, her son Robert Wandin (Wandoon). Bebejan was a Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri people and was present at John Batman’s ‘treaty’ signing in 1835.
The Wurundjeri Land Council has a number of different roles:
- to raise awareness of Wurundjeri culture and history within the wider community.
- actively managing archaeological sites and sites of cultural significance
- benefiting the lives of present-day Wurundjeri people and families.
- Welcome to Country ceremonies that can include speaking in language, traditional dancing, gum leaf and smoking rituals.
The Victorian Government has granted land of cultural significance for the Land Council to manage. These sites include:
- the Sunbury earth rings, an important ceremonial place.
- Coranderrk Aboriginal Station Cemetery in Healesville (1991)
The Council had a statutory role under Commonwealth legislation that gave it the power to grant or refuse consent to disturb Aboriginal sites. This gave the Council members a significant say in how their important cultural places were managed.The Victorian state government introduced the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Wurundjeri Council is now approved as a Registered Aboriginal Party under that Act, which will allow the Council to continue to make decisions about its cultural places. However the decision recognised only the area not under dispute with other parties. The other parties include the Wathaurung/ Wathaurong people to the west, the Dja Dja Wurrung/ Jaara Jaara people to the north-west, the Taungurung people to the north, the Gunai/Kurnai people to the east and the Boon Wurrung/ Bunurong people to the south. The dispute over territorial boundaries has been under challenge since they were set down in 1984 legislation.
In 2003 questions were raised over claims of missing funds. Wurundjeri Land Council revenue is predominantly from rental of buildings on the 38-hectare former Army School of Health site in Healesville and a $550 a day fee paid by developers for cultural "site monitoring" by the association to obtain approval for work on culturally sensitive areas.
In 2007 the Land Council opened an office at the refurbished Abbotsford Convent to engage with members of the wider community and provide community space for members. The site is on the Yarra River Dreaming Trail, an important part of the bigger creation story of the Wurundjeri people and their country. There are important Wurundjeri camping sites located nearby which have been used for thousands of years. A little way north is the confluence of the Merri Creek and Yarra River near Dights Falls; the burial site of Billibellary; the location of the Aboriginal Protectorate, Native Police Corps headquarters and Merri Creek Aboriginal School.
- Interview with Megan Goulding in The Abbotsford Convent Muse, Issue 18, September 2007. Accessed 1 November 2008
- Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, Decision in relation to an Application by Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Inc to be a Registered Aboriginal Party, date of Decision: 22 August 2008. Accessed 2 November 2008
- Larry Schwarz, Aborigines seek law change over land row, The Age, 14 December 2003. Accessed 2 November 2008
- Larry Schwartz, Police inquiry into claims of missing funds, The Age, 12 October 2003. Accessed 2 November 2008