The Coranderrk Inquiry was the only official commission in 19th century Victoria which addressed Aboriginal peoples' calls for justice, land rights and self-determination. It was one of the few times Aboriginal witnesses were called to give evidence on matters concerning their own lives and interests.
The Radio Interview
Giordano Nanni, Andrea James with host
Phillip Adams (below), LNL, Radio National
Giordano Nanni, Andrea James | 176 pages | ISBN 1922059390
Coranderrk - We Will Show the Country tells the story of one of the first sustained campaigns for justice, land rights and self-determination and provides a superb example of how to share history with a wide audience.
Extended collaboration was the crucible for the skilful melding of scholarship, performance and Aboriginal knowledge. Using the highly popular verbatim-theatre, professional actors bring to life those who testified at the 1881 Inquiry, allowing them to speak to a contemporary audience.
In this way, some of the Aboriginal witnesses are rescued from dusty archives, and are again given voice. They include renowned Wurundjeri leader, William Barak.
Adept at writing, skilled at negotiation and resistance, and rightly proud of their culture and their success in their farming ventures, it is impossible not to be inspired by the men, women and children who petitioned the colonial government. Here they are heard alongside their non-Aboriginal allies-and the Aboriginal Protection Board members who opposed them.
Coranderrk derives from the Ilbijerri Theatres production, with extensive consultation with descendants of the Coranderrk community. Belvoir Theatre in Sydney featured the play during December 2013 and January 2014.
Using Aboriginal peoples first-person testimonies (members of the Kulin clans and beyond) and the non-Aboriginal witnesses, Coranderrk reveals how the process of working between history and theatre can promote education.
An historical introduction provides a window onto the events which led to the establishment of the Coranderrk community, the protest campaign that sparked the 1881 Parliamentary Inquiry, and the consequences and aftermath of that Inquiry. In doing so it provides a deeper and more accurate understanding of our shared colonial past. Supplementing the historical introduction and extracts are biographies of the witnesses, and a range of historical images and stills from the theatrical production.
Coranderrk Station ran successfully for many years as an aboriginal enterprise selling wheat, hops and crafts to the growing market of Melbourne. The produce from the farm won first prize at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1881; and other awards in previous years, such as 1872.
By 1874 the Aboriginal Protection Board (APB) were looking at ways to undermine Coranderrk by moving people away due to their successful farming practices. The general community also wanted the mission closed as the land was too valuable for Aboriginal people.
A Royal Commission in 1877 and a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881 on the Aboriginal 'problem' produced the Aborigines Protection Act 1886, which required 'half-castes under the age of 35' to leave, meaning around 60 residents were ejected from Coranderrk on the eve of the 1890s Depression. This made Coranderrk a non-viable enterprise, as it left only around 15 able-bodied men to work the previously successful hop gardens. Almost half the land was resumed in 1893; and by 1924 orders came for its closure as an Aboriginal Station, despite protests from Wurundjeri returned servicemen who had fought in World War I
Many people were relocated to Lake Tyers in Gippsland and in 1950 when it eventually became unoccupied the land was handed over to the Soldier Settlement Scheme. More
7 December - 3 January 2014
Belvoir St Surry Hills NSW
A definitive story from our neglected Indigenous history by Andrea James & Giordano Nanni - Director Isaac Drandic
Coranderrk is about what might have been.
In the neglected storehouse of Australian history, this is one of the definitive stories. At a Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in 1881, the men and women of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve went head-to-head with the Aboriginal Protection Board. Their goal was both simple and revolutionary: to be allowed to continue the brilliant experiment in self-determination they had pioneered for themselves on the scrap of country left to them.
Coranderrk recreates the Inquiry. This is both great theatre and great history. It revives the voices of all those, black and white, who fought for a better compact between the country's oldest and newest inhabitants - three dozen of them from 132 years ago, speaking for themselves, directly to us, as though the question at hand remains unanswered today.
Cast: Kate Beckett, Jack Charles, Mathew Cooper, Kelton Pell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Bjorn Stewart