Fitzroy Aboriginal Heritage Walking Trail
According to Timeout, Melbourne's Gertrude Street was selected as one of the 33 coolest streets in the world.
This walking tour is right along Gertrude Street. While you wander here, why not also learn about the history locals are proud of?
From the 1920s onwards, the suburb of Fitzroy in particular became an important meeting place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from tribes around Victoria and beyond. In the 1950s, it became the birthplace of important Aboriginal organisations, a centre for political activism and a meeting place for Aboriginal people to link-in with family, community and services. It was also here in Fitzroy that many people from the Stolen Generations (people forcibly separated from family and community under racist government policies) found family and community.
[Dispossession and Dispersal of the Wurundjeri (Woiwurrung) People]
The Wurundjeri (Woiwurrung) people before contact lived, worked and looked after the land in the area now known as Fitzroy since the beginning of time. The cities of Fitzroy and Collingwood now stand on these traditional lands.
The settlement and development of the city of Melbourne impacted heavily upon the Wurundjeri people. Dispossession of land, dislocation, frontier clashes, massacres and the impact of introduced diseases saw a dramatic decline in Aboriginal populations of the area. In 1835, Wurundjeri ‘Ngurungaetas’ (or tribal leaders) Billibellary and Bebejan were tricked into signing a treaty (later deemed invalid by the English government) with visiting businessman, John Batman, that signed over a large portion of Wurundjeri land in exchange for gifts such as flour, blankets and steel axes.
As the government tried to assimilate Aboriginal people into white society, the Wurundjeri people were encouraged to move to the Merri Creek Protectorate Station. When this failed, people were moved to the Acheron Mission Station, and later to Coranderrk (run by the Aboriginal Protectorate Board), near Healesville (see map below). Coranderrk was closed in the 1920s by the government, but some of the Wurundjeri refused to leave and stayed on.
[Fitzroy Aboriginal Community]
Despite the effects of colonisation, Aboriginal people and culture survived and the strong bonds between families and clans could not be broken. From the 1920s onwards, the Aboriginal community of Melbourne began to steadily increase with the wave of Aboriginal people coming straight from the missions such as Thomas James, Grace Brux, Margaret Tucker, Martha Nevin (Wandin, Wurundjeri women) and William Cooper, who moved to Fitzroy from Cummeragunja between 1920 and 1935.
By the 1950s, Fitzroy supported a community of more than 300 Aboriginal people, with many living in surrounding inner city suburbs. Fitzroy not only became the largest Aboriginal community in Victoria, it also became the social and political hub of Aboriginal Melbourne.
This tour is based on Yarra City Council's data.
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