Renaming of Merri-bek
Statement of Commitment
Our vision as a Council for reconciliation is respectful and inclusive recognition of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people. They are the Traditional Owners of the lands and waterways in the area now known as Merri-bek.
In October 2021 Merri-bek City Council, Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders, and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents signed a Statement of Commitment to Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities of the City of Merri-bek. You can see the signed committment in ourStatement of Commitment to Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities of the City of Merri-bek (PDF).
This statement sets out the Council’s vision for reconciliation and outlines what Council recognises, supports, and commits to a process towards self-determination and, local, regional or national Treaty or Treaties that enshrine the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
This Statement of Commitment includes seven commitments that form the basis for ongoing working relationships between Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders and Merri-bek City Council. They are:
- Building partnerships with Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities
- Engaging the Traditional Owners in delivering Welcome to Country and other traditional ceremonies.
- Engaging Traditional Owners to provide Aboriginal cultural competence learning
- Consulting Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people to inform key decisions.
- Protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage and continuing to protect the Aboriginal history of Merri-bek.
- Protecting our waterways, communicating Aboriginal water values, and interpreting landscapes.
- Bringing cultural values and cultural practices to natural resource management
This builds on the Statement of Commitment to Indigenous Australians by Merri-bek City Council, originally endorsed in May 1998 and included in the Merri-bek Reconciliation Policy and Action Plan 1998-2001. You can read the 1998 Statement of Commitment on page 178 of the October 2001 Council Report (PDF) which provides background information and context. You can also find the 1998 Statement of Commitment in the Reconciliation Action Plan 2014 (DOC).
Merri-Bek City Council acknowledges that January 26 is a day of mourning. This day is a painful reminder for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We do not recognise this as a day of celebration and do not refer to it as Australia Day.
We believe that national identity should be celebrated on a day that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We are proud to be part of the Change the Date campaign. Through this campaign, we hope to encourage the federal government to find another day to celebrate our nation.
Merri-Bek residents are welcome to spend the day as they please, and we continue to hold citizenship ceremonies on this date. However, we encourage everybody in Merri-bek to reflect on what this day means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
For the latest on the #Changethedate campaign visit and follow the Change The Date Yarra Facebook page.
In 2021 we marked 26 January as Survival Day or Day of Healing. We launched the video below that reflected on the sadness and pain felt on January 26 by many in the Merri-bek community. The video featured:
- Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder, Aunty Di Kerr
- Sue Lopez Atkinson and Liz Phillips from the Merri-bek Reconciliation Working Group
- Co-Chair Reconciliation Victoria Aislinn Martin
- Mayor Cr Annalivia Carli Hannan
The Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people and the land we now call Merri-bek
The area we know today as Merri-bek was, for tens of thousands of years, a sparsely wooded forest with native grasslands that was governed by the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people. The Merri Creek, also known as the “Merri Merri” Creek, means “very rocky” in Woi wurrung, the traditional language of this Country.
The Moonee Ponds Creek was named after Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Ancestor Moonee Monee. It is older than the Merri Creek, originally cut as deep as 10 metres into the sandstone. This was the original landscape that provided the basis for the cultural, spiritual, economic, and social lives of the Traditional Owners of Country.
Contact between the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung and Europeans occurred in 1835. The colonisation and dispossession that took place had devastating and ongoing consequences for the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people and other Aboriginal Victorians.
In 1863, Ngurungaeta (“Leader”) Wonga and his maternal cousin William Barak led their surviving people across the Black Spur to the Upper Yarra and established Coranderrk Mission Station near Healesville on 2300 acres of land. Access to the land was granted as a lease. Many other Aboriginal Victorians also settled at Coranderrk Station.
Throughout decades of colonisation and dispossession, descendants of the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people have survived. Merri-bek remains part of the unceded territory of the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people.
Australia is the only country in the Commonwealth that does not currently have a Treaty with its First People. In 2018 the State of Victoria passed legislation to progress a Treaty with Aboriginal Victorians.
The above content has been approved by the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.
Aboriginal sites in Merri-bek
The Merri-bek Post-Contact Aboriginal Heritage Study lists and describes important Aboriginal sites in Merri-bek, including places, landscapes, and buildings. These sites hold great significance to Aboriginal people.
Brothers Herbert and William Murray are two of many Aboriginal people who served in World War I. Today, their relatives are Merri-bek community members.
Nora and John Stewart Murray's family were likely to be the first family to settle in the Merri-bek area in 1954. Stewart worked with Nora’s father Sir Doug Nicholls in establishing Aboriginal services for the community in the 1960s. Nora and Stewart raised their eight children in the small three-bedroom house in Heather Court, Glenroy.
208 Hilton Road Glenroy was the original site of Glenroy High School, Box Forest campus. It was later the home of the Victorian P-12 College of Koorie Education Glenbroy Campus. In 2010 it was renamed to Ballerrt Mooroop College.
In the 1960s and 1970s the eight children in the Murray family (Diana, Stephen, Gary, Brian, Margaret, Wayne, Bev and Greg) attended Glenroy High School close to their home.
When the college was closed in 2012 a community campaign was launched to return the site to the Aboriginal community for use by the whole community. In 2017 the campaign succeeded in keeping the site public temporarily until future use is decided.
Learn more about the history of Ballerrt Mooroop.
Ronald Bull is considered to be one of the most important Aboriginal artists of south-eastern Australia.
During the 1960s Ronald Bull painted a mural showing an Aboriginal encampment while serving time at Pentridge Prison. The mural is on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register and protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, as well as the Heritage Act 1995.
The Aboriginal Community Elders Service (ACES) (incorporated in 1987) was first set up as a retirement home/nursing home that would cater for Aboriginal Elders in culturally appropriate ways.
ACES is an important health service for the Aboriginal community in that it attempts to address the major issue of premature aging within the Aboriginal community.
You can read about the pre-Contact and post-Contact Heritage Studies in the documents below:
Read more about early Aboriginal life in Merri-bek
To find out more about early Aboriginal life in Merri-bek, you can borrow these books from your local library:
- 'Welcome to Country' by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy
- 'Dark Emu' by Bruce Pacoe
- 'Welcome to Country' by Marcia Langton, is a wonderful introduction for non-Indigenous Australian families and adults into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
- 'People of the Merri Merri: the Wurundjeri in colonial days' by Isabel Ellender and Peter Christiansen
- 'When the Wattles Bloom Again: The Life and Times of William Barak Last Chief of the Yarra Yarra Tribe' by S. W. Wiencke
- 'Brunswick: One History Many Voices, City of Brunswick' edited by Helen Penrose