By Kath Gannaway
TWO plaques erected at the Yarra Flats Billabongs in Yarra Glen will provide a lasting reminder of a clash of Aboriginal and white cultures which became known as the Battle of Yering.
The plaques were unveiled on Saturday, 13 January by Wurundjeri Ngurungaeta (headman) Murrundindi, 167 years after the confrontation between about 50 Wurundjeri men and border police from Melbourne.
The plaques were organised by The Friends of the Yarra Flats Billabongs in conjunction with Yarra Ranges Friends in Reconciliation and Nillumbik Reconciliation Group.
Yarra Ranges mayor Tim Heenan and councillor Jeanette McRae and Nillumbik mayor Warwick Leeson joined reconciliation members at the ceremony.
Local historian Mick Woiwood said Melbourne was very much a frontier settlement when the 50 Aboriginal men led by Jaga Jaga found themselves in what was the first serious armed confrontation with authorities.
Mr Woiwood said the men had left Melbourne on “men’s business” on 12 January 1840. The incident started when they raided a vegetable garden of a settler named Anderson at what is now Warrandyte.
“When he ordered them off his land – land they probably saw as their land – a shot was fired which narrowly missed Anderson’s head,” Mr Woiwood said.
The men moved on to a spot near William Ryrie’s Yering Station and troopers followed. In conjunction with Mr Ryrie, the police lured Jaga Jaga and some of the Wurundjeri men to the station where the confrontation took place.
“All we have today is a very sanitised report with no mention of deaths, and today no-one knows how many Wurundjeri may have fallen in that confrontation,” Mr Woiwood said.
He said it was important to acknowledge the events of the past.
“Reconciliation is about acknowledging, it’s not about guilt,” he said.
“We can’t change what has happened in the past, but we must acknowledge that it happened.”
Murrundindi spoke of the importance of recognising past events and influences and working towards the future for Aboriginal people.
“I am all for reconciliation. I have two beautiful cultures – Aboriginal and Scottish,” he said. “My generation, we are getting it a bit easier than in the past. We have people like you helping us get this message out there.”
Murrundindi said at the same time as looking back, it was important to help younger indigenous people, many of whom he said struggle with their Aboriginality.
By Kath Gannaway