# 37516


[CUMMERAGUNJA RESERVE] “One of the many houses of the Barmah settlement”.

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[Title from manuscript caption verso]. [Taken in 1924]. Gelatin silver print photograph, 87 x 137 mm, printed on Kodak Austral postcard stock; verso with fully contemporary inscription in pencil: ‘One of the many houses of the Barmah settlement’; beneath it the wet-stamped name and pencilled address of a relative of the photographer, P. Brabazon, Hardware Club, Melbourne; the photograph is in good condition – a very sharp image.

The National Library of Australia holds a small group of photographs taken by Dennis Brabazon on a visit to Cummeragunja in 1924, with the following catalogue note: ‘Dennis Brabazon, originally from near Glenrowan, Victoria, rowed down the Murray River from Albury in 1924 and kept a diary of his trip and developed his photographs as he went.

The photograph offered here is not one that is held in the NLA. It is almost certainly a unique image.

In dramatic contrast to the disgraceful mistreatment of the mainly Yorta Yorta people at Cummeragunja that took place in the first decades of the twentieth century – which included the forced removal of children from their families – the following eyewitness account by an earlier visitor to Cummeragunja in 1899 gives us an idea of how differently things may have turned out. From the Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. ; Moama, NSW), 18 April 1899:

Most people in this district are familiar with the euphonious aboriginal title “Cummeragunja.” They know that it is a mission station on the New South Wales side of the Murray, where the descendants of the dusky races which once called this beautiful country their own are cared for. But it is only through the light of intimate knowledge that one sees the true significance of the work being done at Cummeragunja. About 12 or 13 years ago the station was established by the New South Wales Government, and an ideal spot was chosen, containing an area of 2,410 acres of rich land, on the Murray River, bounded on the west by the rich and fertile sandhills so well known to travellers out that way. The growth of the settlement has been very interesting, especially in the face of the difficulties that would naturally be expected. On the very spot made famous by their forefathers—the Barmah tribe of blacks—stands a village of neat, white-washed, wooden houses, built on symmetrical lines, with three wide tree-planted streets, schools, a water supply, and every indication of comfortable, civilized life. The population of Cummeragunja to-day is 205 souls. The conditions under which they live are pleasing to dwell on, as they serve to show that the British race, though their civilising encroachments have resulted in the practical extermination of the aborigines, are mindful of the duty devolving on them to care for the remnants of the race which once owned this valuable continent. To put the thing in a nutshell, the plan is He who can work must work. He who cannot will be cared for. The land is sub-divided into agricultural allotments, and at present there are 28 holders of farm blocks, ranging from 30 to 55 acres. This year it is expected that between 500 and 600 acres will be put under crop. The station is under the management of Mr G. Harris, who is very popular with everyone, and who evinces a most sympathetic interest in the progress of the mission station. He has got a very able coadjutor in Mr T. S. James, the school teacher, who has been 19 years connected with the mission life. He has charge of both the scriptural and material education of the young. The station is under the control of a local board, consisting of Moama residents including Messrs Faulkner and C. L. Blair (secretary.) They make a monthly inspection, and it was on the occasion of the usual visit that Mr Blair kindly drove our representative out on Saturday last. The school is one of the regular public schools of New South Wales. It is attended by 34 boys and 33 girls, and is annually inspected. The inspector’s last report states that it compares favorably with any other school in the colony as far as results are concerned. This is highly creditable to Mr James and his assistant, Miss Ida Faulkner (daughter of Mr Faulkner, of Moama) who, it is said, is the youngest school assistant in New South Wales. By the-way, the children attending the school receive food and rations free. Spiritually, the wants of the settlement are well looked after. There is a nice little wooden building which serves as a church and Sunday school, of which Mr James is superintendent. The church is non sectarian, and both Protestant minister and Catholic priest are equally welcome to officiate.The Rev Mr Medley, of Echuca, and the Rev Mr Ganly, of Moama, both visit the settlement occasionally. Failing the gentlemen of the cloth either Mr Harris or Mr James officiates. The services and the Sunday school are always well attended. The sanitation of the village is well attended to, and such a thing as typhoid fever is quite unknown. The water supply is just now undergoing a great improvement. A supply tank, 32 feet high, is being erected on poppet legs, a well and drive have been constructed, a Tangye pump has superseded the old one, and the water is to be laid on to the houses through two inch mains, which are already laid down. When the work is completed it will, in a comparative sense, beat Echuca hollow ! Everybody will have a plentiful supply for household and gardening operations. The Government is bearing the bulk of the cost, but householders will contribute as much as they can. There is a commodious general store on the settlement, under the charge of the manager. It is divided into two departments—the cash department and the free rations department. But, as we have said, none of the able-bodied receive rations free. They get supplied according to their industry on the settlement, whilst, if they earn money outside, for instance, by shearing, or by ploughing, for which they are paid so much an acre, they can buy at the cash department. The store opens twice a day at regular intervals. Among the free rations are an excellent brand of tea, sugar, rice, oatmeal, candles, kerosene, soap, washing soda, tobacco, hops, etc., also milk, sago and such-like for the sick. Talking about the sick reminds us that there is a well-equipped dispensary, in charge of Mr James, who administers medicine to all requiring it. Dr Smith, of Echuca, visits the settlement once a month. There is a fair-sized building which is an example of the care which is bestowed on the race so fast dying out. It is called the dormitory, and it is the home of the little dusky-skinned children who have been bereft of their parents. It is good to think they are so well cared for. A look around the place is so fruitful of interest that if the Echuca people knew what a happy, well ordered little community those settlers are they would make Cummeragunja a place for frequent visit, and Mr Harris would be glad to show them around. He is courtesy itself, and likes the public to see what is being done. The population consists of a good number of elderly men and women, a large proportion of active-looking young men and young girls and a whole host of little picaninnies who race about from morning till night. Apart from the harvest work and all that is necessary about the place a number of the young men — many of whom are well-known in cricketing circles—go away shearing every year, whilst the women look after the houses and housework. Indeed, Mrs Harris makes a regular inspection and it is only on condition that they are clean that the housewives obtain rations. These people are all very happy. They take a pride in the settlement and all that goes on from week to week. Echuca people would do them a good turn if they put aside illustrated literature for them. Miss McBride, of the Mechanics’ Institute, has been very thoughtful in this respect, and residents might easily follow the good example. Young and old delight in pictorial works and the children are very easily pleased. Indeed, if the children of Echuca remembered their little dusky brethren at Cummeragunja and occasionally collected some of their old toys they would confer much happiness on them. Mr Peter Noble never goes on a cricketing visit out there—and, by the way, they beat our boys at cricket on Saturday—without remembering the youngsters, who are just as eager for little treasures as are our own families. Residents of Echuca who assist in promoting the intellectual welfare of the people may rest assured that the moral welfare is carefully studied. In the first place no intoxicants are allowed on the station. No bad language is permitted. There is one fact in evidence which says a great deal for the morality of the place. During the last three years there has been but one illegitimate birth. As the station is making such satisfactory progress it is no wonder that people are beginning to take some interest in It. It is a credit to the Board and to Messrs Harris and James and those who help them. The intelligence of the children is a very satisfactory feature, whilst the elder ones would make good citizens amongst any community. So much for the last of a once great race which had tfull sway in these lands. In a few years, comparatively, children will listen with interest to the tales of their grandfathers about the people who inhabited the land before them, for there will be none left to speak for themselves.’