Councillors approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Greater Shepparton City Council and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC) at the September Council Meeting, with one change to the Council Acknowledgment of Country.
Incorporated under the Commonwealth Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006, YYNAC was established to represent descendants of the Yorta Yorta Peoples; make decisions and act on any significant matters on their behalf; and to enter into agreements with any person, government agency or authority in relation to the betterment of Yorta Yorta Peoples and protection of Yorta Yorta Country and interests.
The YYNAC received Registered Aboriginal Party status in 2007 from the Victorian Government, and the lands which now comprise the Greater Shepparton Local Government Area are recognised by the Victorian Government as Yorta Yorta lands.
Council voted to change the organisation’s Acknowledgment of Country to recognise the Yorta Yorta Peoples as the traditional owners of the land, where it previously acknowledged all traditional owners.
It has been a long held desire of YYNAC and Council to form a MoU that recognises the important relationship between Yorta Yorta Peoples and Council, and to facilitate the ongoing process of reconciliation and Aboriginal self-determination.
At a recent meeting, the YYNAC Board passed a motion of support for the MoU, with plans to review it after 12 months.
Around 1.6 per cent of people in Greater Shepparton identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander People, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census (2016). However, anecdotal evidence shows that this is an underrepresentation, and Greater Shepparton’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is estimated to be nearly 6,000.
To indicate Council’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Communities, Council released its first Reconciliation Action Plan in 2019 with a vision of: “A future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have equitable access, inclusion and opportunities, and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ cultures are honoured and respected”.
One action in the adopted Plan was to acknowledge the Yora Yorta Peoples in Council’s Acknowledgment of Country.
The MoU is underpinned by a number of agreed founding principles:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are acknowledged as the first people of this land
- The arrival of non-Aboriginal people brought massive change to the landscape and way of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and a strong desire exists in Greater Shepparton to address the past and embrace the process of reconciliation
- A commitment to working with one another to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s self-determination
- There is respect, understanding and strong regard held for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
- Islander cultural heritage, traditions, customs and beliefs Improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce participation, health and wellbeing outcomes.
“For too long the past of Australia has been ignored, and Council is passionate about seeing the truth of our history acknowledged,” Mayor Cr Seema Abdullah said.
“We must continue to improve the opportunities and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Greater Shepparton and create a place where their culture is honoured and always respected.
“Both parties have been striving to form a MoU for quite some time and we will see some long-term benefits for the whole community through improved understanding and working relationship.”
Council’s Reconciliation Action Plan can be viewed here.