"Give us this ground.." Corranderk, Maloga, Cummeragunja, Kangaroo Valley...

How could mainstream society not hear or honour the perennial Aboriginal request for self determination? How could colonial and modern administrations get things so wrong for so long? Perhaps we will understand these things better when we learn of what happens right in the middle of our own small communities and when we can really feel the aspirations of individual people who are only a breath away from us.

There have been many histories that explore the big picture of Aboriginal politics from 1788 in Australia. Heather Goodall, Henry Reynolds, Richard Broome, Bain Atwood and the remarkable Lyndal Ryan’s national documentation of Colonial Frontier Massacres tell us much about the fluctuations of policy from periods of warfare to unsuccessful assimilation experiments. But perhaps there has been a shift in recent times to focusing on Aboriginal people’s experiences in particular communities and regions. Maybe it is this that will bring home what these policies really meant and the way in which Aboriginal people negotiated their lives in colonial society and in the new federated nation-state called Australia from 1900.

Kangaroo Valley is a small community in the hinterland of the NSW South coast with the Budarang divide as its backdrop. In 1890 Hugh and Ellen Anderson nee Burragalang attempted to create a self sufficient, self determining mission in Kangaroo Valley that would educate young people and be a home for displaced Aboriginal community people. It did not last two years but the reasons it came together and fell apart are illustrative of those times and instructive about how things turned out and what still now must be done to right past wrongs.


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