Profile: Dr Wayne Atkinson-Yorta Yorta

Dr Wayne Atkinson is an elder of the Yorta  Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung Indigenous Nations of the Murray-Goulburn and Central Victoria  region, Australia-see-Biography. For most of his life Wayne has worked in Indigenous Affairs, specialising in research, writing, teaching Indigenous studies, and in land and heritage reform.  For the past three decades Wayne has worked on Yorta Yorta land and heritage matters and was a principle claimant in the Yorta Yorta Native Title Claim (1994-2002). He was responsible for researching and preparing the previous claim for the Barmah Forest in 1984. This claim was made before the Mabo decision, 1992 and  was used to form the basis of the Yorta Yorta v State of Victoria and Ors (1994-2002).

The Yorta Yorta Native Title Case YYNTC, was dismissed on appeal to the High Court in December 2002, dealing a bitter blow to the Yorta Yorta land justice struggle, 1860-2017. Being such resilient fighters for justice the Yorta Yorta bounced back on the political front and negotiated land justice and land management agreements with the Victorian State Government. They reasserted their inherent rights as the Traditional Owners of their ancestral lands and waters and were successful in achieving  some justice in  2008-9. This was achieved, through the effective political campaign for National Parks and Joint Management Agreements of the Barmah-Millewa Forest Wetlands, the heartland of Yorta Yorta traditional territories.  This remarkable story is  a key  feature of this site and is used as an important resource for  the teaching of Indigenous Studies and other cultural awareness education -see Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice.

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Teaching Oncountry Group:  Academy of Sport Health & Education, Shepparton, 2011

Academic Background:

Dr Atkinson completed his academic studies with LaTrobe University and was selected as Indigenous scholar of the year in 1996. His studies in the disciplines of Archaeology, History, Politics, Legal Studies, and Human Rights, were  used to complete a PhD on the Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice in 2000. The thesis analyses the extent to which the Yorta Yorta have gained land justice on the basis of their inherent rights. In the words of  his great Uncle William Cooper, a National and International campaigner for Indigenous justice, the thesis argues that ‘Not One Iota’ has been delivered to his people at this point of the ongoing struggle.  Whether the creation  of National Parks, Joint Management and the option of a hand back leaseback agreement,  delivers the land justice that the  Yorta Yorta have waited patiently for,  is now back on the front of the political agenda. The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Joint Management Body YYTOJMB has been established which has a majority of Yorta Yorta representatives chosen to represent Yorta Yorta interests in  the Management Plan for the future management and care of the National Parks.

Indigenous Studies Courses being taught at University of Melbourne

Dr Atkinson was recently recognised as a  Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He continues to teach Indigenous Studies at the University in the School of Social and Poltical Science and at many other Education Institutions in Australia and overseas. His course: POLS30028: Oncountry  Learning: Indigenous Studies, that he teaches in Yorta Yorta  country (2003-2017) has achieved outstanding success. The course combines the talents and teaching skills of  Yorta Yorta achievers,  Lou Bennett, Shane Charles  Andrea James and Yorta Yorta elders-see Quality of Teaching Results. As a Senior Fellow and Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung elder, Dr Atkinson enjoys mentoring other Indigenous students and is currently working on research projects focused on family history and  comparative Indigenous history  in Ireland,  Mauritius, India and Sri Lanka. He has just finished a major family history project tracing the footsteps of his great Grandfather Thomas Shadrach James who studied medicine at the University of Melbourne before the turn of the 19th Century. The project is the culmination of a lifetime search of family history and connections similar in scope and design to the popular SBS series ‘Who do you think you are’?

Music as  Medium of Communication

On the social side of life,  Wayne is an accomplished musician, playing guitar, bass guitar and singing vocals and harmonies with the legendary Shades band of his home town Echuca on the Murray River-Dungula in Yorta Yorta. He also played with many other bands in the country and city gigs, and continues to play at community functions and the Oncountry Learning courses held in Yorta Yorta country. He actively encourages members of his broader family group to pursue music as a career path including his niece Lou Bennett who he mentored  in her successful music career with the famous Tiddas Band  Tiddas achieved National and International fame in the 90s with their original and exceptional harmony style music. His nephew, Simon Johnson is also a talented bass player carrying on the tradition from the family music lines playing bass and singing  backup vocals with popular Indigenous musician, Troy Cassar Daly.

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Dr Wayne Atkinson

International Experience: 

In his  pursuit of knowledge and cross cultural understanding, Wayne has  travelled extensively. During the course of these travels he has contributed to building bridges between, Indigenous communities  and academic institutions throughout the world.  His journeys of  learning  have included North America, Europe, the South Pacific, Asia, South America, Mauritius, India Sri Lanka and recently Spain and Morocco. He has conducted research, given public talks in Universities, collected genealogical data and presented papers on comparative Indigenous issues in the following places: London, Leicester University, National University of Ireland, Galway,  Hokkaido University, Japan, Prato, Italy, Mauritius, India, and New Zealand. In 2010 he visited China to study water and cultural heritage issues and has recently done cultural heritage visits to sites in Ecuador as a guest of the Kichwa people and to Machu Pichu in Peru, South America to study the cultural heritage of the famous Inca Nation. Much of the information from these visits have an Archaeological focus and are beneficial  for teaching timelines of Indigenous occupation in Australia including locating Yorta Yorta cultural heritage sites in a global context.  As a  regular Visiting Fellow at the National University of Ireland Galway,  Wayne participated  in the Summer School program  in Irish Studies where he presented talks on comparative colonial history. He also took the opportunity  to complete  an intensive  Certificate program in the  Human Rights and Advocacy Summer School, Galway, 2013.   From this extensive experience Wayne  has  produced materials on British Colonial policy and practice in former British colonies . He has taken a special interest in the tracing the origins of the reserve system and the policy of segregation and control which he argues is connected with 16th Century British policy and practice in Ireland. The formula of isolation and control it is argued, is a policy that  was well down pat and more formidable when it reached Australia in the 18th century and used to segregate and control Indigenous people-see Searching the Origins of Aboriginal Resererves through the Lenses of Cummeragunja: The Irish Connection

Other International studies have included Indochina to visit  sites in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia to gain a broader understanding of south East Asian history, culture and economic development.  While in south East Asia Wayne visited the Hill Tribes of Thailand and stayed in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.  He  conducted research in Portugal, and Spain and studied Western European colonisation in the 1517th Century and its impact on Indigenous Australia in the 18th Century.  Whilst in Spain he  took special interest in  the ‘Treaty of Tordesillas’ signed  between the Portuguese and the Spanish at Tordesillas, Spain, 1494.  This Treaty was used to divide  the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal   before other major colonising countries came into the fold for their share of the riches of exploitation. Research materials from this visit are used for lectures on Colonisation, at the University of Melbourne and other Universities, 2010-2017.

Mauritius & India Research: Thomas Shadrach James (1859-1946)

From  2012-2016.  Wayne has worked on the  family history research project that traced the origins of Thomas Shadrach James parents and relatives back to Mauritius, Chennai, formerly Madras in the Tamil Nadu region of India and Sri Lanka. He  was able to locate the birthplace of his Great Grandfagther (Granpa James)  parents and relatives in Mauritius, India and Sri Lanka. The research project  will add to the heritage of Thomas Shadrach James, his studies at the University of Tasmania and Melbourne, and his marriage into  the Yorta Yorta community in 1885.  His dedication to the Yorta  Yorta  peoples education and  well being has left a profound legacy for his descendants,  many of whom have followed his footsteps,  and achieved in higher education at the University of Melbourne- see photos of graduates at Murrup, Barak, Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development, University of Melbourne.  This is a work in progress project dedicated to the  memory of Granpa James’ amazing contribution to the Yorta Yorta Struggle-see Tracing the Origins of Granpa James: A Journey of Discovery, 2017.

Teaching Outcomes

In teaching outcomes, Dr Atkinson has a long list of achievements. He has taught Indigenous Studies for many decades and was recently awarded the prestigious Australian Government Teaching Award  for Teaching Excellence, 2013.   The Oncountry Learning course continues to produce outstanding results and much to Wayne’s delight he now enjoys a vast network of students located in different parts of the world, many of whom he keeps in touch with through the median of social media. Indeed some of his travels have included catch ups  with former students who have been generous in accommodating Wayne and his wife Cathy during their visits- a nice rewarding network  to have through teaching. 

In his constant drive for further knowledge, and in his role as a Senior Fellow, Wayne continues to enjoy worldly travels. He visited and researched  Archaeological sites in Northern Spain to increase his knowledge on the origin of Artistic expression  in the form of rock art which he studied at the world heritage  Rock Art site of Altamira  in Northern Spain. While in Spain he also studied  some of the political history of the Catalonia and Bask Region of Spain. He also participated in a four hour lecture on the Spanish Civil war in Barcelona after reading George Orwell’s epic version of the war in his ‘Homage to Catalonia’ book, 1938.  On return to Australia he spent some time in Eastern Europe familiarising himself with the pre and post war political history of Slovenia in the former Balkans region, under the former Hungarian-Austrian Empire , 1867-1918.  Wayne completed research work  in Sri Lanka in 2016. This was an important   research project that completed the last leg of the Family History project discussed.  Plans for further studies and travels are underway for this year, 2017,  after  teaching the  Oncountry Learning course now in its 14th year.

At the moment Wayne and his wife Catherine Guinness have returned to Ireland for the Summer in Galway to do some some travel in the Western region of  County Mayo, Clare and Galway.  Some of this time will be spent at the National University of Ireland Galway where Wayne has been a Visiting Fellow since the International Conference on Settler Colonialism was held in 2007. Other research and Oncountry teaching will continue in 2018 marking the 15th year of the Oncountry Learning course. 

Written Work

Atkinson, W.R. A Picture from the Other Side: Oral History of Cummergunja, Manuscript, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, 1981.

Atkinson, W.R. Oral History: Oral History: An Aboriginal Perspective on Collection & Documentation, in Aborigines and Schooling, ed. W. Menary, Adelaide College of the Arts and Education, 1981.

Atkinson, W. R. A Look at North American Indian History Programs: Some ideas for Aboriginal Programs in Australia, Australian Government Publishers Canberra, 1982.

Atkinson, W.R & Berryman, A. Aboriginal Associations with the Murray Valley Study Region, Victorian Land Conservation, Council, Report, 1983.

Atkinson, W., Langton, M., Wanganeen, D., Williams, M. Aboriginal History: A Celebration of  Resistance to Colonisation, in Hill, M., Barlow, A, eds Black Australia 2, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Canberra, 1983.

Atkinson,W.R. Growing up on the Mooroopna Flat, in Jackomos, A & Fowell, D. Living Aboriginal History of Victoria: Stories in the Oral Tradition, Museum of Victoria, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1991, pp.178-193 (Extracts of Oral Knowledge).

Atkinson, W.R. Deaths in Custody & Inequality for Indigenous Australians Increases, in Wirridjiri, Koori Edition of Rabelais August 1995.

Atkinson, W.R. The Question of Indigenous Sovereignty,   in Wirridjiri, Koori Edition of Rabelais August 1995.

Atkinson, W.R., Poulter, J. The Origins of Aboriginal Football Skills, in Wirridjiri, Koori Edition of Rabelais August 1995.

Atkinson, W.R. Koori Cultural Heritage in Victoria & the Struggle for Ownership & Control, Hons Thesis, Law Faculty & Indigenous Studies, LaTrobe University, 1996.

Atkinson, W.R. The Yorta Yorta Struggle for Justice Continues, in Majah: Indigenous Peoples and the Law, ed Greta Bird, Gary Martin, Jennifer Nielson, The Federation Press, Sydney 1996.

Atkinson, W.R. Historic Overview of the Aboriginal Experience, in Aboriginal Health: The Ethical Challenges, ed Norman Ford, Caroline Chisholm Centre for Health Ethics, Melbourne, 1998.

Atkinson,W.R. Not One Iota: The Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice, PhD Thesis, Faculty of Law, LaTrobe University, 2000.

Atkinson, W.R. Pathway to Land Justice through Legislation & the Common Law, in Not One Iota: The Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice, PhD Thesis, Faculty of Law, LaTrobe University, Chaper 5. The Mabo Setting, 2000.

Atkinson, W.R. Management Plan for Barmah-Millewa Forest, Manuscript, Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation, Barmah, 2000.

Atkinson, W.R. Yorta Yorta Survival, From: Atkinson. W. R. Not One Iota: The Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice, PhD Thesis, LaTrobe Univetsity, 2000, Chapter 3.

Atkinson, W.R. 19 Seconds of Djunguma  Waala (Yorta Yorta word for big flood), Reflections paper following Olney Decision, 2000.

Atkinson, W.R. Not One Iota: Reflections on the Yorta Yorta Native Title Claim, 1994-200, in Indigenous Law Bulletin, February – March Vol 5, Issue 6. 2001.

Atkinson, W.R. A Holistic View of Land & Heritage,Paper presented in Indigenous Rights: Land & Heritage Course, School of Social & Political Science, University of Melbourne, 2001.

Atkinson, W.R. Mediating the Mindset of Opposition: Yorta Yorta Mediation Process, 1995, in Indigenous Law Bulletin, February -March Vol 5, Issue 6. 2002.

Atkinson, W.R. Reflections on the High Court Decision in the Yorta Yorta Native Title Case, 2003.

Atkinson, W.R. What did the vote mean to the Yorta Yorta, in Chesterman, J. & Phillips, D. eds Selective Democracy: Race, Gender and the Australian Vote, Melbourne Publishing Group, Armidale, Victoria, 2003.

Atkinson, W.R. Giving Voice to Indigenous Australia, Hyllus Maris Memorial Lecture, LaTrobe University, Bulletin News, 2003.

Atkinson, W.R. Reconciliation & Land Justice: You cant have one without the other, in Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues Volume 7, Number 2, June 2004.

Atkinson. W.R. Barmah-Millewa: Some thoughts for future directions, in Park Watch, No 216, March 2004, pp17-20.

Atkinson, W.R. Submission to the Environmental Assessment Coucil on Yorta Yorta Connections with the River Red Gum Forests On Public Land in the Study Region, Victorian Environmental Assessment Council 6th Floor, 8 Nicholson St, East Melbourne 3002. Victoria, Australia, 13 June, 2005.

Atkinson, W.R. Indigenous Land Justice & Colonisation,  Lecture materials for course: Indigenous Rights: Land & Heritage, School of Social & Political Science, University of Melbourne, 2005.

Atkinson, W.R. Yorta Yorta Occupation & the Search for Common Ground, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, Volume 117 Number 1, Special Issue on Barmah-Millewa Forest: Indigenous Heritage, Ecological Challenge, Editors: A.R. Ladson & G.C. Lacey, Royal Society, Melbourne, Victoria, 2006.

Atkinson, W.R. Balancing the Scales of Indigenous Land Justice in Victoria, 2006, in Land, Rights, Law: Issues of Native Title, Native Title Research Unit, AIATSIS, Canberra, Vol 3, No. 5. 2006.

Atkinson, W. R. Yorta Yorta & Guinness go hand in hand, in Tain, The Australian Irish News Network, Sep-Nov, 2006, pp.20-25.

Atkinson, W.R. Fine words but few deeds, in The Age, 10 April, 2006.

Atkinson. W.R. Constructing Indigenous Identity through Western Eyes, in Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues Volume 9, Issue 4, December 2006.

Atkinson, W.R, Searching the origins of Aboriginal Reserves through the lenses of Cummeragunja, Paper, presented at 5th Annual Conference on Settler Colonialism, National University of Ireland, Galway, 2007.

Atkinson, W.R. The relationship between Land Water & Yorta Yorta Occupation, Research Paper, Yorta  Yorta Native Title Claim, 1997.

Atkinson, W.R. Reflections on the Yorta Yorta Native Title Claim, 1994-2003, in A. Gunstone (ed.), History, Politics and Knowledge: Essays in Australian Indigenous Studies, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melburne,  2008.

Atkinson. W.R. Major Victory for Yorta Yorta at World Indigenous Peoples Summit, Japan 2008, in Koori Mail, August, 2008.

Atkinson, W.R.  Justice & Beauty in the Barmah Forest, Herald Sun, 1 September 2008.

Atkinson, W.R.  Ngarriarty: Speaking Strong for Country , in First Australians, Perkins, R., Langton, M., eds, Melbourne University Press, 2008.

Atkinson,W.R. The Cummera Walk Off & the Return to Base Camp Politics,  School of Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne, 2009.

Atkinson, W.R. The Dharnya Centre: A Case of Institutional Racism, in Park Watch, No 233, June, 2008.

Atkinson, W.R  Empowering Traditional Owners through Joint Managment of National Parks: What can be learned, from Kakadu & Mutawinji? pp. 19-28 of Research Project, University of Melburne, 2009.

Atkinson, W.R . The Need for a Cross-Border Barmah-Millewa National Park & Joint Management with the Yorta Yorta, Research Paper, pp.49-56, Research Project, University of Melbourne, 2009.

Atkinson, W.R. National Parks & Joint Managment, in Park Watch, Victorian National Parks Association, December, 2009.

Atkinson, W.R. Cultural Tourism & the Yorta Yorta Experience: A Case of Excusion or Inclusion, Research Paper, Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation, 2009.

Atkinson, W.R. National Parks & the Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice: The Barmah-Millewa Case, Research Paper, University of Melbourne, 2009

Atkinson, W.R. National Parks & Joint Management: A better deal than Native Title? Research Paper, University of Melbourne, 2010.

Atkinson.W.R. Native Title & the 80/20 Equation, in Koori Mail, edition, 484, 8 September, 2010.

Atkinson.W.R. The Yorta Yorta Nation: Moving forward with a Vision for the Future, Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation, The Adviser Australia, Shepparton, No 1:1017, 27 October, 2010.

Atkinson, W.R. A Chronolgy of Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice, 1860-2010: A prima facia case for prioritising Yorta Yorta Nations in the Governments Land Justice Agenda, Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation, 2010.

Atkinson,W.R. Media Representations & Indigenous Voices in the Barmah-Millewa Campaign , Research Paper on Barmah-Millewa Campaign, 2011.

Atkinson, W.R & Burchill, A. Conflict of Interest Matters in the Bolt Case, Background Paper on the Bolt Case, 2011.

Atkinson, W.R. An Overview of Indigenous Human Rights in Australia, National University of Ireland, Galway,  2012.

Atkinson, W.R. Native Title in Australia: The Yorta Yorta Case, Research Paper,  National University of Ireland, Galway, 2012.

Atkinson, W.R. The Failure of Native Title & Human Rights Options in  the Yorta Yorta Case,  Research Paper, School of Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne, 2013.

Atkinson, W.R. Rio Tinto Award for Teaching Excellence, 2013,  Media Release, University of Melbourne, 2013.

Atkinson, W.R. ‘The Task Force Story: Looking Back and Journeying Forward, 1975-1977‘: Recalling 40 years of Tertiary Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’, David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education, Arts and Social Sciences University of South Australia, 2013.

Atkinson,W.R. Institutional Racism alive and well in the Barmah Forest: How white ants and white politics combined to undermine the Dharnya Centre, 2013.

Atkinson, W.R. Tracking the Origins of the Reserve System through the lens of Cummeragunja :  Paper presented to the  ’Ends of Ireland: Twentieth Australasian Conference for Irish Studies’, UNSW, 4-7 December, 2013.

Atkinson, W.R. Reflections of  the National Apology, 2014: Paper presented to Commemoration of the 6th Anniversary of the National Apology, Shepparton Regional Reconciliation Group, Queens Gardens, Shepparton, 13 February,2014.

Atkinson,W.R. Empowering Traditional Owners through Joint Management of National Parks: Paper presented to Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Joint Management Board, Yorta Yorta Nations Corporation, Shepparton, 30 Nov, 2015.

Atkinson.W.R.Welcome to Country:  Yorta Yorta Joint Management Board, Workshop, Morning Glory, 10 December, 2015.

Atkinson,W.R. Introduction to Yanagai Yanagai, in  Andrea James,  Yanagai Yanagai, Currency Press, Sydney, 2016.

Atkinson.W.R.  1916 Easter Uprising Commemoration:  Talk given to Commemoration at Celtic Club, 19, March, 2016.

Atkinson. W.R. S.18C: Response to Tony Burke’s Call to Prevent Changes, 2017.

Tracing the Footsteps of Granpa James: A Journey of Discovery:  Manuscript on the family history project conducted in Mauritius, India and Sri Lanka, 2012-2016, University of Melbourne, 2017. (in review).

 

Dr Wayne Atkinson-Yorta Yorta Senior Lecturer & Fellow
School of Social & Political Science,
University of Melbourne
waynera@unimelb.edu.au

Family History16

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4 Responses to Profile: Dr Wayne Atkinson-Yorta Yorta

  1. Maire O'Donoghue, Claretuam, Co. Galway says:

    Having met you thro’ unusual circumcsances last July and being literally. Bowled over by you and your wife Cassie and your interest in Indigenenus people and one of my sons in Oregan working with the Dept of environment, I was over come but still keen and hoping when you get to Galway summer2016 we can see a few sights. My beloved Tom died in Nov. Last and you and Cassis Would have ticked all his boxes for him but hopefully I will have our eldest son , also Tom when you get here, very interested in land wrights. Hopefully I too will have done a bit of reading on the subject.
    May your God go with you until we meet again. Maire.in.claretuam@gmail. Com.

    Máire O’Donoghue, Claretuam, Tuam, Co. Galway irl. House no. 3539355959
    Mob.no. 353 872729299

    • waynera says:

      Hi Maire sorry have been busy with teaching and at this stage we wont be back in Galway this summer. Sorry to hear about the passing of your husband and best wishes for the new year. Hope to back in Galway in 2017 all going well. Cheers Wayne and Cath

  2. Dr Atkinson,
    I am writing a novella at the moment for an 8-10 year old audience and I want to have one of the main characters to be a boy from one of the Yorta Yorta clans. I am, however, very aware of how much I don’t know about the Yorta Yorta people and I do not wish to misrepresent the character.
    I am wondering, could we begin a brief email dialogue so that I can ask some questions, tell you what my thoughts are and get your impressions? I have some very specific goals with my writing and a broad ethnic diversity is key to many of them.
    Thank You
    Bob Cartledge

    • waynera says:

      Sorry Bob I am heading overseas for 4 moths and the best contact I can give you for your inquiry is to get in touch with the Yorta Yorta Nations Corporation which you can locate online and discuss your proposal with then Good luck with it Regards Wayne

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