OnCountry4Health, 2017


Watjerupna  (Long Neck Turtle) Yorta Yorta Totem



Oncountry4Health Program, 2017

Oncountry Media

The wordpress site  is an important source of information for this subject. It has useful resources, lecture materials, writings, historic records and images. It is available for Oncountry4Health students, 2016

Barmah-Millewa National Park-wetlands: Yorta Yorta country

Subject Structure

The course is taught as field based subject over 3.5 days: 19-22 March 2017. Part One  run over the first two days in the Barmah-Millewa Forest wetlands and will provide a context  for students to study the broader substantive issues of Indigenous health in regional Victoria as a case study. Part Two, Day 4,  will visit the key organisations that deliver heath related programs in the region and students will visit one of the outstanding Indigenous Health delivery programs in Australia at the Rumbalara Aboriginal Coop, Mooroopna Victoria.  

yymap6Yorta Yorta Country and Barmah Millewa National Park Wetlands

Teaching Team

Dr Wayne Atkinson


Dr Wayne Atkinson, Yorta Yorta elder and Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne has taught Indigenous Studies and its related disciplines of Archaeology, History, Politics, and Legal Studies for at least 40 years. He has specialised in teaching Indigenous land and cultural heritage subjects in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne.  His specialist course: POLS30028: Oncountry Learning: Indigenous Studies is a decade long educational initiative.  Created in 2003, it is taught as a community based course that embraces the key concepts of experiential and transformative learning. It is now in its 12th year as a community based education program.

This method of teaching and the pedagogies engaged embraces  the storline approach.  It taps into the multi-layers of story lines about past and present events that have been passed on by Indigenous people and transmitted through the medium of oral tradition. The inclusion of this rich and varied form of knowledge is combined with academic learning to provide students with a broader and more holistic understanding of Indigenous Australia from Indigenous and academic perspectives. By visiting the sites and places that reflect the past history of Indigenous occupation  students gain a more tangible form of learning . 

The teaching and mentoring that follows has resulted in University of Melbourne graduates contributing to Indigenous development in the areas of cultural and environmental protection, education, health,  politics, law, engineering, media, sport and the arts.

Shane Charles: 


Shane is a Yorta Yorta educator, artist and administrator with a distinguished career in Indigenous Affairs. He has worked as a professional teacher, educator, and cultural officer, graduating from Swinburne and Deakin Universities in the fields of business, economics, governance, cultural heritage and community- regional development. He is now the CEO of  Moloka Pty Ltd, which he founded in Shepparton, and also worked as Cultural and Training Consultant with the Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation.  Like other members of the teaching team Shane has a broad based knowledge of Yorta Yorta history culture and language, and is a proud member of the Yorta Yorta community.  He is part of the dynamic teaching team for the Oncountry Learning subject.

Christopher Newman profile to be added.

Subject Overview:

With On-country, Dr Atkinson has brought together the academic learning relevant to understanding the Yorta Yorta people, and taken students to the land and people who lived the story. Here the students follow through the major story lines with a combination of lectures, site visits, and audio video materials. Most importantly students meet the Yorta Yorta people and visit the organisations that the community has worked tenaciously to establish.  The three storylines that intersect in space and time are:

 Land, culture and heritage

Students begin this journey in the Barmah-Millewa Forest and on the Murray River where they start to get a feel for the ancestral lands and the Yorta Yorta people who belonged to it and have continued their connections since time immemorial They see the tangible evidence of traditional life and the ways this is being protected and they see the alterations in the landscape talked about by Yorta Yorta people. The story line moves to the Dharnya Centre and the long and continuous struggle for rights to land and cultural heritage, culminating in the unsuccessful Yorta Yorta Native Title Claim and the successful work to achieve National Park status for the Barmah-Millewa red gum forest-wetlands. 

From the past to the present

The students follow the story to Maloga Mission and Cummeragunja Community (1874-2014) where they hear the history of forced dispossession, station work, segregation and reserve life, and the political movement out of reserves to fringe camps. They visit the historic site of the first Aboriginal housing estate and are introduced to the vibrant health service now flourishing in its place. They hear the stories from people whose parents lived through these times and who themselves have continued to strive for a better and more prosperous future.

 Aboriginal identity and development today

With the understanding they have now developed, the students are ready to visit the Aboriginal community organisations to learn how they have responded to inequality and exclusion in the areas of education, health, sport and economic development.

Learning Objectives (Part One)

Upon successful completion of this part of the subject, students are expected to:

  • Understand the nature and extent of Indigenous occupation and connections with the ancestral lands -past and present.
  • Demonstrate an ability to work more effectively with Indigenous communities.
  • Be able to articulate a more informed view of Indigenous history culture and health related issues in regional Australia.

 Learning Objectives (Part Two) Students are expected to have developed

  • An understanding of Indigenous Australians including their history, cultural development and the impact of colonisation on their ongoing health disparities
  • the ability to respect community values, including an appreciation of a diversity of backgrounds and cultural values
  • an understanding of and respect for the rights of patients including patient choice, dignity and privacy
  • An understanding of the principles of continuity and co-ordination of healthcare
  • The ability to learn from patients, health professionals and the community in a broad range of settings
  • an understanding of the principles of health literacy and a willingness and ability to contribute to the health education of the community
  • the ability and a willingness to contribute to the community
  • a commitment to contribute to the resolution of health inequities locally and  globally

OnCountry4 Health Program: Timetable

Sunday,19  March – Wednesday 22, March 2017  

1. Briefing Session: Tuesday  14  March  5-30- 7 pm, Level 5, School of Population and Health,  207,  Bouverie Street Carlton, University of Melbourne.

In preparation for the briefing students are required to read the ‘Cultural Protocols’ and the Briefing.doc

* Both are essential readings for program.

2. Sunday, 19 th  March- Oncountry Learning  

Meet 7-30 am for 8 am Departure from, School of Population and Health,  207 Bouverie Street Carlton, University of Melbourne.

Note: Shepparton region to be on doorstsep of the Rural Clinical School of Health, Shepparton at 10am for bus  pickup.

Travel from Melbourne to Moama River Resort   Moama via Shepparton.  Distance=280 Ks: 3.5 hours journey.   

  •  Arrival at lunch time
  • Organise accommodation.
  • Welcome to Country by Yorta Yorta.
  • Visit site of the Great Flood Story Line-35ooo BP (before present) and pick up storyline of the Moira Pastoral Station and its connections with Maloga and Cummeragunja (1874-present).
  • Weather permitting there is a nice swimming spot where students can have a swim to end the days travel and activities.
  • Return to Moama Resort

Dinner (to be organised)

3. Monday,2oth  March: Yorta Yorta Occupation & Connections

3.1 Morning: Introduction and overview of  Yorta Yorta connections


3.2 Afternoon:

  • Visit Sites in Barmah National Park
  • Examine evidence of prior occupation
  • Establish a timeline of Yorta Yorta history culture-past and present.
  • Evening:
  • Screening of Film: ‘Lousy Little Sixpence’
  • Group Discussion on Film
  • Discuss history and origins of reserve system and political struggle including current day issues.
  • Examine history of movement from Cummeragunja to local towns.

4. Tuesday 21  March: Visit Cummergagunja and Viney Morgan Health Centre

4.1 Full Day:  

  • Art and Craft work with womens group
  • Visit Cummeragunja School  and discuss local history-Maloga and Cummeragunja.

Return to Moama for Dinner

4.2  Evening Student Preparation of Critical Reflections “Past to Present, Future now”. An understanding of Aboriginal health to present to Elders tomorrow.

During this preparation students should see the evolution of their own professional and personal identity around the ethical themes of respect for autonomy and justice and the part they can play to reduce disparities

Common themes of communication, stereotypes and grief and other issues relating to health raised by the experiences of the onCountry. Understanding the Indigenous view of health and well-being, explain how it leads into just and respectful clinical decision-making.

5. Wednesday , 22  March

Visit Local Organisations in Shepparton and Mooroopna

Rumbalara Community Q and A Panel

  • Understanding the Indigenous view of health and well-being, explain how it leads into just and respectful clinical decision-making
  • Visit to Rumbalara Football and Netball Club after school tbc
  • Assess the extent to which Indigenous groups have achieved autonomy and self determination through local social education and health program
  • Preparation of Reflections “Past to Present, Future now”
  • An understanding of Aboriginal health.


Oncountry Learning Circle: Dharnya Centre, 2011

Readings and Websites:

* Required Reading

Atkinson,W.R. Yorta The Story of the Cadell Fault and the cutting of the more recent course  at the site of the Old Maloga Mission: As told to Oncountry 4 Health Students, 17th March, 2014.

*Atkinson, W.R.Ngariarty: Speaking Strong: The Schools of Human Experience, Chapter on Cummera Walk Off, in First Australian, ed Rachel Perkins & Marcia Langton, The Miegunyah Press,Carlton Victoria, 2008, pp.285-287.

* Atkinson, W.R.   Yorta Yorta Survival, Chapter 3, PhD Thesis, Law and Legal Studies, LaTrobe University, 2000.

Atkinson, W.R. Not One Iota, The Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice, PhD Thesis, Law and Legal Studies, LaTrobe University, 2000.

Briggs, P. Were Aborigines Too , The Age, 23 August, 2006.

* Cato, N. Mister Maloga, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1976. Chapter 4. The Path to Maloga, pp.30-37.

*Introduction to Documents of William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines League (AAL) pp.1-10.

Gratton,A. Reflections on the Oncountry Learning Experience, 2011.

* Hawker, C. Why are Blackfellas so dam good at Footy?   Research Essay from Oncountry Learning course, 2009.

Horner, J. Vote Ferguson for Aboriginal Freedom: January 1938: The Day of Mourning, Australian & New Zealand Book Company, Sydney, pp. 56-80.

* 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)

* Morgan, R. ‘ Reminiscences of the Aboriginal Station Cummeragunga’ and its Aboriginal people ‘,, (A limited edition of 500 copies published in 1952 by a group of friends of the author).

Stanner, W.E.H. The Dreaming, in W.H. Edwards, ed Traditional Aboriginal Society, Macmillan Australia, 1987 (Chapter 13.), 225-236.

Wood, C. Institutional Racism & the Dharnya Centre, 2012

Indigenous Health Issues:

Australian Indigenous Health Info net

Australia’s Indigenous health crisis in-depth, Oxfam Report https://www.oxfam.org.au/explore/indigenous-australia/close-the-gap/australias-indigenous-health-crisis-in-depth/

Summary of Australian Indigenous Health, 2013 http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/health-facts/summary

Victorian Aboriginal Community  Controlled Health Organisation Incorporated (VACCHO) http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/key-resources/organisations?oid=459

Web  Materials:

Yorta Yorta Struggle for Land Justice

Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation

The Dharnya Centre Materials

Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative & Health Service

Rumbalara Football, Netball Club

Yorta Yorta & Media Representations, 2004        

National Parks and the Yorta Yorta, 2010

Cultural-Tourism and the Yorta Yorta, 2010. 

Barmah-Millewa National Park-wetlands

Dr Wayne Atkinson & Shane Charles : Yorta YortTeachers for:  Oncountry4Health Program







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