THERE was great cause for celebration at Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation last week, when a number of title deeds for properties across the region were handed over.
In what was a proud moment for indigenous Gippslanders, five properties were officially given to Ramahyuck.
The process to gain the properties began in 2017, when the Department of Premier and Cabinet announced grants for organisations to access funding to have caveats, which controlled what could and could not be done with the land held by the Victorian government, removed from properties.
Ramahyuck received more than $70,000 to assist with repairs and maintenance, as well as to develop an organisation-wide business plan on how the properties would be used to provide better services to Aboriginal people.
The go-ahead for the caveats to be removed was given after Ramahyuck proved to the department that it had the required corporate government processes in place to ensure the properties would be used in good will for the community.
At a presentation at Ramahyuck’s Sale facility, children from the Cultural Connect Dance Group performed the Welcome to Country and dances to illustrate what the occasion signified.
Ramahyuck chair Debbie Leon said the occasion was fitting for Reconciliation Week, and offered a strong correlation with this year’s theme of ‘Grounded in Truth, Walking Together’.
“The land that we live and work on means a great deal to our people, and the land and what we do with it is part of our culture, and as such it is an essential part of our existence,” Ms Leon said.
“Being associated with the land creates a sense of health and wellbeing, as well as a sense of belonging.
“Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for all Australians to look back on what has happened in our history – be that of the good and the bad.
“With Reconciliation Week [last week] it is fitting that Ramahyuck is being given title deeds to five properties we have occupied and provided services from for many years.
“Receiving these title deeds means that Ramahyuck now has control over what we do and do not do with this land, which is true Aboriginal self-determination at work.”
Ms Leon said ownership had a far greater meaning than a general legal meaning.
“For Aboriginal people, land ownership means that we are the custodians of the land; we look after the land for our future generations.”
Aboriginal Victoria executive officer Tim Kanoa officially handed over the title deeds, and said he looked forward to seeing how Ramahyuck would benefit.
“The removal of first mortgages over five of Ramahyuck’s properties is testament to the strength of Ramahyuck’s organisation and the important role it plays in Aboriginal communities across western and central Gippsland,” Mr Kanoa said.
“It’s my hope that this will allow Ramahyuck to determine their own economic journey and in turn continue the excellent work in the Drouin, Morwell and Sale communities.
“This will support Aboriginal people to make repairs to properties, to do feasibility studies on the future of those properties and to ultimately have those first mortgages removed,” he said.
“This allows the organisations to capture equity within their properties and grow and flourish.
“When the program began in 2017 there were 49 properties owned by Aboriginal organisations across Victoria with first mortgages.
“Following the removal of these five mortgages, we have now removed 17 first mortgages in total across the state, and I’m certain Ramahyuck’s initiative in having these mortgages lifted will inspire others to access this opportunity.”
The title deeds were handed over for 111 Foster St, Sale; 125 Foster St, Sale; 72 Latrobe Rd, Morwell; 74 Latrobe Rd, Morwell; and 25 Young St, Drouin.