The Nationals Member for Ovens Valley, Tim McCurdy is calling on the Andrews Labor Government to recognise the Bpangerang people as the traditional owners of land located in north and north-eastern Victoria.
Speaking from Parliament this week, Mr McCurdy asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings MP, to meet with Bpangerang elders and support them in the recognition of their traditional rights and acknowledgment.
The Bpangerang boundary encompasses an area from the Great Dividing Range in the south of north-east Victoria, easterly to Chiltern and westerly to Echuca.
There has been a continued fight by the Bpangerang people to be recognised as traditional custodians of this area and have Aboriginal Party status.
They are also appealing against the agreement made between the State Government with the Taungurung Clan under the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010 which means the Bpangerang people will lose their title to land. The deal is worth $33 million.
Mr McCurdy said the local traditional custodians have been locked out of discussions with the State Government as they were deemed to fall under Yorta Yorta and Taungurung.
“For too long the Labor Government has washed their hands of the traditional owners’ dispute between Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Taungurung Land and Waters Council, and their unwillingness to recognise the Bpangerang people,” Mr McCurdy said.
“Yorta Yorta and Taungurung are far better resourced to stop the Bpangerang claiming their registered Aboriginal party status,” Mr McCurdy said.
“Very soon the millions of dollars that will flow into the current registered Aboriginal parties will end any chance that the Bpangerang people will be heard or treated fairly.”
Mr McCurdy said that he recently attended a Wangaratta rally in support of the Bpangerang people’s fight for recognition and their traditional land.
“I along with over 200 community members attended in support of the Bpangerang – a definite show of strength and celebration of the land,” he said.
The agreement between Labor and the Taungurung Clan is not yet set in stone – the National Native Title Register needs to sign off the on the deal.
Mr McCurdy urged the Minister to provide a fair process to all parties and to give Bpangerang the recognition they deserve before the deal is finalised and comes into effect.
“What’s happening here is just not fair – it’s just not right,” he said.