Contributed by Max Schier,
THE Barmah Cattlemen have been pressured and forced out of our Victorian Heritage Listed site, our home in Barmah Forrest after 173 years of musters instigated by European Pioneers who came to this country in search of a better life and to rest their dairy farms and their cattle during the summer months. Those who have immigrated, including today’s migrants, have built while not all perfect, but an exciting country that is admired all around the world for its achievements and the community’s spirit and tradition of a Fair Go for All.
I have been a professional musician for 66 years and the forced closure of our home in Barmah Forest can be reflected in a George Harrison (The Beatles) song “All Things Must Pass.” The words of that song ring loud and clear in relation to the banning of the Cattlemen at Barmah.
A sad reflection also to what my friends the Bangerang People experienced, when their land was taken from them by successive Labor Governments from Steve Bracks on, and now it’s the Barmah cattlemen’s turn “but it isn’t that grey” and life goes on.
I listed the yards with Heritage Victoria in 2009. I listed them because a former employee of Parks Victoria and my close friend, now passed, gave me information in 2007 that Parks Victoria had plans to demolish the yards and move them to Barmah Island out of the National Park. I wrote at that time in the local papers about it and received denial in the media from Parks Victoria. While I am disappointed that we have been forced from the forest I am full of pride that I stood up for the yards who were instigated by both my great-grandfathers, William Schier and Henry Kinsey, and built by Echuca Shire in 1869. I believed if they were listed by Heritage Victoria, the Yards and the surrounding area would be safe. I have since found out that there is no guarantee that a Heritage Listed site is safe.
In our case the surrounding area of the yards listed in the application, has been leased to a minority group of individuals for 21 years backed by Parks Victoria who now in effect surround the entire complex therefore not enabling us to run our expanding Muster event. Barmah Park just given back to this group who were never there is 60,000 acres or 285.2 square kilometre you would think that six acres of heritage listed site of ours, well paid for by the community would be needed to provide a new carpark for the rumored $3M conference facility for the Yorta Yorta nation being built near the Dharnya Centre left vacant and desolate for more than 40 years?
With the taking away of the piece of land we cannot cater for people who come to experience the weekend activities at the yards. We were then forced to hastily make other plans and due to the generosity of the Nathalia Pony club, we were able to foster a very successful event.
It is very interesting that a “Welcome to Country” ceremony performed by the new Lessees Yorta Yorta at our 150 years Yards Muster celebration three years ago, now signifies to me how quickly it can change to a “Not welcome to country” like in a “New York Minute.” It makes a mockery of what a welcome to country ceremony means in this area? In my opinion that would not have happened had the community backed, fair minded, Bangerang Co-Op, been in control of their land. As a founding member of ‘Justice for the Bangerang’ I admired their commitment to their community and their sense of fairness, my family experienced living with them at Barmah East for over 180 years. I am thankful that we had 15 years of muster events to the benefit of our community in the Moira Shire. Cattlemen in that time have donated $130,000 to the local community plus the hiring and purchase of goods to run the event? I would be interested to know what has been donated by the Yorta Yorta community? I am even glad that the yards remain as an obvious thorn that will fester for all time in their side as it obviously has been since the instigation of the National Park.
I am also glad to hear Addam Nitsclike who told me in a phone conversation two weeks ago, that the upkeep of the yards under Heritage Victoria Legislation is the responsibility of Parks Victoria. They will be held to account by the cattlemen who will conduct six monthly inspections and report to Heritage Victoria to take action if need be. Good to hear the Barmah Cattlemen have decided to press on where we are at least welcome at the Pony Club (Old Barmah Raceway). They are very enthusiastic and keen on their new venue closer to Barmah! It will expand the event now that the restriction on the event has been lifted from their shoulders after 18 years by Parks Victoria. Costs and restrictions. Through the media I have just read about the Yards Parks Victoria would have you readers believe that it was the Cattlemen’s decision to surrender, the truth is we were pushed! And finally… “God Bless our Barmah Muster Yards” the fight is not over yet.
Batemans Bay, NSW