Around 1.6% of people in Greater Shepparton identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census. However, anecdotal evidence shows that this is very underrepresented, and Greater Shepparton's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is actually nearly three times this, with a population of almost 6000.
The Greater Shepparton area holds significant Aboriginal cultural heritage, and is amongst the most culturally diverse municipalities in regional Victoria. Historically there were eight tribes that occupied what is now known as Greater Shepparton, consisting of the Yorta Yorta, Bangerang, Kalitheban, Wollithiga, Moira, Ulupna, Kwat Kwat, Yalaba Yalaba and Nguaria-iiliam-wurrung clans, all of which spoke the Yorta Yorta language.
Under the Victorian State Government's Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation is recognised as the Registered Aboriginal Party for the land comprising Greater Shepparton, and represent the 8 clan groups. Registered Aboriginal Parties, or Traditional Owners as they are commonly known, have important roles and functions in managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage. As the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation is the Registered Aboriginal Party for this region, all cultural requests such as Welcome to Countries, land development information and cultural guidance must first be directed to them.
Greater Shepparton City Council works:
- to develop strong and meaningful relationships with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to develop trust, participation and social inclusion;
- to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, service providers, Community Elders and government bodies to maximise partnerships within the community;
- to advocate for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and play an active part in Reconciliation;
- to celebrate and promote significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events and activities held throughout the municipality;
- to optimise engagement between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Council departments;
- to ensure that Council policy and documents are culturally appropriate; and
- to ensure the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are consulted and represented within Council initiatives.
Greater Shepparton City Council has been developing initiatives within three key areas:
- Acknowledgement plaques at town entrance boundaries.
- The "Acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners" is spoken before the commencement of Council functions such as workshops, seminars, in house presentations and formal meetings.
- "Acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners" page on our website.
- Welcome to Country. Council invites the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation to conduct a Welcome to Country for the start of significant formal events and major functions.
- Greater Shepparton City Council internal Aboriginal Communications Guide.
Greater Shepparton City Council aims to develop and maintain strong and meaningful relationships throughout the community.
On 10 November 2020, Greater Shepparton City Council and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was endorsed by Council at the Council Meeting on 15 September 2020. This MOU sets out the roles and responsibilities of all parties and the relationship that exists.
The MOU is underpinned by a series of agreed principles and actions:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are acknowledged as the first people of this land, which is now reflected in the revised Acknowledgement - We, Greater Shepparton City Council, acknowledge the Yorta Yorta Peoples of the land which now comprises Greater Shepparton, we pay our respect to their tribal elders, we celebrate their continuing culture and we acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.
- Recognition that the arrival of non-Aboriginal people brought massive change to the landscape and way of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and a strong desire exists in Greater Shepparton to acknowledge the past and embrace the process of reconciliation.
- A commitment to working with one another to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People's self-determination.
- Ensuring that there is respect, understanding and strong regard held for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage, traditions, customs and beliefs.
- Improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce participation, health and wellbeing outcomes are paramount in planning and decision-making.
Council has developed a Reconciliation Action Plan.
Council is a signatory to the Algabonyah Employment Partnership Agreement and have developed an Aboriginal Street Art Project.