Fitzroy Aboriginal Heritage Walking Trail

46 Nicholson St, Melbourne VIC 3065, Australia

Fitzroy Aboriginal Heritage Walking Trail

46 Nicholson St, Melbourne VIC 3065, Australia

Staff Pick
46 m
3.07 km

The trail identifies 16 sites of significance (from the 1920s onwards) in the area. Each site is marked with a bronze plaque. For full description, please refer to the PDF on the Council website.

Fitzroy Aboriginal Heritage Walking Trail

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The trail identifies 16 sites of significance (from the 1920s onwards) in the area. Each site is marked with a bronze plaque. For full description, please refer to the PDF on the Council website.


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1. Introduction

From the 1920s, the inner city suburb of Fitzroy became known as the urban heart of Aboriginal Victoria. It was the birthplace of many important Aboriginal organisations, centre stage for the fight for civil rights and a meeting place for linking-in with family and community (including members of the Stolen Generations).

The Aboriginal History of Fitzroy walking trail identifies sixteen sites of significance (from the 1920s onwards) in the area. Each site is marked with a bronze plaque. Further details of this history can be found on Yarra City Council's website (see link above).

2. Dispossession and Dispersal of the Wurundjeri People

The Wurundjeri (Woiwurrung) people before contact lived, worked and looked after the land in the area now known as Fitzroy since the beginning of time. The cities of Fitzroy and Collingwood now stand on these traditional lands. The settlement and development of the city of Melbourne impacted heavily upon the Wurundjeri people. Dispossession of land, dislocation, frontier clashes, massacres and the impact of introduced diseases saw a dramatic decline in Aboriginal populations of the area. In 1835, Wurundjeri ?Ngurungaetas? (or tribal leaders) Billibellary and Bebejan were tricked into signing a treaty (later deemed invalid by the English government) with visiting businessman, John Batman, that signed over a large portion of Wurundjeri land in exchange for gifts such as flour, blankets and steel axes. As the government tried to assimilate Aboriginal people into white society, the Wurundjeri people were encouraged to move to the Merri Creek Protectorate Station. When this failed, people were moved to the Acheron Mission Station, and later to Coranderrk (run by the Aboriginal Protectorate Board), near Healesville (see map below). Coranderrk was closed in the 1920s by the government, but some of the Wurundjeri refused to leave and stayed on.

3. Fitzroy Aboriginal Community

Despite the effects of colonisation, Aboriginal people and culture survived and the strong bonds between families and clans could not be broken. From the 1920s onwards, the Aboriginal community of Melbourne began to steadily increase with the wave of Aboriginal people coming straight from the missions such as Thomas James, Grace Brux, Margaret Tucker, Martha Nevin (Wandin, Wurundjeri women) and William Cooper, who moved to Fitzroy from Cummeragunja between 1920 and 1935. By the 1950s, Fitzroy supported a community of more than 300 Aboriginal people, with many living in surrounding inner city suburbs. Fitzroy not only became the largest Aboriginal community in Victoria, it also became the social and political hub of Aboriginal Melbourne.

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Points of Interest

1. The Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Carlton Gardens

Wurundjeri Elder Colin Hunter Jr welcomes you to country in the video below. From the 1920s-1940s, many legendary Aboriginal speakers such as Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls addressed gatherings here.

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2. The Koori Club, 43 Gertrude St

Established by Aboriginal artist, Lin Onus, this was a social and political meeting place during the 1960s for young people influenced by the Black Power Movement.

3. Aboriginal Housing Board of Victoria, 79 Gertrude St

This was established in 1981 to advocate for Aboriginal families, whose needs were not being met by State housing services, resulting in high rates of eviction and homelessness.

4. Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, 11 Brunswick St

Established by volunteers in 1973, this service sought to combat disproportionate and unjust impacts of the legal system on Aboriginal people in Victoria.

5. Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, 5 Brunswick St

Established in 1976, this agency took steps towards healing effects of racist Government practice and policy that saw separation of Aboriginal children from their families (see: Stolen Generations).

6. Atherton Gardens Housing Estate

During the 1980s, this was a popular and safe meeting place for homeless Aboriginal people as well as other Aboriginal people looking to find family and community. See 'Stories Around the Fire' video

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7. Koori Information Centre, 120 Gertrude St

Established in the early 1980s, this was an effective coordination centre for Aboriginal political activity that eventually attracted unwarranted covert surveillance by federal police.

8. Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, 136 Gertrude St

This was the second site of the Health Service, considered one of the largest and most important Aboriginal organisations to have emerged from Fitzroy.

9. Fitzroy Stars Aboriginal Community Youth Club Gymnasium

The Youth Club gym (184-186 Gertrude St) was established in 1977 as a preventative health program to combat the increasing drug and alcohol problems within the metropolitan Aboriginal community.

10. George Wright Hostel, 66 George St

This hostel was initially established as a half-way house (in 1974) to support the increasing numbers of homeless Aboriginal men in and around Fitzroy.

11. Nindeebiya, 99 George St

Established in 1983, this was a local community meeting place where Aboriginal people could gather to practise arts & crafts, play sports and have a feed.

12. Builders Arms Hotel, 211 Gertrude St

Known as the 'Black pub of Melbourne', this was an important social and political gathering place for Aboriginal people from the 1940s until the 1980s.

13. Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, 229 Gertrude St

Established in 1973, this was the first Aboriginal community controlled health and dental service in Australia.

14. Koori Kollij, 42 Cambridge St

Established in 1982, Koori Kollij was an Aboriginal health worker training program that forged new and enduring standards of Aboriginal healthcare in Australia.

15. Victorian Aboriginal Co-operative Limited, 108 Smith St

Established in 1976, this co-op provided local housing and welfare services to the Aboriginal community of Melbourne.

16. Pastor Doug Nicholls Church of Christ, 258 Gore St

In 1943, Pastor Doug Nicholls and his wife Gladys Nicholls, with support from the Church of Christ, established a church service that attracted a devoted Aboriginal congregation.

17. Yarra City Council

This walk is proudly brought to you by Yarra City Council. This walking map provides a brief outline for each point of interest. Please click on the link below for fuller descriptions.

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Public Transport Public Transport
Drinking Water available Drinking Water available
Seating Available Seating Available
Public toilets Public toilets
Historical Interest Historical Interest
Art and Culture Art and Culture
Park / Garden Park / Garden