In 2005, IBA acquired Cummeragunga Farm, a place rich in Aboriginal history located near the Barmah Township in the Southern Riverina district of New South Wales.
The farm offers an idyllic location for an agricultural-based employment and skills training initiative, the Back on Track Program, which currently has eight young Indigenous male participants.
The Njernda Aboriginal Corporation (Njernda) and the Ulunja Aboriginal Corporation (Ulunja) run the program. Njernda (based in Echuca) provides a number of welfare-based health, housing, childcare and family services programs and currently employs 85 Indigenous Australians. Ulunja is a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned business based on the Murray River in Barmah that operates a wood harvesting business employing four Indigenous Australians.
Ulunja has formed a commercial joint venture with Stable Industries Pty Ltd to cultivate wheat, barley and canola crops on Cummeragunga Farm. Stable Industries is a highly successful 100 per cent Indigenous-owned and managed agricultural business employing 18 people, of which 80 per cent are Indigenous Australians. The joint venture will provide a unique opportunity to transfer agricultural skills and knowledge from Stable Industries to Ulunja. Stable Industries will also provide further industry-based employment and training opportunities for Back on Track participants.
With IBA’s assistance, Ulunja has also established a commercial fencing business, which was awarded approximately 15 kilometres of external boundary line fencing work on Cummeragunga Farm.
Cummeragunga Station was established in 1881, on 1,800 acres of land near the Murray River. The original residents established a thriving farm, producing wheat, wool and dairy products. In 1915, the New South Wales Protection Board took greater control of Cummeragunga and its residents. The farm’s management committee was disbanded and all the funds raised from the farm went to the Protection Board.
By the 1930s conditions had drastically deteriorated. There were not enough rations and residents were forced to share blankets and live in ‘rag huts’. Many suffered from tuberculosis and whooping cough.
In 1939, fed up with the conditions and treatment, more than 150 residents left the reserve in protest. The Cummeragunga walk-off was the first ever mass strike of Aboriginal people in Australia.