The original Ramahyuck was an Aboriginal Mission established by Reverend Friedrich August Hagenauer, a Moravian Missionary who had previously worked at the Ebeneezer Mission in Western Australia.
Due to strong resistance from local squatters, Rev. Hagenauer’s initial application to establish a Mission Station in Green Hills, near Maffra was rejected by the Government despite the support given by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines.
The opposition to having land reserved for Aborigines continued to grow but Rev. Hagenauer remained persistent and applied for 2,356 acres of land on the shores of Lake Wellington near the mouth of the Avon River.
After much negotiation and several delays, the application was approved on 9 June 1863 and Ramahyuck Mission was established.
Ramayuck Mission State School
In 1872, the State School at Ramahyuck Mission gained the highest marks possible in a Statewide examination. Mr Charles Topp, Inspector of School for the Education Department, filed the following report: “This school has again passed an excellent examination. This is the first case since the present result system has been enforced that 100% of marks has gained by any school in the Colony. The children, moreover, show not only accuracy in their work, but also exhibit much intelligence – excellent progress is shown. The discipline is very good. The children show creditable proficiency in drill and extension exercises.”
Life at the Mission
Rev. Hagenauer was a strong leader whose word was law at the Ramahyuck Mission Station. The Mission provided protection for the survivors of the Brayakooloong and Tatungooloong clans of the Gunai (Kurnai) tribe, but the people were forced to give up their native language and traditional ways.
Rev. Hagenauer forbade corroborees (festivals celebrating tribal victories) and would not tolerate any tribal habits or laws. His motive was to encourage ‘civilization’ and therefore requested that all natives gather their spears, boomerangs and other traditional implements in a pile to set alight and destroy them.
In 1877, Ramahyuck was known as the most successful of all missions. Average attendance at the station rose to 85 with up to 200 natives from five different tribal groups. The total number of buildings at the station was 25, of which 11 cottages housed Aborigines.
A Melbourne newspaper, the Argus, had described the station as “a pretty settlement of white painted weatherboard buildings…, which are supplied with such evidence of civilisation…(purchasing) stoves, water tanks, meal safes and sewing machines…out of the earnings of the husbands and fathers from shearing and other work.”
The community strived to be self-supporting and learned rural tasks such as cultivating crops, fruit and vegetables, and tending sheep and diary cattle. Rev. Hagenauer displayed samples of their produce at the Vienna Exhibition and was awarded a Medal of Merit.
Closure of the Ramahyuck Mission
Under the infamous Aborigines Protection Act that was passed by Parliament in 1886, all ‘half-castes’ were removed from the Aboriginal Reserves and Missions. This had a dramatic effect on Ramahyuck, the population of which decreased severely. The school was forced to close and funds to the Mission were reduced. In 1908, the Mission closed and the remaining Aborigines were sent to Lake Tyers, leaving a cemetery and some remnants of buildings as a memorial to the occupation of their land.
For many years, the Indigenous community in Sale was supported by operations at Morwell and Bairnsdale. As the local Indigenous population grew the need for permanent service in Sale became evident.
The late Mr. Noel Yarram Senior championed the concept of an independent Indigenous corporation at Sale. The name Ramahyuck was chosen to remind and reinforce to the whole community that Sale had a significant Indigenous history. After Noel’s passing, his family and other members of the local Koorie community continued to pursue the establishment of a service in Sale.
Noel’s daughter (Daphne) held a meeting attended by Aunty Bess, Bonnie and Terry O’Shannassy; Mollie Glass and daughters Irene and Gail; Aunty Lena Thomas; Aunty Angeline Morgan; and Aunty Regina Kennedy. From this inaugural meeting, a committee was established with the mandate of setting up the Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation.
This dream became a reality on 12 May 1992, when Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation was registered under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act with the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations in Canberra, ACT.
Primary Healthcare Providers
In less than 10 years from first opening its doors, Ramahyuck comprised four sites and was a major provider of primary health care services for Indigenous communities in Gippsland.
Ramahyuck health services grew to be provided in:
- East Gippsland (Sale and Morwell)
- West Gippsland (Drouin)
- South Gippsland (Wonthaggi)
Currently, Ramahyuck has grown to encompass social and emotional wellbeing programs, as well as primary health clinics, to specialise in culturally appropriate and comprehensive primary health services for Aboriginal people. In addition, Ramahyuck also provide health services to the non-Aboriginal population.