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Coercion and intent-The truth behind Batman's Treaty

When we talk about Treaty and truth telling on the Woiwurrung Nation and the regions surrounding Melbourne city we can’t ignore the accounts that led to the historical event of Batman's Treaty of 1835 with the Wurundjeri people of the Woiwurrung.

The headmen that held that meeting and Tanderrum ceremony were Barak son of headman Bebejern, Wonga and Munnarin the sons of Headman Billiberri the keeper of Mt Macedon, Hanging Rock and Mt William, Keelbundoora and Jika-Jika the son’s of Jagga Jagga law man and the keeper of Plenty River and Diamond Creek Catchment.

It was Jagga Jagga's country where the meeting and Tanderrum ceremony took place with John Batman and his cohort on the banks of Kurrum Yallock also known as Muddy Creek, Plenty River.

According to written accounts documented in Jim Poulters publication Batman’s Treaty the True Story, it was alleged that John Batman was remembered for two things.

His statement about the future site of Melbourne 'this will be the place for a village' and his illegal ‘Treaty’ with the Wurundjeri People.

Many have commented on the Treaty, It can’t be qualified what has been published.

John Batman: City Collection Melbourne City

Batman's Treaty: Museum Victoria Collections

Wurundjeri Elder and Traditional Owner and First Peoples Assembly of Victoria Representative Andrew Gardiner joins Kirstyn Lindsay to share his personal accounts and cultural understanding of the outcome of his Elder’s and ancestors.

In this podcast with Uncle Andrew he shares his family connection to country and his vision and focus for the future with Treaties here in Victoria.

He speaks strongly about his support ‘that no-one gets left behind.’

From Jim Poulter's writings 'Batman's Treaty-The True Story' his writings interpret that that the Headmen were to sign a Treaty that was to be a transfer of rights to land in exchange for services under Governor Phillips orders.

Phillips was based in Tasmania and sent John Batman with Aboriginal guides from Sydney to arrange a meeting with the Wurundjeri people.

Uncle Andrew talks about Batman’s intention of land ownership, misinterpretation and coercion in acquiring real estate and failing to understand or respect the generosity of the true spirit of the Tanderrum ceremony.

Another issue raised in this interview is what did their Elders believe their markings on the perceived “Treaty” represented and the forced signing of the document, as John Batman held their hand and helped them scribe their mark.

Barak’s writings in A Contextual Reinterpretation of "MY WORDS' by William Barak explains that as a boy he received warnings about white man from William Buckley and the disparity and inequality that came from this illegal “Treaty” due to Batman's lack of respect for the Wurundjeri people and their offerings in the Tanderrum Ceremony.

We can learn from this story and hope that with the work of the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria and community that the relationship moving forward with the state government takes a big step in healing some of the past wrongs and sets up a healthier, safer and equitable future for the Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community as they lead the space on Treaty here in Australia.

Biography for Andrew Gardiner

Uncle Andrew is a proud Wurundjeri clansman of the Woi-wurrung people and an Aboriginal Muslim Australian. Uncle Andrew’s working life has been in the service of Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal community control and self-determination.

He has held numerous positions across a range of organisations including; Victorian Aboriginal Hostels Limited (1982- 1989), Dandenong & District Aborigines Co-operative Society Limited (1989-1990), Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (1990-1997), Department of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Policy (Queensland 1998 – 2001), Centrelink (Queensland 2001 – 2005), Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative (DDACL) (2006 – 2009 Manager, 2009 – 2021 CEO), and most recently (March 2021), Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Corporation (Traditional Owner Treaty Engagement Officer). He has held (or currently holds) numerous Board and Committee positions including, but not limited to, Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Corporation (Board member, 2006 – current), Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency [Board member, 2007 -2008], Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Board member, 2008 – 2016), Southern Melbourne Koolin Balit Aboriginal Health Committee (2012 – 2016), Community Advisory Committee of Ambulance Victoria (2016 – current), Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (Board member, 2018 - 2019 – current).

Uncle Andrew was a member of the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group (2018 – 2021).

In December 2019, he was elected to the First Peoples Assembly Victoria to represent the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people in one of the 10 reserved seats allocated for Traditional Owner groups.

For more information on the First People's Assembly of Victoria go to


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