Australia’s First Aboriginal Keeping Place
conceived in the early 1970s as the first Aboriginal-managed museum in Victoria
Bangerang Cultural Centre is historically significant as an important landmark in the struggle of the Aboriginal people to maintain their own culture. As the first Aboriginal-managed museum in Victoria to be planned, the Centre is a tangible symbol of the shift of attitude in society from the idea of assimilation to self-determination. The idea for a Keeping Place was conceived in the early 1970s in a climate of increasing consciousness of Aboriginal conditions and issues. In Victoria, a long campaign for community control at Lake Tyers Reserve had resulted in the Aboriginal Lands Act 1971, which transferred land deeds to the Lake Tyers and Framlingham communities. The Shepparton Keeping Place was an early and innovative idea for a museum that empowered Aboriginal people to interpret their own heritage for indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Bangerang Cultural Centre is historically significant for its collection of four dioramas: Bogong Moths, River Economy, Mount William Technology and Corroboree which feature life-size figures engaged in traditional aspects of Aboriginal life.
The figures are copies of the Museum of Victoria 19th century life casts made from members of the Yarra tribe of Melbourne. The dioramas were the work of Victorian artist George Browning (1918-2000), a graduate of the National Gallery of Victoria School and RMIT. As an official war artist attached to the Military History Section in New Guinea and Borneo from 1943 to 1946, he not only produced a substantial collection of paintings and drawings but after the war he also worked extensively on the Australian War Memorial dioramas, as well as work for the Museum of Victoria.
Bangerang Cultural Centre is of social significance for the important role it has played for many Aboriginal people in preserving their identity and raising awareness of indigenous culture. It has assisted in maintaining the cultural heritage of descendants of the Bangerang people. The Bangerang tribe of Northern Victoria consisted of ten different clan groups living in the region between the Murray and Goulburn Rivers.