The area known as Rumbalara has a traditional history dating back many thousands of years. The contemporary history of Rumbalara began on the river flats between Shepparton and Mooroopna in the 1940s. Large numbers of our people who were seeking work and dissatisfied with management and conditions at Cummeragunja Mission Station moved to the area and settled. The Cummeragunja Walk-Off occurred in February 1939 and was the first Indigenous mass protest in Australia.
By the early 1950s, approximately 300 people were living on the river flats, moving to higher ground (Daish's Paddock) when flood waters came. Eventually, after many consultations, the site was proved as an unhealthy environment for our people. However, nothing was done to improve the situation until 1957.
In 1958, the Aboriginal Welfare Board and Housing Commission erected ten prefabricated houses constructed entirely of concrete. Each house consisted of three small bedrooms, a small living area, no hot water or sewerage. On 11 April 1958, the housing project was officially opened by Arthur Rylah, Deputy Premier and Chief Secretary of Victoria.
Ten families were first housed at the site. In 1967, hot water and sewerage were installed and the houses were extended by the addition of a bathroom, lavatory and laundry constructed in brick. Rumbalara was not intended as permanent housing but as a stage in the plan to re-house our people within the wider community. By 1969, most local families had been re-housed and as it was no longer being used, Rumbalara closed and remained so for five years.
In the early 1970s, the Goulburn Murray Aboriginal Co-operative fought and opposed the selling of Rumbalara to a youth group. Through much persistence and pressure on state and federal governments, Rumbalara was sold to the Co-operative for a nominal sum. With the Title in our hands, the way was clear to establish a place where our community could meet for cultural and social activities, and provide education, information and support in areas of special need such as health, housing, welfare and culture.
Since the establishment of Rumbalara as a community centre there have been many changes. The Medical Clinic was established in 1981 to provide the health services so desperately needed and continues to provide community-controlled health services to our community. Other services have expanded and new programs have been established to meet the growing needs of the community.
Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative is recognised as a leader among Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, maintaining a high profile in the public and private sectors across research, consultancy, policy development, and partnerships. Rumbalara operates in a culturally appropriate, sensitive, community-controlled environment that maintains a holistic approach to service provision and emphasises the importance of family and community.