The Vision for a Trust
An interview with Jim Berg, founder of the Koorie Heritage Trust.
In 1985 Jim Berg a Gunditjmara man, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and an Inspector under the Archaeological and Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act, 1972 identifies the need for an organisation to be the custodian of Koorie culture.
-The first item that we ever collected wasn't actually donated to the trust. It was donated to me. Somebody walked off the street, when I was at Fitzroy, at the Aboriginal Legal Service, and brought in a little grinding stone and a green stone axe head and says "Jim-- this belongs to you and your people. I'd like to leave it here." And they'd included some other little axe heads, as well. And that was kind of the unofficial start of the Koorie Heritage Trust collection.
It was just soon after that that we handed the material over to the museum for safe custody, because we weren't an organized body at the time. And my wife, Kylie, says "Why don't you set up a trust?" So I approached very prominent Koories and non-Koories. I think we got a copy of the first meeting we ever held-- very prominent lot. And we sat down, and we incorporated the Victorian Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Trust. Whew!
This is one purchase that started the base. And prior to this one coming up, had all the other fancy boomerangs with the markings on it. And I was paying big prices for it because I liked the markings on it. And got this for a song. It was the best boomerang of the night.
It's made for your hands. Perfect. See the ripple on the muscles of the tree? This sits in your hand like that, and you just-- you can feel the balance. And you just go roll it around in your hands like that. And it's just the action-- the movement. And it just feels like it was made for my hand. Just perfect. There's no other, better club in the collection than this.
Found this building. And by that time, I said "That's it, folks." I resigned from all of my positions-- every one of them-- and retired from the trust.
And I let the next generation take over, which was important, because, during all those years was getting people in, giving them the skills-- the confidence within themselves to get up and take tours-- and the retail shop. Encourage people that if you don't make a mistake, you're never going to learn. And you'd just as well make the mistakes while I'm still around so we can sort it out. But I stand by your decision.
And we bring in people that are non-Koorie because they've got the expertise. And that's why we're successful. But most of the people up front are Koories.
So the reconciliation process never ceased to-- well, it never ceased, as far as the trust was concerned, because we're just doing that every day of the year. Very important. And we're still doing it, where we have staff-- multicultural. And we're drawing the experts. And the board of directors is very multicultural. And that's where we've succeeded, for 21 years.
But I stepped aside, because this is a new era. Fresh ideas. And I'll leave you to get on with the job. And they've done that. Yeah. And they've done it-- done it well. Done us all proud.
And I dare say we can also thank all the supporters of the trust-- the membership-- are pretty strong. Yeah. Without them, we wouldn't be here today.
I've always seen myself as a custodian of our culture. And I've handed on to the next generation.