History is our story

Leeton Shire Council recently asked for input in "activating" local heritage and it has prompted me to look at connections between the past and present.

Heritage, like history, reflects stories about the past that continue to be meaningful in the present. The Shire's existence is tied closely with the development of the MIA. There are many links to explore, possibly via the people who made it a success.

One underappreciated example is Jack Brady, manager of the Leeton Cannery, who promoted rice as a crop. This was significant in making the irrigation scheme viable and continues to be relevant as Leeton is the home of SunRice.

Another example is the name Whitton comes from John Whitton, who oversaw significant developments in rail. This seems particularly timely with recent discussion of new inland rail connections and the surprise announcement of billions dedicated to this project in the recent Federal Budget.

The Shire's links to the Griffins elevates Leeton to an international standing, recognising developments in urban planning as well as the lofty ambitions of the Modern age. If you consider Walter Burley Griffin's inclusion of a bandstand and parks within the town design, you see how architecture recognised roles for culture and nature within society.

One more significant story comes from prior to the Shire, when early settlers in the Yanco (Yonco as it was called) region coexisted with the original inhabitants of the land. The Wiradjuri people fought to retain this landscape and there is increasing interest in the so-called Frontier Wars, such as the wreath unofficially part of the ANZAC ceremony in Canberra this year.

In the interest of promoting harmony as discussions continue to promote constitutional recognition of Australia's indigenous and possibly treaties, it would be great to recognise how a European negotiated an early treaty in what is now Leeton Shire.

Yonco was particularly significant in presenting a narrative of tolerance and respect. In 1838 it was the one remaining white settlement in our region during the Frontier Wars.

Historian Bill Gammage suggests the tolerance of both the Yonco land manager and local Wiradjuri links these events on either side of the carnage and that it is likely a form of treaty was negotiated. This seems particularly relevant in light of the recent push for a national treaty to follow the one that has begun in Victoria.

The trees shown in the photographs here are thought to be Wiradjuri scar trees that are currently unlisted in Leeton Shire.