Uncle Albert Mullett was a Gunaikurnai elder whose years of dedicated service to culture and community earned him widespread admiration with significant contributions made to education, land rights and the preservation of Aboriginal culture.
Uncle Albert Mullett, born in Melbourne 1933, one of seven boys, raised by his mother Rita Maude Mullett and extended family. In his infant years, Uncle Albert’s family was moved from the Lake Tyers Mission; they consequently moved between the East Gippsland region and the southern coast of New South Wales, camping wherever they could find any seasonal work.
As a young boy, Uncle Albert had very little interest in formal schooling but preferring rather the cultural teachings of his relatives, paying particular attention to the learning of the traditional wood-crafting techniques of his ancestors (for which he later become well known for).
When he was able to leave home, he travelled the country side, roaming between South Gippsland to the Monaro region of New South Wales, picking up work along the way. Through his journeys, he would cross paths with Aboriginal Elders who openly shared their wisdom, stories and songs. Through his journeys, he also witnessed the manner of treatment that the Aboriginal people would suffer under the governing authorities – this left a lasting impression on Uncle Albert and guided how he conducted his campaigning efforts to support his people’s cause.
His focus on education
Uncle Albert married his childhood sweetheart Rachel Mongta; together they had eight children and settled together in Bairnsdale Victoria. In 1980 Uncle Albert shifted his attention to education; he noticed the lack of Aboriginal studies in the children’s curriculum and volunteered to teach Aboriginal culture to the students of Bairnsdale Primary.
Such was the success of Uncle Albert’s lessons; he was made a spokesperson for Aboriginal education by the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. Uncle Albert’s voice became heard through all levels of education promoting the interests of Aboriginal students from primary to tertiary to TAFE.
Through his work, he helped establish the first Aboriginal Studies course in Victoria at Monash University’s Gippsland campus, he campaigned for additional places for Aboriginal students and promoted Aboriginal culture by organising cultural camps and dance groups.
Uncle Albert's influence extended well beyond the classrooms of Victoria; he was involved with the push for legislative changes to allow Aboriginal communities a greater say in the management of culturally significant sites around the state, he helped establish 'The Keeping Place' in Bairnsdale - a complex that facilitates the greater understanding of Aboriginal culture, arts and crafts, and he served as an elected councillor to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commission.
His presence was also felt in the political sphere; Uncle Albert served as an advisor on a number of government, private and community-run organisations on matters relating to land use. For over 15 years, he was involved with the fight for native title recognition; this fight came to its climax on the 22nd of October 2010 when the Federal Court of Australia accepted the claim of the Gunaikurnai people over much of Gippsland region.
On this very same day, the Victorian government entered into an agreement with the Gunaikurnai people under the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010; it was a glorious day for Uncle Albert and the Gunaikurnai people.
Renowned and respected as a master craftsman in traditional wooden artefacts such as shields, canoes and boomerangs; Uncle Albert sought to preserve these ancient cultural practices by teaching these skills to the next generation.
Uncle Albert was interviewed by Richard Snashall for the ABC's Alpine Stories series about the importance of cultural preservation. This series was produced in collaboration with the Australian Alps National Parks program.