Remembering the dark ghosts of our past… 16



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“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist” – Guy de Maupassant

As I reflect on Australia Day just passed, I have come to the realisation that more and more people are speaking out. Speaking out on the atrocities that were committed over a hundred years ago and continued into the middle of the last century.

One could argue what right I, a Kiwi, has to comment. Well, the same atrocities were committed in New Zealand, perhaps not as harsh, but never the less still committed. Land taken under the British flag just as land was confiscated in the so-called “Lucky Country”. I doubt that the indigenous people of this great nation would see it quite the same.

We only need to look at the Myall Creek Massacre in 1838, 1824 Bathurst massacre, 1833-34 Convincing Ground massacre, Waterloo Creek massacre, Faithfull Massacre, Campaspe Plains massacre, Murdering Gully massacre near Camperdown, Victoria, the Gippsland massacres, Warrigal Creek massacre, Massacre of Muruwari, Avenue Range Station Massacre, Massacre of the Yeeman, Goulbolba Hill Massacre, Barrow Creek Massacre, Blackfellow’s Creek Massacre, Mistake Creek Massacre, Bedford Downs massacre, Forrest River massacre, Coniston massacre … These are just a few. I wonder how many of us actually know of these massacres?

To be honest, I would doubt that most are not aware. I was not until I started doing some research. I was astounded at the evil that took place. The atrocities that were committed by the so called up standing British gentlemen.

Henry Meyrick wrote in a letter home to his relatives in England in 1846: “The blacks are very quiet here now, poor wretches. No wild beast of the forest was ever hunted down with such unsparing perseverance as they are. Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with … I have protested against it at every station I have been in Gippsland, in the strongest language, but these things are kept very secret as the penalty would certainly be hanging”.

“For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration on earth would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever the smoke is seen. They [the Aborigines] will very shortly be extinct. It is impossible to say how many have been shot, but I am convinced that not less than 450 have been murdered altogether”.

I could go on citing many many incidents, but one that sits  embedded in my memory is the Myall Creek Massacre on June 10th 1838. As journalist and film maker, John Pilger said, “More first Australians were killed than Native Americans on the American frontier and Maoris in New Zealand. The state of Queensland was a slaughterhouse”.

This massacre is a harrowing reminder of Australia’s colonial violence. Over the years we have become immune to this disturbing and racist violence. The Myall Creek Massacre now serves as both a harrowing reminder of Australia’s colonial violence towards Aboriginal people and an example of modern-day reconciliation. Seven of the killers were tried and hanged. It must be noted  however, that among the massacres, the one at Myall Creek differs from the many other massacres of Aboriginal people in that it is a well documented and extreme example of what European people were capable of perpetrating on Aboriginal peoples.

On 7 June 2008, 170 years after the Myall Creek Massacre happened, the Federal Heritage Minister Peter Garrett declared the Myall Creek memorial an official national heritage site. Myall Creek joins as the 79th place to be included on the national heritage list which protects natural, historic and Indigenous places of outstanding heritage value to the nation.

Thankfully we have moved forward, indigenous or First Nations people as they are called in Canada, have suffered at the hands of the European settlers for hundreds of years. It is their land, their heritage and it was theirs as of right. We are mere guests. It does not matter if we go back to Biblical times or way beyond. The struggle is as old as time himself.

So, celebrate with your family, your friends, your brothers and sisters, regardless of race, colour or creed. Share the love created on this earth. Stop and listen to your heart and for a moment remember the past.

Share your thoughts on this topic below:

Brian Portland

Broadcast Journalist.. Australasian Correspondent FSN Washington & London. Speech Writer..Motivational Speaker.. Production Voice Specialist.. Creative Writer.. (Speech, Print, Radio & Television) Double above knee amputee.. Motivational Speaker..(Available for any speaking engagement..)

  1. I to have read a lot of stories what happened back in those dark days of history and it is very sad I don’t read those stories anymore as they are too depressing it’s a part of the past life we have to accept and move on. People today are the same with their violence so when you look at it nothing has really changed. Just look at Isis and these refugees coming into our country they come from places that have wars all the time.There is to much going on today for people to think about the past violence.Australia is going backwoods instead of going forward and it is sad to see how our beautiful country got to be the way it is now. Today people are very greedy and selfish be happy with what you have.LIFE IS SHORT.

    4 REPLY
    • why bring ISIS into this? It is not the same today, Aboriginals were chained and beaten and exterminated then. It is bad stain on Australia’s past

    • So your telling me that beheading isn’t worse we are going backward instead of forward in this country.

    • Robert I have never heard of a beheading in the recent history of this country. What is under discussion here is the shameful treatment and murder of this country’s indigenous people by the early settlers. Not a proud history but one we should acknowledge did happen.

  2. Thanks for the reminder Brian. I was shocked when I did some Indigenous studies as part of my degree. What shocked me more was how much of this horror had been hidden or not acknowledged. From the first moments of Colonial invasion, Australia was seen as Terra Nullius, empty and uninhabited so there for the taking. I know the past cannot be changed, but every Australian should be fully aware of our bloody history.

  3. I agree , understand our past was not always good, but every country has a past that they were not proud of. Except that a lot of wrongs were done and move on. We can’t change what has happened in the past we can only try to not let it happen again.

  4. this history must be published. It is as much our shame as is the shame of Germany and Japan and so many other countries, for their war crimes. until we accept that Australia was built on a blood foundation then reconciliation will be impossible. This is not necessarily our fault, but it is our past and our children deserve the truth and nothing but the truth.

  5. Forgot to mention the early settlers poisoned waterholes……we need to know this but move on for gods sake the majority of people I know are over the moaning…..racism alive n well in this country…..all colours are guilty of it especially the mixed versions

  6. I’d like to mention words from a Grade 3 boy in a class. I was there for reading. He said “Mum’s an Aborigine but Dad’s just black” The teacher said “Yes. That’s right ….” After class I said to her What was that about? She said Mum’s got all the posters and flags, wears the TShirts and goes to meetings. Dad is just Dad. Goes to work and doesn’t bother with his Aboriginality.

  7. Colonial history, pompous British settlers, a bloody past. Here and in every colony by every colonial invader since the first ships took to the seas way back in time. Every country on this planet has its own story, sad but true.

  8. Very powerful, but it is important to remember that this is not just history – this is happening now with the forced closures of Aboriginal communities to clear the way for mining giants, with the removal of Indigenous children from their family groups, with the continued ill-informed remarks of people who should know better. We need to make Australia a better place – one that we can all be proud of.

  9. My Great Great Grandfather was sent out here in a prison ship from Ireland . The sentence was for Life for one case of burglary . He served 20 years working free for farmers .He was pardoned and his family joined him .From him hundreds of wonderful people have been born I am proud of them and of this country .Terrible things happened in this country in the early days but also Australia and it’s people have done wonderful things. I am proud to see Aboriginal people become great footballers , nurses , teaches and doctors so many things – as it should be !

  10. There was no invasion! As for the remark..’war crimes’, there was no war at the time when the first landing by europeans mapped and or settled a new land. Do not rewrite history!

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