“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.