Myall Creek Massacre

About this Item
SubjectsAborigines; Australia: History; Parliament House: Sydney
SpeakersBurnswoods The Hon Jan

Page: 12858

    The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [10.13 p.m.]: Tonight I draw attention to a meeting held in Parliament House on Wednesday 10 November to form a group known as the Sydney subgroup of the Friends of Myall Creek. I pay tribute to Bryce Gaudry for hosting this function. I shall say a little about the aims of the group and the spirit of the very large number of people who joined in marking this organisation. The group aims to further the work of the existing national group. The organisation is committed to the promotion and development of the Myall Creek site and, through this, the promotion of reconciliation and an acknowledgement of our history. The notice about this important meeting stated:

    The events that took place at Myall Creek in 1838 are both understood and misunderstood and yet it remains one of the defining episodes in the shared indigenous and non-indigenous history of our country.

    I refer to a speech I made in this House some four years ago, in June 2000, in which I drew attention to the reconciliation ceremony that was held at Myall Creek, just outside Bingara, on 10 June that year. On that occasion several hundred people gathered at the beginning of the 350-metre path lined with the story of the brutal deaths of 28 Aborigines on that day in 1838. That path leads to the memorial itself, which is a giant boulder dedicated to the lives of those 28 men, women and children whose spirits, according to Aboriginal legend, have yet to be put at rest. A number of people played an important part in ensuring that this event in our history is commemorated, and that it is commemorated in the spirit of reconciliation.

    One of those people is Reverend John Brown, who played a large role in organising the memorial and the service. Another is Peter Stewart, who was also involved in the organisation of the meeting last Wednesday. As I said, one important aspect of this whole movement is the spirit of reconciliation. For instance, the ceremony in 2000 was attended by, amongst others, descendents of both the perpetrators and the victims, including Sue Blacklock, whose great-grandfather was a boy when the massacre occurred and was one of the few survivors. Sue embraced Beulah Adams, whose great-uncle received the death penalty for his crimes. That was a very striking image of reconciliation. What makes the Myall Creek massacre so significant in our history is not that it was a massacre, because there were many of those, but that those who took part in the massacre were tried, convicted and executed. I quote the editorial in the Sydney Monitor in November 1838, in which the editor described the massacre as:

    … a deed for which we cannot find a parallel for cold-blooded ferocity, even in the history of Cortez and the Mexicans, or of Pizzaro and the Peruvians.

    He went on to ask:

    How will this fact tell in England, in France, in Austria, in Prussia and in America? We tremble to remain in a country where such feelings and principles prevail.

    The significant feature that makes the Myall Creek massacre stand out from so many others is that it was the first occasion in our history on which white men were tried, convicted and executed for their actions. It followed a long period in which there was little concern—certainly, very little legal concern—about the treatment of Aboriginal people on the frontier. So I welcome the formation of the Sydney subgroup of the Friends of Myall Creek. The aims of the group include having the Myall Creek site preserved and acknowledged as a heritage site of national significance, the development and sponsorship of education programs to inform our community about the significance of Myall Creek, and a commitment to enlist the support of government and the private sector to fund Myall Creek scholarships for indigenous and non-indigenous students undertaking work, study or research in this important project of reconciliation. [Time expired.]