In the context of an attempt to slap our beloved nation in the face with the shame it deserves for its past and present treatment of the Indigenous population of this country we herein will demonstrate the appalling slaughter visited upon a gentle and friendly people.
In ‘The Fatal Shore’ by Robert Hughes we hear of the first settlers encounters with the ‘natives’ and their disgust at the treatment of the Aboriginal women by their own kind, and the primitive nature of their existence sadly gave the settlers sanctimonious, unchristian and hypocritical attitudes which allowed them (in their sick minds) some justification for treating them so despicably. In our modern time of moral vehemence at the merest mention of cruelty, torture and injustice, we ought to at least attempt to recognize our ancestor’s inexplicable and cruel destruction of innocent men, women and children. Through ignorance, greed, pure malice and some naivety, we/them, over time, have visited upon our home-land’s ‘indians’ a not dissimilar history to our country’s American counterparts.
Our intention is to attempt here to give some pressure release to the vehemence that gathers momentum on both sides of the racial divide, so that all the ancestors of the settlers and the aborigines might be able to grow together instead of wishing for the extinction of the other in order to wipe away, with such genocide, the moral stain that we as a nation have been unable to cleanse, with even the strongest carbolic or the gentlest spiritual cloth. It is a difficult task and the following story will offend many whose ancestors were directly responsible for massacres committed by early settlers (and not so early), with no legal or moral justification, in that time, or any other time. Although they did bare faced provide banal and illegal justification based on lies and savage reasoning – way more primitive in spirit than the supposed savages they slaughtered in ‘the name of God and the King’!
In our research, try as we did, we couldn’t find any examples of massacres and degradation or hellish scenes of terrible slaughter, that were justified at any time by ‘civilized’ people. We did find the odd Aboriginal freedom fighter or stories of retaliations and reprisals by tribes of Indigenous folk…few and far between (we will get to them later), which are even perhaps justifiable given their fear of what a few soldiers with guns, horses and the dogs of war can visit upon people with only spears and bones, against bullet and sabre.
Let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story by throwing a staggering list of the massacred numbers, statistics and dates at you. No.
This story is way too important for such treatment, and in truth there were so many massacres that it kind of gets boring, the slaughter less concerning by it’s repetition, our guilt gathers momentum, our self protection psyche kicks in to protect us, and before we know it, our outrage somehow dissipates? This is the psychological device that allows us to ‘move on’ because it’s too traumatic to digest it all and keep on living without constant sorrow and over-powering guilt. It’s a kind of racial vegetarianism where you do to not eat meat because of the cruelty entailed, but you choose to ignore the plight of the creatures still being killed for those that do eat meat. What can we do?
First we need to let go of the guilt and then recognize the importance of accepting that this really happened and that our nation’s birth was not an easy delivery. Even some of Australia’s most respected citizen’s make the mistake of ignoring historical evidence for the sake of rhetoric. Take this for example: Western Australia’s former Governor, Malcolm McCusker, in what was a surprising gaffe or an act of ignorance claimed in a speech to a joint sitting of Parliament that Australia as we know it was “achieved without civil war or bloodshed.” It is an insult to Aboriginal people, and to the hundreds of descendants of the hundreds of Aboriginal cultures whose ancestors were slaughtered in massacres.
Governor McCusker asserted that Australian democracy and its Government arose without civil strife. This was all too much for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Roger Cook who challenged Governor McCusker’s comments. Mr Cooke has married into an Aboriginal family. Mr Cook took the opportunity to correct Governor McCusker’s comments from the previous week in his speech during the openingof the new term of Parliament. “On this particular occasion, I am taking the opportunity to remind the Governor of our history,” said Mr Cook. “Many people died in terms of the assertion of the new legal rights, which the British colony enforced upon the original inhabitants of this area.” “Unless we come to terms with that, we will continue to repeat the injustices that were done at the time.” Mr Cook went as far as citing some of the bloodshed – he referred to the Flying Foam Massacre on the Dampier Archipelago in 1868 and the subsequent civil strife which just about wiped out the Yaburara peoples of the Burrup. He also referred to the “Killing Times” in the Kimberley. Factors that led to the Yaburara clashes and the massacre were the dispossession of their lands and the rape of an Aboriginal woman by a policeman.
Mr Cook referred to the massacres in the Kimberley from 1888 onwards. This culminated in the death of Bunaba warrior Jandamarra who was pursued for years by violent settlers, police and Government. He and his fellow freedom fighters were killed when cornered. Mr Cook said that the massacres were Australia wide. Governor McCusker had said how Australia came about “is the envy of the many. Australia has one of the oldest democratic systems of government in the world, a system achieved without civil war or bloodshed, and which is the envy of many.” Governor McCusker made the speech in the presence of two parliamentarian who are Aboriginal – Ben Wyatt and the newly elected Josie Farrer who only a week before, in her maiden speech to her parliamentary colleagues said that, “she had lived racism her whole life and on a daily basis.”
Mr Cook said that the widespread massacres had to be acknowledged by all Australians if the nation was to progress united. Mr Cook said that Governor McCusker’s speech demonstrated a denial by some Australians, and was symptomatic of wider attitudes, “that blood was not shed in terms of the growth of this colony. The moment we turn our back and pretend that those things do not exist, we will forever be a small-minded colony that continues to be based upon ignorance,” said Mr Cook.
Mr McCusker really does look, on the telly, like the amiable old gentleman who didn’t mean to offend and maybe he isn’t a history buff, or perhaps even reads the wrong history (written by the victors), whatever his reason, it demonstrates a kind of ‘selective hearing’ that is all too prevalent in mainstream Australia when Aboriginal history is concerned. But then who wants to be reminded that their great greatgrandfather decapitated children and then raped their mothers?* Not acknowledging that a civil war existed denies the historical rights to notice (good and bad) of all who fought on both sides and died gloriously or ignobly, and not ignominiously as most of us do.
When you visit any government building you will see grand portraits of burnsided men in tight white breeches, bedecked with medals, respectable Christian men, many who took part in massacres or ordered them to be carried out, or simply stood by and did nothing (the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil). They are our nation’s heroes? In truth their idea of land acquisition was very similar to the justification 100 years later for ‘Lebenstraum’ in occupied Europe under Hitler’s control. Basically, accept our offer or we will have no choice but to imprison you under false pretenses and execute you for arguing about who owns the land. This theft of land and murder from the rightful owners under such circumstances and illegality has been committed all over the world for centuries by the British, French, Dutch,Portugese, Spanish, German and American Empires with alarming alacrity.
But we digress…back to our beloved country. There where so many slaughters and reprisals by white fellas against Aboriginals that do bear testimony for the memory of the poor souls who endured them but also for the embarrassment of the perpetrators, even posthumously. They were not pioneering heroes, they were murderers and thieves who do not deserve our respect or remembrance, au contraire, rather they deserve our disdain, disgust and vilification! Their portraits should be taken down from every public building in the land (including state parliament) or left but with captions under them detailing their crimes, or simply to have MURDERER spray painted across them.
In this article we expose a number of historical instances to demonstrate the inconvenient truth of these heinous crimes, political crimes, crimes against humanity, far more distressing than ISIS beheadings – committed by our ancestors, good Christians all! Please show these to as many peopleas you can, so they can absolve themselves once and for all by recognizing the denial many of us have been living under for so long. There is of course no excuse or justification for any of these massacres. They are all legally sanctioned or portrayed as the recriminations of the settler’s frustration and anger at the Aboriginal intransigence and savagery. But the westminster system is morally and legally bound to provide justice for all and a fair trial no matter what the circumstances of any perceived or alleged crime, from the smallest theft to the most revolting bloody massacre.
The people of the time had the will and the weapons to bring anyone to justice, yet they chose to dispense with the laws and mete out there own reprisals with such inhumanity that in our time we can only retch in disgust. One of the massacres we have listed requires further examination because it exemplifies the horror that these innocents endured at the hands of ‘good Christians’. It occurred in Appin NSW in 1816 and the following excerpt does little to ameliorate the cruelty demonstrated by the perpetrators or help us to imagine the terror these people endured. Please bear in mind as you read that these ‘crimes against humanity’ were visited upon frail, wise old men (tribal elders), bright strong young men and defenceless women and children:
It was in response to these attacks that Macquarie felt compelled to ‘inflict terrible and exemplary punishments’ on the Aborigines. He ordered three military detachments of the 46th Regiment, under the command of Capt. Shaw, Capt.Wallis and Lieut. Dawe to be dispatched to Windsor, Liverpool and the Cow pastures to deal with the ‘Natives’ by ‘punishing and clearing the country of them entirely, and driving them across the mountains.’ (Lachlan Macquarie, Diary, 10 April,1816 – 1 July 1818, cited in McGill, 1994.). Wallis was assigned to the Airds and Appin areas. Early one morning he and his men came across the Dharawal men’s camp at Appin. They slaughtered the men and cut off the heads of fourteen elders to take back to Sydney. While Wallis returned to Sydney, civilians, including stockmen, remained and continued to hunt down the Dharawal. They found the camp where women and children were staying, shooting or trampling them under their horses’ hooves and driving them over the cliffs of Broughton Pass (Gawaian Bodkin- Andrews,“Genocide,” n.d., 14-17.).
The massacre at Appin differed from subsequent massacres in that it was initiated by British troops, rather than by police or private citizens. The massacre annihilated the Dharawal people, whose numbers had already been decimated by disease, to less than three thousand. After the massacres of 1816 there were perhaps less than five remaining (Bodkin- Andrews, “Genocide,” 17, 18, 21.).
To top it off the landscape itself is historically significant because of its association with the creation beliefs of the Dharawal people. It was the site at which the people found sanctuary after fire swept through the land, and resulted in the reincarnation of one of the original Dharawal women, Wirijiribin, as the Lyrebird, the Dharawal’s totem. Of course the whole of Australia is sacred to the Aboriginal people.
Move forward 200 years and Mr Rudd and most Australian’s feel good because they said sorry for stealing children from their mothers in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. And we don’t want herein to lessen those crimes for they were despicable in their own way, however, where is the apology for crimes committed against these people that are equally if not more horrifying than the iniquities committed on the Jews in WW2 by Hitler and Germany? Our ancestors did lock them in concentration camps like Rottnest island, they did force march them in chains across the harshest environments on earth and then served up ignominious death upon them, they raped and murdered women and children. We stole their children too, but ironically they were the lucky ones because they survived. (recommended viewing: http://www. sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/158858819731/Desperate-Measures-Jambi-With- Elaine-Terrick).
We believe the reason for such denial and forgetfulness is that admission of the theft lays open the probability that compensation would have to be paid to the descendants of the murdered original and rightful land owners. Instead the ancestors live in squalor and misery and are begrudged even that by mainstream Australia. Pray Australia, that these crimes don’t become common knowledge internationally. Or we may be in the Hague alongside Milosovic and the current Syrian President, perhaps deservedly so?
The point we are trying to make here is that if you think you have now been absolved by your cafe conversations about how you said sorry and you feel ‘much better’ as a result, think again, because we have not even come close to acknowledging the crimes our ancestors (the white fella) have perpetrated on these people. I am just as guilty BTW because I refused to say sorry on that day, my excuse being that it wasn’t my fault, why should I be blamed for what my grandfather or my own father did or didn’t do? Indeed it struck me as counterproductive at the time – laying a guilt trip on the current generation for crimes committed by the previous – and it also plays into the “feel sorry for me, I am an Aboriginal” zeitgeist that sees these once noble people reduced to begging in the streets and living in squalor all over this ‘lucky’ country. We urge every reader of this article to watch the documentary ‘UTOPIA’ by the great Australian journalist John Pilger (http://www.theguardian.com/ film/video/2013/oct/22/john-pilger-utopia-watch-trailervideo) in which he demonstrates the still prevalent racism and nastiness that we as a nation have yet to accept and resolve. Many railed against the documentary and dismissed Pilger’s assertions that we still suppress and castigate the Aboriginal with imprisonment and torture being the order of the day in 2014. The conditions these people endure are worse than industrial revolution Britain with entirely preventable diseases and infant mortality rates straight out of a Charles Dickens novel!
Early in this article we ask the open ended question ‘what do we do’ and there are so many facets to the potential answers it is very difficult to choose, but for me as a father I would wish that if I had had visited upon me even a small part of the crimes committed against these poor human beings, that at the very least when the crimes came to light in some future, that my grandchildren and great grandchildren would be well looked after in compensation for the land stolen, for my loved one’s murder and torture, for the horrible deaths of my children, my babies. Thus it should be a priority to recognize these horrendous crimes and every aborigine still alive today, even in the womb, should be showered with the luxury we take for granted, and then some. If it cost us ‘the taxpayer’ billions of dollars to give them new homes, allowances, vehicles, food and clean water, schools, clothing, free medical care, in short anything they want, it wouldn’t be nearly enough to cleanse our nation’s soiled spirit.
We owe them this…forget about saying sorry DO SOMETHING! It is arguably their birthright anyway. They deserve it…their ancestors spirits would be at peace (not really – thank heaven I don’t believe in ghosts) and we as a nation would be truly absolved and the stain washed away forever. If Gina Rhinehart gave just one of her estimated 23 billion dollar personal fortune from iron ore stolen from under the feet of the Yamatji people of the Pilbara, they would still be 22 billion and change short of what is justifiably theirs. After all Lang Hancock, her father, simply flew over the land in 1952 then claimed it as his own because it was ‘unoccupied’ (an oft repeated word in the annals of stolen land).
Here are some excerpts from ‘letters from Victorian Pioneers’ (a noble title for thieves and murderers?) that demonstrate the appalling ignorance and God granted right to take whatever land they found without a thought for the obviously still existing inhabitants. No more was necessary than to lodge a claim with the local British authorities, the justification being that it was unoccupied and unexplored (except by Aboriginals). It seems they viewed the previous owners as little more than a kind of vermin that might reduce their flocks of Merinos like snakes or dingos. They hadn’t lodged a claim you see… forget that they couldn’t read or write and that their father’s father’s father had lived and hunted there without the need for a land title.
The aborigines have invariably shown themselves hostile to the settlement of new country, but became more reconciled as their intimacy increased with the Europeans. I have always been favourably disposed towards them, and tried to encourage those that visited my stations in habits of industry by rewarding them well when they did exert themselves, and I would have been most pleased had I succeeded in ameliorating their condition ; but I regret to add I found all my endeavours fruitless, and, extraordinary to say, with civilization they are so fast decreasing from a constant warfare kept np amongst them, together with disease, that in an extraordinary short space of time I believe the race will become extinct.
Should the foregoing remarks prove of any service to Your Excellency, it will afford gratification to Your most obedient servant,
J. II. PATTERSON. His Excellency C. J. La Trobe, Esq.
Next we see an excerpt that demonstrates the prevailing attitude that the land was unoccupied and the buying and selling of lands or the procurement of these lands laid no particular thought for who the owners were prior to their arrival. Just move onto it and if any ‘natives’ are there just shoo them off or shoot them if they get upset because you have strolled in with thousands of sheep as if no one was there to begin with, astounding. The land was simply unoccupied.
Exerpt from ‘Letters from Victorian Pioneers’.
I returned to Sydney in January 1840, and did not again visit Port Phillip till June 1841, when I arrived overland, and shortly afterwards purchased the whole of my brother’s stock and stations. On my arrival on the Loddon I found my neighbours were Messrs. Campbell and McKnight on the stations now Mr. Wm. Campbell’s, and on which the Forest Creek and Fryer’s Creek diggings are; Mr. Lachlan Mackinnon on the station now belonging to Mr. W. M. Hunter; Mr. Colin Mackinnon on the station now Messrs. Joyces’; Mr. Donald Mackinnon on the station now Mr. Bucknall’s; Mr. McCallum on his present station ; Mr. Jas. Hodgkinson on his present station; Mr. Catto on his present station; and Messrs. Heape and Grice and Mr. Chas. Sherratt on the stations now occupied by Messrs. Gibson and Fenton all the rest of the country to the northward being unoccupied.
Now many of the brave and righteous among my gentle readers will be saying, “why did the Aboriginals not fight against such oppression and murder”? And it is a good question because even your humble editor has watched Schindler’s List and thought the same thing about the Jews during Kristallnacht. Why didn’t they rise up and slaughter their oppressors in retaliation?
But the reality is that women children and old men, even strong young men are no match for Lugers, Sturmgewehr 44 machine guns, panzers and flamethrowers or as the case may be in 19th century, Australian issue Dragoon Sabres, Enfield Musketoons, Remington revolvers, trained cavalry and vicious dogs.
It must also be remembered that the Aboriginal population had been devastated by introduced disease like smallpox which may have reduced the population by as much as 60% to 70% so many potential young warriors were carried away by disease before they could fight the oppression they witnessed (impossible to know as Aboriginals weren’t even counted in a census until 1967, let alone the number of deaths from disease, tellingly though accurate figures were kept on the sheep and livestock numbers).
There were however some (too few) brave Aboriginal men who did fight back with little success but nevertheless they deserve to be remembered as brave freedom fighters, noble as any that died in the line of duty defending their homeland, mothers, wives and children. As courageous as any Aussie digger – many of whom were Aboriginal of course.
Robert Lyon – Speech at a public meeting in Guildford, June 1833.
“You are the aggressors…..They did not go to the British isles to make war upon you; but you came from the British isles to make war upon them. You are the invaders of their country – ye destroy the natural productions of the soil on which they live – ye devour their fish and their game – and ye drive them from the abodes of their ancestors. They may stand to be slaughtered; but they must not throw a spear in their own defence, or attempt to bring their enemies to a sense of justice by the only means in their power – that of returning like for like.
If they do – if they dare to be guilty of an act which in other nations would be eulogized as the noblest of a patriot’s deeds – they are outlawed; a reward is set upon their heads; and they are ordered to be shot, as if they were so many mad dogs! If ye have any feelings of compunction, before the die be cast, let the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia live. Ye have taken from them all they had on earth. Be content with this, and do not add to the crime of plundering them that of taking their lives.”
Robert Lyon arrived in Western Australia in 1829 as an English settler. As he travelled around the colony, he became increasingly moved by the plight of theindigenous people. In a public speech he warned of the fate that might befall Australians who scorned the rights and dignity of their indigenous countrymen.
Here are just a couple of Aboriginal heroes (whose portraits should replace the aforementioned white breeched bastard’s in government institutions across Australia), who are recorded, many others we are sure met grizzly unrecorded deaths at the hands of the white fella’s oppressive regime:
Tunnerminnerwait was born on Robbins Island in Tasmania in 1812, the son of Keeghernewboyheenner. He was also known as Peevay, Jack of Cape Grim and Tunninerpareway. Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were the first two men executed in Melbourne on 20th January 1842. They were Indigenous freedom fighters who took up arms against the colonizers and paid the ultimate price for defending themselves against the invasion of their lands and the genocide of their people.
Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were among 16 Tasmanian Aborig ines who were brought to Melbourne in 1839 by the protector of Aborigines, George Robinson, to “civilise” the Victorian Aborigines. In late 1841, the two men and three women, stole two guns and waged a six-week guerilla-style campaign in the Dandenongs and on the Mornington Peninsula, burning stations and killing two sealers. They were charged with murder and tried in Melbourne.
Their defense counsel was Redmond Barry* who questioned the legal basis of British authority over Aborigines. The women were acquitted and the men found guilty, although the jury made a plea for clemency on account of the “peculiar circumstances”.
Judge Willis ignored the request and the men were hanged in front of 5000 people – a quarterof Victoria’s white population – from gallows erected on a small rise near what is now the corner of Bowen and Franklin streets. Their bodies are buried under where the Queen Victoria Market inMelbourne are now situated.
The next time you are buying your fruit and vegies at Vic Markets spare a thought for these poor souls who rest beneath Spiro’s fruit or Trang’s coriander because they are the real and most deserving heroes of our nations birth.
* In the early years of Melbourne Redmond Barry became unofficial standing counsel for the Aboriginals. He laboured as hard and as earnestly upon their cases, often capital matters, as he did upon his other briefs, though he rarely, if ever, received a fee for such services. His interest in the Aboriginals was general and lasted all his life. Though he accomplished for them little of practical value, his open-minded and unprejudiced approach was in advance of that of many even of the most liberal of his contemporaries). Thank goodness at least one good white fella was there to defend these hapless beings?