Text of the Myall Creek Memorial Plaques
In Gamilaraay language, paraphrased in English
1.Giirr ngurrambaa, walaaybaa nhalay Wirrayaraaygu Gamilaraaygu.
From time immemorial, the Wirrayaraay tribe of the Gamilaraay lived here, caring for the land and harvesting the animals, fish, root crops, grains and fruits in a seasonal cycle. The identity of the Wirrayaraay derived from their spiritual relationship with the land’
2. Yilambu Wandagu dhaay dhimba milambaraay gaanhi.
In the 1830s European squatters began to send their servants into the district to establish cattle and sheep stations, occupying the land and using its grass and water resources to feed their stock.
3. Yilaa Mari Wanda bumalalanhi; balunhi burrulaa Mari gulbirr Wanda.
Conflict soon arose as the Europeans forced the Wirrayaraay off their ancestral lands, drove them away from creeks and waterholes and seized Aboriginal women. The Wirrayaraay retaliated by spearing stock and attacking the stations and their personnel. Revenge killings began.
4. Burrulaa Mari gandjibalu, bawurragu bumaay.
Towards the end of 1837 parties of European stockmen and station hands, encouraged by a punitive expedition of Mounted Police sent from Sydney, embarked on a bloody rampage throughout the region, hunting down and killing any Aboriginal people they could find. Hundreds of Aboriginal people were slain.
5. Wirray bumalalanhi gulbirr Mari Wanda; ganunga maliyaa ginyi.
In May 1838 a band of Wirrayaraay people took refuge from this onslaught on Myall Creek station below, at the invitation of one of the station hands. For the next few weeks they lived in peace around the station huts, and convivial relations were developed between them and the four-man staff.
6. 10 Djun 1838-ya burrulaa Wirrayaraay yinarr, gaay, wayama balunhi; giir bilaarrdhalibaa nhama mari.
On 10 June 1838, a gang of stockmen led by a squatter rode into Myall Creek Station and brutally murdered about twenty-eight unarmed women, children and old men. The younger Wirrayaraay men were away cutting bark on a neighbouring station.
7. Nhama gagil Wanda gaabamandu bumaay. Yilaa Wandagu burrulaa Mari bumaldanhi.
Eleven of the twelve men who carried out the massacre were arrested, tried and acquitted. In a second trial seven of them were found guilty and executed. The squatter involved was never brought to trial. This was the first time that white men had been executed for murdering Aboriginal people. However this did not end the massacres. They continued throughout the continent, often unreported, until the 1920s.
8. Ngiyani winangay ganunga
In memory of the Wirrayaraay people who were murdered on the slopes of this ridge in an unprovoked but premeditated act in the late afternoon of 10 June, 1838.
Erected on 10 June 2000 by a group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians in an act of reconciliation, and in acknowledgement of the truth of our shared history.
We remember them.
Timeline of the Creation the Memorial
Len Payne, a Bingara resident, proposed the erection of a memorial in the memory of those who died. In the 1980s Len with others every June 10 laid a wreath at the site. Len never lost hope that one day a memorial would be built and up until his death in 1993 he continued to visit the site
A conference convened by the Uniting Church at Myall Creek on the invitation of Sue Blacklock a descendant of those who survived the Massacre, decided to erect a permanent memorial. The Myall Creek Memorial committee was formed.
February 20th, 1999
The grounds for erecting the memorial were established: If we and our descendants are to live in peace in Australia then we have to tell and acknowledge that truth of our history. It is not that all of our history is bad, but the bad must be acknowledged along with the good, if we are to have any integrity. There is a code of silence surrounding the massacres.
If we and our descendants are to live in peace in Australia then we have to tell and acknowledge that truth of our history. It is not that all of our history is bad, but the bad must be acknowledged along with the good, if we are to have any integrity. There is a code of silence surrounding the massacres.
We want Australia to be an inclusive society, where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal are honoured and respect each other. This cannot happen until the history includes the stories of how Aboriginal people as well as non-Aboriginal people experienced the history.
We owe it to those who died defending their country and families, or died as innocent victims of vengeance, to create a memorial which reminds us of their part in our common history.
It is important to acknowledge the people who acted for justice in the story: Mr Hobbs, the manager of Myall Creek Station; Edward Denny Day, the officer who investigated the crime and others. The fact is that for the first time, the perpetrators of such crime in this country were brought to justice.
We are not pointing the finger at the people of Myall Creek or Bingara. The massacres went on all over the country.
March 10th, 1999
The descendants of those massacred at Myall Creek were unanimous in their support for a project involving both Indigenous and non-indigenous people. The meeting decided on the site for the memorial.
May 1st, 1999
In a meeting including many elders from throughout the region, Sue Blacklock spoke of having a simple memorial. A large granite rock was suggested. The Rural Lands Protection Board gave permission to use part of the travelling stock route for the memorial. Bingara Shire Council gave enthusiastic support. A grant was sought. Architect Tim Shell-Shear developed sketch plans and commenced the wording for the plaques.
June 29, 1999
It was decided the memorial “is also for the purpose of reconciling Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people”. The wording and art work for the plaques was discussed and publication of a booklet about the massacre planned.
October 6, 1999
A further grant was sought through Heritage 2000.
December 4, 1999
The first grant was successful. The wording of the plaques was considered in great detail. The opening of the memorial would be on June 10, 2000.
The Local Symbols of Reconciliation Project grant was successful. A 50 tonne rock was located. State Forest gave permission to move the rock and Transfield offered to move it. When the rock thudded into place, the memorial was at last tangible In the words of Paulette Smith speaking on behalf of the Myall Creek Memorial Committee at the opening of the Myall Creek Memorial,
June 10th, 2000:
“We started out as a group of strangers from all around this area, all united in a common ideal of truth, justice and reconciliation. As the meetings progressed, we became closer. I can remember the days when we all sat around the large table at lunchtime and shared our food amongst us…
“It was a memorable day when Des Blake, a descendant of one of the perpetrators arrived at our meeting. We had not expected to hear from any of these descendants, but months later, another descendant Beulah Adams came to a meeting. When she and Sue Blacklock hugged, we all felt we had really taken a step into the future.”
“Very soon we will all take a journey together. We will walk up the hill and along the serpentine path together, and as we walk down towards the rock, we will read about the massacre that happened here 162 years ago today. And as you walk, I ask only this of you. Think about those who died, speak to them, say a prayer for them, remember them. And as you return back along the path, take a stranger by the arm and walk back in peace, knowing that today you have taken a very big step towards justice, truth and reconciliation.”
The Walkway at the Memorial is a winding path representing, for Aboriginal people, the Creator Rainbow Serpent which wandered across the earth, forming the features of the landscape.
The Memorial Rock is surrounded by crushed white granite, white being the colour of mourning for Aboriginal people. The red gravel walkway reminds us of the blood that was shed in the massacre.
The Memorial Rock was surrounded with stones brought from all around the country, acknowledging that this history is part of the history of each one of us, and symbolizing the commitment of each of us to truth-telling and reconciliation.
" ... when the blood went into the ground and cried out for justice."
The spontaneous cry of an Aboriginal man at Myall Creek. He concluded, "... and it still cries out for justice."
Massacres occurred right across Australia as part of the ‘frontier wars’. Aboriginal people resisted the take-over of their land in the face of often extreme provocation. The battles were never equal, and in retaliation for a settler slain, the retribution was usually indiscriminate and disproportionate. Also this became part of government policy. Massacres were part of this unofficial - and, in Tasmania, official - ‘war’. Starting in Sydney, massacres continued, until the Coniston massacre in 1928 in the Northern Territory. Myall Creek was unique in that it was the only massacre brought to justice, where (most of) the perpetrators faced the full consequences of their actions.
Sorry, Sorry, sorry...
The apology for the stolen generations …
A milestone, but …
Not a fullstop in the story of reconciliation.
Only a comma ... ,
... an apology for the massacres remains.
The case for an apology … as presented to the NSW Government Aboriginal taskforce in 2013 on request of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
“An apology we believe helps further open the way to truly listening to Aboriginal people beyond ‘how can we help them’. This listening is not just to address challenges facing Indigenous people, but also speaks to finding direction for our nation as a whole – the path to our future passes through its past.
“History is a living thing. Unacknowledged it has a way of popping up at the most inopportune times, sabotaging our best intentions. We note here the massacres in NSW were not carried out just by the few rogue squatters and convicts. The Myall Creek trials of 1838 indicated that on trial were not only the convicts (the one squatter was never tried), but society and its values as a whole.
"Massacres occurred across the State, sometimes with authorisation by the NSW Government through the Governor of the day. “The Myall Creek committee has appreciated the Minister’s support in attending Myall Creek and other massacre memorials like Appin in light of that recognition … read more