Myall Creek a reminder of violence and oppression

June 26, 2011

Address by Dr. Anne Pattel-Grey at the Myall Creek Memorial ceremony

First I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional lands of Lionel and Sue’s people, and I would also like to recognize our ancestors and Elders, both past and present, and the descendants of those Aboriginal men, women and children who were massacred here on this spot.

It is an extreme honour to be here today, to share this important event with you. It is with heartfelt trepidation that I try to honour the significance of this occasion.

Recently I was in Chicago attending a meeting on the International Association of Black religions and spiritualities, and while I was there, I presented a paper at the University of Chicago’s Department of Religion and Theology. I shared with them some of our history regarding the massacres of our people across this country by the so-called white settlers.

I spoke about the Myall Creek massacre, and shared with them about the invitation of attending the Myall Creek memorial service, and the opportunity for me to speak today.When reading about the history of Myall Creek I see that this journey began for many of you decades ago, and to be invited to share this journey is an extreme honour. For our people to be given this recognition is not only healing, but a contribution to us moving forward.

As Australians, both black and white, we stand here today and acknowledge that our shared history is littered with racist violence, which has emerged out of an unfounded western ideology of white superiority. One wonders when this untold story of violent atrocities, massacres, dispossession, and oppression will be told and acknowledged at our national capital.

As Aboriginal people, we collectively acknowledge the apology delivered by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd, which was directed at the stolen generations. For many of them, it was a healing moment, and a significant one.  But for me, I felt that it didn’t go far enough. I felt that all the Aboriginal Nations should have received an apology for the theft of their land, for thousands of massacres of our people, the denial of our humanity, the rape and sexual abuse of our women, girls and boys, the stolen wages of our people, the failure to recognize our humanity and our inherent cultural rights of the Aboriginal people of this land, the trans-generational trauma suffered by men, women and children and the legacy that continues of the trans-generational poverty of our people. This list can go on and on.

We Aboriginal people know this trauma personally, and we carry each and every day. When will our nation’s capital apologise for these atrocities? Perhaps not in my lifetime, especially when an apology is without restitution, how do we move forward in a just reconciliation.

When Australians can join together and share the pain and acknowledge the atrocities of the past, in the present, can we begin to find a healing together?

This occasion is a very significant opportunity for us to acknowledge the atrocities of the past, and in so doing, this impacts on our present day, and provides us with a moment for the Creator’s will to speak to us as we seek healing, forgiveness and restitution.

Today is a painful reminder of violence and oppression. It is not what we want to teach our children. Nor do we want this to continue into our future. Through the forgiveness of Aboriginal people, and through the repentance and courage of non-Aboriginal people, we stand here today, reconciled through our Creator, one to another.