Acknowledgement, reconciliation and positive steps in moving forward
More than 250 people from all over the country gathered for the Myall Creek Memorial near Bingara last Sunday morning.
The memorial marked the anniversary of the massacre of 28 women, children, and older Aboriginal men by white stockmen at Myall Creek cattle station, in 1838. It is the first time in Australia’s history that white men were arrested, charged and hanged for the massacre of Aboriginal people.
The morning began with a gathering at the Myall Creek Memorial hall for a morning tea, followed by an Annual General Meeting and then the commencement of the ceremony at the Myall Creek Massacre site.
Those attending the service proceeded through a smoking ceremony and were invited to have either white ochre (traditionally used by Aboriginal people during mourning ceremonies) or ashes (Jewish/Christian tradition of putting on ashes as a sign of sorrow and grieving) smeared on their foreheads. They then proceeded along the Memorial Walkway to the Memorial Rock in groups as local students waited at points along the walk to read the wording on the plaques.
As a symbol of reconciliation and acknowledgement that ‘we all are heirs in different ways to the history with its injustices and misunderstandings,’ Aboriginal and non-indigenous students gathered each side of the Memorial Rock as a red candle was lit.
Chairwoman and Founding member of the Myall Creek Memorial, Sue Blacklock said she was overwhelmed with the support the service receives.
"It was very lovely to have them here with us and to teach them our culture," Ms Blacklock said. "I get so emotional every time to see different people and to meet different families, there are no words to express how I feel.
"This is their culture too, not only mine, [we’re] helping them to respect their culture, letting them never forget where they come from and keep walking in the footsteps of their Elders."
Guest speaker was Professor John Maynard (left), a Worimi man, historian and head of the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle. He spoke of his involvement in leading the project, ‘Serving Our Country’, which explores the role of Aboriginal people in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
“Currently I am working on a project which will document the complete history of Aboriginals in the military,” said the Professor.
“My motivation is to deliver inspiration to the younger generations and document the ‘real history’ of the Australian military. 1300 Aboriginals fought in WWI but up until 1998 only 300 had been recognised for this contribution.”
The professor went on to speak about the importance of documenting and preserving the heroic stories of the Aboriginals who had fought in the wars, not only to educate the younger generations but as an act of reconciliation and acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by all Australians.
“Our Aboriginal ancestors did not baulk at putting up their hand for our country and it is important that this history is justly recognised.”
“The children are our future, and they deserve to learn our history so they can carry on the tradition of our people.”