Planning for a Community Cultural and Education Centre at Myall Creek will proceed after approval was given at a public meeting held there last Saturday. The proposed centre, which will complement the national memorial that recalls the murder of Aboriginal men, women and children at Myall Creek by stockmen in 1838, will be adjacent to the memorial land.
The meeting, which was chaired by Reverend John Brown and Mr Lyall Munro, co-chairmen of the Myall Creek Memorial Committee, was called to gauge the level of support for the project. According to Councillor David Rose, who attended the meeting, there were about 50 people in attendance. They included Mr Tony Windsor, Member for New England, Tad Kiemski, Regional Manager of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Karen Glover, Aboriginal Heritage Conservation Officer, Northern Region of the Department of Environment and Climate Change, Rosemary Curtis from Glen Innes High School as well as representatives from Narrabri Shire and local Aboriginal elders.
Dr. Brown told the Bingara Advocate that the meeting was "very positive about the concept" and that the committee was encouraged by the gathering "to share this vision and plans with as many people as possible, in the corporate sector as well as the government sector." The committee will now move to have architect’s plans drawn up and then commence fundraising.
The proposal is to erect a centre on the south east corner of the intersection of the Bingara/Delungra and Whitlow roads, to become a significant national education cen-tre, introducing visitors to the National Heritage listed memorial.
The centre will be equipped with the latest interactive technology to portray visually and aurally, the history of the interaction between Aboriginal people and early settlers across Australia; house artifacts and other cultural materials of local Aboriginal people and provide space where groups of students and other visitors may watch video materials, hear presentations and participate in discussions.
It is also proposed that the centre will include a manager’s residence, a kiosk, a picnic area and a large parking area, capable of accommodating tourist coaches. Dr. Brown told The Advocate that the proposal to have a Council employed live-in manager was viewed positively by the meeting.
He also said that the live-in manager would perform both a caretaker role as well as an educational role in introducing people to the memorial. When asked whether he envisaged this person being indigenous, he said "Yes, definitely."
Dr. Brown said that it is clear that visiting the memorial does a great deal for reconciliation and understanding between the black and the white communities. He said that since June 2008, 600 people have signed the visitors’ book at the memorial which means that many more than that would have visited, as not everyone signs the book. He said the comments in the book reflected the value of the memorial in positively working for reconciliation.
Mr Tony Windsor, Member for New England, is very positive about the proposal. In speaking with The Advocate, he said "I think it’s a great idea and it probably stands a good chance of success. We had an apology in the Parliament which was a recognition of what has happened in the past. What happened at Myall Creek was a first in black/white relations where justice was seen to be done in Australia."
Mr Windsor also saw great appeal in the proposal because the site of the centre is in the country, where "a unique piece of history occurred." Mr Windsor said he suggested to the gathering that the concept should be taken to the Prime Minister, requesting his support. He told The Advocate that the proposal "is of a magnitude that the Prime Minister should know about it."
Myall Creek memorial Committee co-chairman, Lyall Munro, and keen committee member, Ted Stubbins.
Mr Lyall Munro, when asked by The Advocate what he thought about the proposal, said "Fascinating." "This structure will equal the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach and the Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra," Mr Munro said he "hoped the people of Bingara will play a big role in this project, because in the future it will be a big tourist attraction." He said the meeting was well attended by dedicated friends of the Myall Creek community from around NSW, who fully endorsed the establishment of a cultural heritage section at Myall Creek.
According to Mr Munro, "local residents of the Aboriginal and European communities were invited to attend the meeting, as well as schools and historical societies, by phone and email, sent out by the committee." Mr Munro said that Local Government is going to play a big role in the establishment of the centre and that it also stood to benefit greatly from it.
Mr Munro added that one of the long term goals of the Myall Creek Memorial Committee is to see the government purchase Myall Creek Station.
He said it would be the right place to study the "true history of Australia (which includes) the or-ganised killings of Aborigines which occurred all over Australia after the arrival of white men." He envisaged university students and school students visiting the property.
A meeting of the Kamilaroi Nation is being planned to approve the Education and Cultural Centre proposal. Mr Munro also said that it has been suggested that a plaque should be erected to acknowledge the three men who rode to Sydney to report the Myall Creek massacre. "The building proposal being explored by the Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Committee has great merit," Council’s General Manager, Max Eastcott, said.
"Myall Creek was a turning point in the history of Aboriginal reconciliation within Australia. It is the first example of a measure of justice being delivered to Aboriginal people under the British legal system – a symbol to reconciliation.
"The proposed building will act as a focal point for an improved understanding of Aboriginal issues and their constant struggle to have their legitimate rights recognised and, more importantly, respected.
"Although the Council is fully supportive of the proposal this support does not and cannot extend to financial assistance beyond the limited amount that the Council already contributes," Mr. Eastcott said.
"The Council believes that Myall Creek is a place of National significance as recognised recently by the Rudd Federal Government and as such the Capital and Recurrent expenditure required to make this project a reality must be provided by the Federal Government in co-operation with the NSW Government," Mr. Eastcott said.