The first time I saw the Myall Creek Memorial was driving to Western Australia in 2010. When I was a little kid on school holidays I remembered seeing a place called “Slaughterhouse Creek” and mum telling me of the terrible things that were done there. So when I drove past the sign that day immediately I wondered if it was the same place just renamed to something more palatable.
Please note these documents contain disturbing testimonies and quotations that make your skin crawl, your stomach churn into tiny pieces and your mind despair.
I drove in, walked around, but left in a hurry promising myself to return in the future.
It has taken me four (4) years but today I did just that and this is what I discovered.
In June 1848 a group of stockmen armed with guns and swords murdered a group of at least twenty-eight (28) aboriginal people (mainly women and children) who were living peaceably with local station hands and hut-keeper. They were bound together and herded onto a slope overlooking Myall Creek before being shot, decapitated and burned. The only survivors were a couple of children who escaped unnoticed into the creek, a tiny girl hidden by the hut-keeper, and two women that the hutkeeper and an aboriginal stockman “asked for” and were “given” as the men led the others away. There was one other survivor: a woman. She was a wife and mother whom the men had taken and raped repeatedly then left with, and later released by, a worker on another station. When the stockmen realised their crimes might actually be punished they returned to conceal or destroy any remaining evidence. That evidence being severed heads, bones and limbs.
What is significant is that the station superintendent at Myall Creek Station was so appalled when he discovered the murders he wrote and reported the crimes resulting in seven (7) of the perpetrators being convicted and hanged. A first in the Australian justice system.
Visiting the Myall Creek Memorial once again, I wanted to write this blog today as a reflection of my own feelings. Of how I felt walking though the memorial as a “white” Australian and reaching the final monument of remembrance.
I thought that I should feel angry, but I didn’t. I thought that I should feel shocked, but I didn’t. I just felt numb and strangely calm there. I find it is a place of quiet reflection.
I wondered at the trees, rocks and hillsides that hold a memory of that day. Did they see and remember? Did they also see when over 160 years later descendants of both victims and perpetrators joined hands there in an act of reconciliation, peace and tolerance.
I think reading about this beautiful undertaking on the plaque leading into the memorial contributed to my feeling of calm and hope rather than despair. Reading the pages and pages and pages of comments of visitors from near and distant places on our planet also added to the sense of peace and community.
To keep my promise I followed up this second visit to the Myall Creek Memorial with a trip to the Inverell Library. It was here I was to discover that Slaughterhouse Creek refers to a place further west (also known as Waterloo Creek) in which aboriginal men and women were tracked and hunted by mounted police. Sadly, another massacre.
It was also here in the library, reading extracts from the hearing, reading evidence, newspaper articles and quotes from the 1848 Australian general public that I was to feel the revulsion, the disgust and the shame.
Edward Smith Hall exclaimed in 1848 ” … the murder on Thursday shews that, only let a man, or a family, be sufficiently unpopular with the aristocracy and the prison population of the Colony cojoined (in this case) and their murder will pass unheeded. Money, lucre, profit – these are thy gods O Australia! …”
So now I sit here wondering, hoping we have learned something. Not just to treat other human beings in a manner we want to be treated, but to think. Really think.
Like today, in 2014, what are thy gods O Australia?
The following resources were scanned from the reference section at the Inverell Shire Council Library. A big thanks to the ladies who looked up the catalogue and then pulled out archive boxes, individual files, lever arch folders, books, old journals and historical publications.
Please note these documents contain disturbing testimonies and quotations that make your skin crawl, your stomach churn into tiny pieces and your mind despair at the prevailing mindset.
Unlike the Myall Creek Memorial site these documents are not a place for quiet reflection.
Edward Smith Hall outlines his disgust that the 11 men accused of murdering aboriginal people are acquitted by a jury within 15 minutes of the first trial.
” … the murder on Thursday shews that, only let a man, or a family, be sufficiently unpopular with the aristocracy and the prison population of the Colony cojoined (in this case) and their murder will pass unheeded. Money, lucre, profit – these are thy gods O Australia! …”
Carefully researched this document is filled with quotes and newspaper extracts. It documents a meeting held in October 1838 to form a “protection society” for aboriginal people.
“… enable any gentlemen settler to destroy the black brutes (vulgo aborigines) or any other noxious animal …”
Transcript from the hearing held 28 July 1838 notating evidence and witness statements.
” … on getting there I beheld the body and head of a black man from which the legs had been burnt off …”
Transcript of evidence and witness statements taken at Myall Creek Station 30 July 1838.
” … he said the men who did this called at his place on the same day the murder was committed and had breakfast there … he said one black gin had been brought to the place by the men and left there …”
The official publication of the Inverell and District Historical Society, the centenary souvenir edition contained an article researched and written by Mrs Margaret Connors.
” … it becomes easy to imagine the great fear and lack of comprehension these native people felt as they were rounded up like animals to be herded to their doom. The hut-keeper went on to describe how they moaned and cried out for his help …”
The official publication of the Inverell and District Historical Society. This edition contains a copy of handwritten notes (1847) Notes regarding the tribes of blacks inhabiting the Northern District.
“It is unjust to describe the Natives of the Northern District as a lazy indolent and slothful race, their habits are not like ours nor their wants the same … they are far superior to the lower order of the whites …”
An infamous massacre of Aboriginal people at Myall Creek is gaining the prominence it deserves.
Lyall says that 300-400 people sign the visitor’s book every month. “People come there just to meditate,” he says.