June 10: Remember Myall Creek

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A visitor to the Australian colonies in the 19th century remarked that the right to Australia was a sore subject among the settlers and that they always sought to satisfy their conscience in a number of ways. As an example here are a number of comments from papers at the time which sought to rationalise occupation and murder; they found their answer in the safety of ‘terra nullius’ – that diabolical lie that reduced a healthy, ancient people to the level of ‘flora and fauna’, not worthy of life.

“…Natives occupy a much larger portion of land than would be necessary to their support, if it were under cultivation, and the only way to make them cultivate it is by depriving them of a considerable portion of it…”

“…God in making the earth never intended it should be occupied by men so incapable of appreciating its resources as the Aborigines of Australia. The white man had indeed, only carried out the intentions of the Creator in coming and settling down in the territory of the natives. God’s first command to man was ‘Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth…”

“..It is useless now. Let every sincere objector on this ground prove his sincerity by at once leaving the country which he thinks he has so unjustly taken from another…”

This way of thinking still dominates debate today –‘love it or leave it’ is the sound bite used to shut down the fact that we are living off the proceeds of an unhealthy cultural and political model based on misery, wage slavery, dehumanising hierarchy and violence, stemming back from the systematic theft of the commons across Europe centuries earlier.

Early June a Mirrabooka Sovereign Women’s fundraiser at Red Books was launched to get people down to the Myall Creek remembrance. To remember, and not forget, is one step towards addressing the collective denial, amnesia and the deluded superiority complex that Australia’s collective identity is built on: Remember Myall Creek: June 10.  

In 1838 settlers were still at the beginning of their push to invade, squat and dispossess Aboriginal peoples from their homelands. Settlers escalated low-level skirmishes to the atrocities we now know as the massacres and attempted genocide of Aboriginal people. Gangs of stockmen went on what was known as ‘the Big Bushwhack’ or simply ‘the Drive’: a rapacious hunt for Aboriginal peoples which lasted several months. Among the massacres, the one at Myall Creek (June 10, 1838) differs from the many other massacres in that it is actually documented.  In the words of Rhonda Craven, Myall creek represented the tip of the iceberg of violence against Aboriginal peoples. The stockmen herded the defenceless people together and tied their hands together with a long rope. About 800 metres from the huts they were beheaded, hacked and slashed to death.  Late that night the Aboriginal men who had been working at the neighbouring station arrived at Myall Creek Station.

They were urged to move on and headed off into the night. Two days after the Myall Creek Massacre the murderers returned and burned the bodies of their victims. They then set out to find the ten Aboriginal people they had missed. They found them the next day and murdered most of them, raping the women. It seems likely that the same stockmen perpetrated another massacre near MacIntyre’s (near Inverell) where the group of ten Aboriginal people had headed. Reportedly between 30 and 40 infants, men, women, children were murdered and their bodies cast onto a large fire.

After the Myall Creek Massacre murderous attacks on Aboriginal people continued for many decades well into the 20th century.  White people now went ‘underground’ using poisoned flour which was more difficult to trace. Many massacres never became known outside the district where they occurred and great care was taken to destroy corpses. Despite this many instances of straight out overt violence still continued, for example during the Coniston Massacre in 1928, in which a group of policemen chained together and shot 50 Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Three women were spared to be raped and later burned. The decimation of Aboriginal people’s identities continues today, but now more often through assimilation and the denial of autonomy, culture and dignity rather than through poison and gun. Myall creeks happened all across Australia; Australia is a Crime Scene.

“We’ve suffered from colonialism and capitalism – they’ve robbed us of everything that we had..Australia should be sanctioned – Boycotted… it’s disgusting. Eugenics and apartheid were pioneered in this country…We’ve got an identity and a culture.. non-Aboriginal people in this country should justify their occupation on this land and come through our customs.”
– Robbie Thorpe

“When I think of that word reconciliation. I know it’s a falseness. I know it’s a lie to the people that call themselves Australians, that word has been put to the ears of these people. There can be no reconciliation between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people of this land because there has never been a partnership in the first place to reconcile about. So how can this word reconciliation come about and bring people together, that is the sad part. So I take this word reconciliation and I use it to reconcile people back to the earth, so that they can walk this land together and heal one another because she’s the one that gives birth to everything we see around us, everything we need to survive. People must start respecting the earth…[It’s] not a plot that people think they can buy and own; not something we can take to the grave. And we say we own it – this is crazy, this concept of ownership.”
– Djarla Dulumunmun, Yuin elder.

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