Acknowledging the past

Mayor Honey with Aunty Joyce

A memorial to mark the massacre of a group of First People 201 years ago has been unveiled at a touching ceremony on the banks of the Minnamurra River, just south of the bridge.

The massacre of at least six Wodi Wodi people happened across the river from the memorial site.

Both Mayor Mark Honey and Aunty Joyce Donovan said there was a need to acknowledge the past in order to move forward.

“We need the true history to be acknowledged before we can move forward together,” said Aunty Joyce in her Welcome to Country.

“This is one of the first ever memorials. It is important we start to bit by bit to mark where these murders happened rather than pretend they didn’t.”

Mayor Honey said, “Today is a sad day, but it is important that we embrace all of our history, even the unpleasant episodes, otherwise we can’t move on together.”

The plaque, sponsored by Kiama Council says, “Six deaths were recorded on this day, but the real number will never be know. We acknowledge the impact this had and continues to have on the Aboriginal people of this ancient land.

“We are deeply sorry.

“They will not be forgotten.”

The community gathered for the ceremony

For the record, we publish this excerpt from A History of Aboriginal Illawarra, Volume 2: Colonisation, “In October 1818 Lieutenant Weston, land owner at Dapto, and Cornelius O’Brien, formerly a stockman at Sandon Point and now the overseer of a property at Yallah, organised a group of seven labourers and convicts.

“Unusually armed with muskets, cutlasses and pikes, they headed to Kiama supposedly to fetch two muskets lent to a group of people living on the Minnamurra River.

“According to Young Bundle, who was long trusted by the British, the posse killed all the people at the camp. Word of the massacre spread rapidly through the community. Responding as one, they very quickly returned all the guns – quite a few – that they had borrowed from the whites, removing that excuse for further acts of evil. The attackers admitted only to wounding a boy in self-defence.

“After a sharp letter of protest from Charles Throsby to Governor Macquarie, the murders were investigated by D’Arcy Wentworth, the Principal Superintendent of Police, along with other magistrates. They took no action against the killers despite a letter from Governor Macquarie to D’Arcy Wentworth expressing his “surprise, regret and displeasure” at their findings.

“This process of land alienation was repeated in Shellharbour where another small group of white men met on 9 January 1821 to give to and receive from each other more Dharawal country. Very soon, D’Arcy Wentworth, the colony’s Principal Superintendent of Police, Principal Surgeon and founder of the Bank of NSW, owned more than 5,000 hectares of mainly Wodi Wodi clan land, in
addition to the land he already owned elsewhere. And the clearings continued.”

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