There is a massive problem with the people of the earth. I find it challenging to find the motive behind racial discrimination, a ‘ hate crime. My maternal grandparents were the first offsprings following the massacres of the Macleay, the Hunter and Hastings River in New South Wales. Massacres perpetrated before 1939 are better known than those carried out after that time. After 1839, there was a risk that those involved in killings would hang. Myall Creek massacre had established that if anyone of ‘ unusual courage and humanity reported a massacre, there were those in authority who would act with equal honesty and humanity. Following the Myall Creek massacre, seven white men had eventually been hung. Myall Creek station is north of the boundary covered in this history, but it had such a considerable influence on the attitudes of Europeans towards massacres in general and towards the Falls country in particular, that is needed and included to add to the understanding of what followed.
Historian Russel Ward tells of a massacre as late as 1927 and continues:
“Just ninety years earlier, the most notorious of all such deeds happened on Henry Dangar’s Myall Creek in northwestern New South Wales. This massacre is remembered, not because it was more brutal and bloody than a hundred similiar events; it was not , but because it was better documented and because of what it showed about the values and assumptions of white society at the time…”
A Mr William Hobbs was manager of Myall Creek, and, fortunately for them, many of the Myall Creek Blacks were out on the run with him on the afternoon of the massacre.
“Of those in camp, three young boys escaped with the help of Anderson (an employee) and two beautiful girls were allowed to live so that they could be raped. The remaining twenty-eight men, women and children were tied together and dragged half a mile from the hut. Eleven men had been joined by Kilmeister (another employee). They shot some but hacked up most of the Aborigines with knives and swords. They spent most Sunday afternoon hunting for the Black people who had escaped and returned to bury the bodies of their victims on Monday morning. So far, there was nothing to distinguish these shambles from so many earlier and ones. Then three extraordinary things happened. A white man reported the murders. The police arrested the murderers. Some of them were bought to trial and hanged. On his return to the station Hobbs, the manager, resolved to report the murders, despite Kilmeister’s ‘ for Jesus Christ’s sake’ not to do so. Word was sent to Edward ‘Denny’ Day, the nearest police magistrate about two hundred miles away across the country. This remarkable officer possessed such zeal and humanity that his name was honoured in folk tales and ballads as well as in official records. He reported the incident to the Governor in Sydney, Sir George Gipps, who ordered him to arrest the culprits. Day rounded all of them up except the Currency Lad, John Flemming, who escaped on horseback and was never heard of again.
By then, the whole colony was in an uproar- not with the horror of the massacres but with sympathy for the murderers. Most white people found it intolerable that the idea that killing Aborigines could be regarded as a crime, let alone a capital one. Most landholders and other respectable people signed petitions. Soon after the arrests, a group of wealthy graziers meeting at Patrick’s Plain (now Singleton) pledged three hundred pounds to fee the Colony’s best lawyers for the defence. At the first trial, the men were found not guilty, but seven of them were found guilty and hanged at a second trial. Professor Ward found the general attitude of the population summed up in the newspaper of the times:
“Most newspapers deplored the hangings while glossing over the original crime. Some like the Sydney Herald of October 5th, 1838, roundly declared that Aborigines were less than human beings and called, in effect, for their extermination.”
One would have imagined that there would have been few if any massacres of the Aborigines after the hangings, but it seems all the big massacres in the head of the Macleay River (my mother’s country) followed Myall Creek. There was. However, a significant change in the way massacres was carried out, and the Falls Country lent itself particularly well to this change. After the Myall Creek massacres were carried out in secrecy or behind a conspiracy of silence. The murderers agreed not to talk, which continues to their descendants today. This is no doubt why massacres hinted at by early writers remain concealed.
Maternal grandmother began to retell to me the stories of the massacres since I was age five. In her word’s “They rounded us up like cattle and shut us out.” My thoughts at the time were Why? My mother’s people were shot on sight. The colonists used nails for their guns to save on bullets. I was told every massacre that occurred in the Macleay Valley. They were stacked onto a pile and burned to dispose of the dead. My grandmother lost two grandmothers to the slaughter. Grandmother tells the story of my people being pushed over the ‘Bluff. Her grandmother fell to her death down a steep ravine. Old people, women and children were cornered at the top of the gorge then forced over the edge with guns. I have the recorded account by a stockman who details the mass murders in Autumn 1841. It was a revenge attack. Thousands of cattle and sheep stock contaminate the native’s drinking water, and every morsel of herbs vanished. My people were starving. My people steal a flock of sheep out of sheer desperation and impending starvation. The landholders set up a posse to track the culprits leading to indiscriminate murder the mass slaughter. My people were termed vermin and pests a threat to livestock.
My grandparents harboured no hate or bitterness towards the white man atrocities against my people. They were not racist in the least. My parents also possessed the same attitude, and we were taught to respect as we were growing up. Racism did not exist in our family despite the invasion and occupation of stolen lands, the segregation of schools, cinemas, being banned from entering a bar, fringe dwellers on the outskirts of town hidden away because the white man deemed us unfit to associate with the white population. The Origine people were led to believe they were of little value. The colonial authorities did not recognise my people as human and categorised them as flora and fauna.
So, I am baffled by those who harbour hate towards the Black people here in Australia and worldwide. Who has long suffered at the brutality of hate crimes against them simply because of their skin colour? No rhyme, no reason, no sense. My grandmother’s parting words were the last time I saw her alive; “never forget where you come from.” I was never deterred by maternal grandparents to stop being Black and learning culture. When I was age seven, My grandmother told me I could be ANYTHING I wanted. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to be an Aborigine living in the Dreamtime.