Somerset Times

Somerset Remembers Myall Massacre

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 9, Term Two, 2018

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The 180th anniversary of the Myall Creek Massacre was commemorated last weekend under a blue sky, at an inspiring service held at the monument overlooking the slopes where 28 Weraerai children, women and elderly were senselessly slain by 11 stockmen in 1838. Many guest speakers presented at this year's service, all having a close association with the story of Myall Creek.

The speakers included descendant of one of the perpetrators, Mr Des Blake; descendant of the massacred, Aunty Sue Blacklock and Keith Munro; and inaugural co-chair, Mr John Brown. All encouraged us to advocate for the rights of those without power or privilege, helping to bridge gaps, particularly when they are of the first peoples of this land. It was a deeply moving service for the 1000 strong crowd.

Some students’ thoughts from the weekend are provided below, but for me it was wonderful to introduce our first group to the warm and inspirational Gamilaraay elder Aunty Sue Blacklock; discover the music of our land and people at a Sounds of Country concert in Bingara; have a discussion with a descendant of the perpetrator Mr Des Blake; and to see so many of the local schools, particularly Tingha Public School’s young indigenous dancers, play such an active and engaging part in proceedings.

Special thanks to accompanying staff Clare Walker for making the round trip possible. I was especially proud of our student representatives Marcus, Desmond, Vivi, Kristin and Kydra. I asked them to move "totally proud and strong" (to use Tingha Public School’s motto) throughout the day, shake people's hands and look them in the eye, and listen to the stories that they may have to share. On top of this, they helped where they could, particularly in the public reciting of the sad history at one of the seven tablet stations, as hundreds of people passed along the rainbow-serpent track towards the monument. Their reflections suggest they have gained and gathered a lot from this experience and have been excellent ambassadors at this, our first trip down for the commemoration service.

Somerset College will take students to Myall Creek because we need to, not just to join a symbolic act, but because it goes in hand with the practical, of putting students alongside students as we do on our B Trips where we can learn from each other. It is worth travelling 1000kms for that.

Extracts from Reflections

1: I have learnt not to take shame in the dark spots in our not-so-ancient history but to find empowerment and hope in the ways we are healing. I have learnt that talking and remembering, is healing. Forgetting, denial and selective deafness to sorrow is never progress. Silencing the voices of those in pain in an attempt to ‘move on’ is always a step backwards. It is a band-aid on a bullet wound. I want to start more conversations, meet more people, ask more questions and spark greater awareness in our collective consciousness. I want to listen and I want to understand, and I want to walk alongside and exist and act in solidarity for as long as it takes. This is what I want to do.

2: I found myself looking for birds after the ceremony as I remember Aunty Sue mentioning that they carry the souls of those lost in the massacre. I think there is a peace in knowing that the slain live on watching and looking over you. The descendants of the victims are incredibly forgiving people. If it was the other way round, would we all be as open to this?

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