Myall Creek, the massacre that will never die

Descendants of massacre survivorsThe Myall Creek Massacre facts are not disputed because it was thoroughly investigated at the time and perpetrators brought to justice. It’s an example of psychopathic behaviour that sometimes resulted in the 19th century from convicts being assigned to landowners far beyond the boundaries of European civilization, and many days’ ride from the law. I went to the 180th anniversary of the massacre recently, and was welcomed there by descendants of the killers and victims alike, and those who upheld the rule of law.

At Myall Creek cattle station on the 10th of June 1838, twenty-eight Indigenous people, mostly women, children and elderly men, were killed by a band of armed stockmen, all convicts led by a free man under the employ of landowner Henry Dangar. Seven perpetrators hanged for the crime. The annual commemoration of the butchery takes place onsite at Myall Creek, near Bingara, in the New England region of New South Wales.

The white fella portion of events commenced with children from the Moree public school performing a lovely rendition of the Australian national anthem, sung in the local Gomeroi language. The beauty of their voices was greeted with hushed admiration.

The Myall Creek Massacre memorialBack in 1838, two Aboriginal brothers John and Jimmy survived the massacre by hiding in the creek when the gang rode into camp. Their living descendants who spoke at the commemoration included Aunty Sue Blacklock, the Tingha elder who was made a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia a couple of years ago for her love of children and their welfare. Another who talked was Uncle Lyall Munro the Kamilaroi elder and activist. Every word they spoke was teaching the young children, and was received with profound respect.

After the indigenous ceremonies, which included ancient cultural dance and songs in language, I walked back to the memorial hall. I was accompanied by Robert Larkin. He’d travelled 1,300 kilometres from Melbourne to be there, dwarfing my mere 500 kilometres. It was Robert’s great-great-grandfather William Hobbs who was the station manager at the time of the massacre. Hobbs risked his life by reporting the murders to authorities, for which he was sacked from his job, and giving key testimony at the trials. If it wasn’t for Hobbs, the colony’s governor Sir George Gipps, supported by crown prosecutor John Plunkett, would never have been successful obtaining the convictions, and so we would not be here today. The events impacted the life of Hobbs so much that he named his son William Plunkett Hobbs after the prosecutor with whom he entrusted his life.

The massacre has been reported for 180 yearsHistory is unfortunately largely silent on those who led the events and never brought to justice all those years ago. Henry Dangar owned the Myall Creek station. By his actions, Dangar made it apparent that it was he who ordered the extermination of indigenous people from his stations. He had earlier been dismissed as government surveyor for misappropriating land. Throughout the Myall Creek Massacre trials Dangar perverted the course of justice by attempting to influence jurors, witnesses, and public opinion. His name today perversely remains commemorated a number of ways including with the Dangar Falls, Dangar’s Lagoon, Dangar Gorge, Mount Dangar, Dangar Island, and Dangar Street.

My uncle noted that Dangar descendants still live in the New England district today. With regular stories in the media since the awful events of 180 years ago, reminders are never far away and will live forever in the hearts of Aunty Sue’s beloved young people.

The newspaper illustration comes from Melbourne’s Argus newspaper, Saturday 24 March 1956, page 10, and the photographs are my own ©, as are the YouTube videos from the commemoration below.

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