It’s 180 years since the Myall Creek Massacre when 28 people – men, women and children – were slaughtered by white settlers. Lismore photograher Alex Clarke was there to document the memorial anniversary.
“I was honoured to be at the Myall Creek Memorial,” says Alex. “Around 500 people gathered at Myall Creek near Bingara to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the massacre that took place in 1838. While there were many many massacres during the frontier wars, Myall Creek was significant in that it was the first time that Europeans were brought to justice for the killing of Aboriginal people in Australia’s history.”
Bingara is a small town on the Gwydir River in Murchison County in the New England region of New South Wales and to mark the occasion a traditional possum cloak was created. “It was displayed at the ceremony,” says Alex, “and it was extremely powerful.”
In the past some tribes traditionally wrapped their babies in possum skins. As the children grew more skins were added and decorated with personal stories and connections to country. (Somewhat ironically, the 30 possum skins used for the Myall Creek Memorial gathering cloak had to be imported from New Zealand as it is illegal to kill possums in Australia.) The song-lines on the cloak fan out to represent the song-lines from Boggabilla at the border to Glen Innes in the New England tableands – one of the travelling routes of the Aborigines killed in the massacre. It also features stories of people such as Adele Chapman-Burgess, a member of the National Friends of the Myall Creek Memorial, and one of the artists who helped create the cloak.
“We won’t forget but we will forgive, and walk down that path together,” said Aunty Sue Blacklock, who can trace her history back to survivors of the massacre. Invited to visit the Myall Creek Station, she’d found it still to hold powerful memories. “If you stood on one place, to me it’s like I could hear the screams,” she said. “It was very quiet, there was no noise, It was just like the wind was bringing their screams as it blew, I could feel their hurt.”
“It was an extraordinary experience to be at the ceremony,” says Alex, whose photographs are a moving testament to the day.
Visitors to the anniversary included Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for Health, Shadow Minister for the Arts, and Shadow Minister for the North Coast, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, who announned Labor’s promise of $3 million for a cultural museum at the site of the Myall Creek Memorial should Labor be elected.