Colonists and convicts murdered six Aboriginal people at Minnamurra River 200 years ago

Artist's impression of Minnamurra Boardwalk, where a Kiama Council plaque is expected to be placed in memory of the local Aboriginal massacre of 1718.
Artist's impression of Minnamurra Boardwalk, where a Kiama Council plaque is expected to be placed in memory of the local Aboriginal massacre of 1718.

On this day two centuries ago, colonists and convicts murdered six Aboriginal people at Minnamurra River.

On October 1, 1818, the mob of settlers armed themselves with guns and knives and killed Aboriginal people who were camping on the Minnamurra River.

Today, Kiama Council held a gathering to formally acknowledge the massacre, led by a Dapto property owner, his property overseer, seven labourers and convicts, armed with muskets, cutlasses and bayonets attached to long sticks.

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The settlers fired long-barrelled guns and used slashing swords and knives attached to long sticks to kill the Aboriginal people.

Allegedly the settlers were trying to recover two muskets that had been lent to the Aboriginal people living there.

In July 2017, Newcastle University researchers published details of the massacre, prompting council to pay acknowledge the tragedy in a ceremony at Trevethan Reserve on Riverside Drive today, and make a plaque to be erected on the proposed Minnamurra Boardwalk.

Kiama Councillor Neil Reilly was one of a number of speakers who were honoured to speak at the ceremony.

The red balloon-shaped icon indicates the site of the massacre, 200 years ago.

The red balloon-shaped icon indicates the site of the massacre, 200 years ago.

Cr Reilly’s speech

“The Wodi Wodi people had a far more complex attachment to this land than any real estate deed could capture.

“This land courses through their lives connecting them forever with this country.

“The land was given away by those who had no right to it, did not own it nor understand the spiritual connections to it. They registered their awful claim in the blood of the original custodians.

“The criminals are identified as Lt Weston, owner of a Dapto property, Cornelius O’Brien, overseer of William Browns property at Yallah and seven labourers and convicts.

“What can we do today? We can never redress what happened on this place 200 years ago, it was a crime against all humanity. But we can acknowledge that this massacre did occur, we can, as has happened, name the perpetrators and remember the cycle of violence that stained this place by a permanent plaque as agreed by council.

“We should have every meeting start with an acknowledgement of the original custodians of this country without excuse because now we know better. As a further reinforcement of this, every council officer and every councillor should have emblazoned on their individual business card, and email signature the following, to take up the entire back of the card: ‘I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are meeting. I would like to pay my respects to Elders both past and present and extend that respect to any Aboriginal people here today.’

“This is more than a symbolic gesture. When we pass our card with this information, our card truly says something about us as individuals and our organisation it also serves as a reminder to all that receive these cards we are blessed to live on land linked to the longest continuous human culture on earth.”

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