On Sunday the 11th of June 2023, hundreds of people gathered to commemorate the Myall Creek Massacre.
Keith Munro, the co-chair of the Myall Creek National Committee, tells us that year was especially important as it was the 185th anniversary year.
“We had really good numbers this year, back to pre-COVID levels,” he says, “we even had some school groups travel from interstate and some international visitors.”
The satellite events, including the UNE session, art exhibition and concert, were also met with similar enthusiasm. The partnership talks with UNE have been in operation for 3 years now and the community concert Myall Creek Rocks the Roxy for 2 years.
“Richard Trudgeon’s Yarning about Truth-Telling session at UNE this year was absolutely amazing,” says Mr Munro.
When asked to comment on the significance of combining a very sombre event such as the memorial with something upbeat and joyous like a concert, Mr Munro says it makes perfect sense.
“People make a lot of effort to travel and be a part of the commemorative weekend. We also want them to find some enjoyment.”
“Each of the satellite events presents a small point of difference but they all still tie back to the main theme of us bringing people together, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.”
Just because the long weekend has now passed does not mean that work for the Friends of Myall Creek group has ended for the year.
The Memorial Amphitheatre space, shade shelter, facilities and Aboriginal bush food and medicine gardens opened in 2021 and require constant maintenance and care.
“We have some amazing local community members who are very invested in keeping the site well looked after. Getting our traditional foods and bush medicine growing on the site and on Country has been really important, and it’s had a great flow-on effect on the local area – we’ve been told that some insects and birds that haven’t been seen in the region for decades are returning,” says Mr Munro.
The Friends of Myall Creek Group now also have their sights targeted on the third and final stage of upgrades for the site.
“Our eyes are now very firmly fixed towards getting stage three of upgrades to the site, which will be a permanent building,” says Mr Munro, “we’re just starting to move into the community consultation phase.”
The Friends of Myall Creek website describes this building as what is hoped to be “a world first… a facility commemorating the dispossession of first nation peoples, providing year-round reconciliation, education and cultural programs.”
“We know that the site was attracting around 400 visitors per week pre-COVID,” says Mr Munro, “a lot of these groups are schools and people who want to learn more, and we want a space to support this.”
“A permanent building will allow people to pay their respects year-round and also will form a vital part of truth-telling for our Nation.”
The Memorial weekend, along with its satellite events, and the future planned educational and cultural centre, have become a beacon of hope, offering a chance for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to come together in a genuine spirit of reconciliation.
To find out more about the planned upgrades and the other important community work performed by Friends of Myall Creek, you can follow the group on Facebook.
Top image: Friends of Myall Creek Aboriginal co-chair and descendant of the survivors Keith Munro with descendant of one of the perpetrators Beulah Adams (Waabi Chapman-Burgess)
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