In 1838, a band of 12 white men massacred at least 28 Aboriginal people at Myall Creek, New South Wales. Many of those killed were older people, women, and children. The killers were armed with just three swords. Graeme Cordiner, Sydney Friends of the Myall Creek, notes this meant, chillingly, that the victims were hacked to pieces one by one, each waiting their turn.
Massacres during this period of Australia’s history were not uncommon. What made the Myall Creek massacre unusual was that some of the perpetrators were later tried in court, and seven were hanged. It was the first time that justice of this kind was attempted, in response to the mass killings of Aboriginal people.
The memory of Myall Creek lives on in a yearly pilgrimage. Australians of all backgrounds visit on the same weekend in June, to honour the dead and bring together the living, including descendants of the Myall Creek victims. This year, the Friends of Myall Creek also celebrated the receipt of a grant to expand the memorial facility at the site.
In this Zoom conversation organized by Creators of Peace, Graeme tells why embracing the memory of Myall Creek “opens a space for us to own our own history” and galvanizes the power of forgiveness across generations.
Tanya Fox of Creators of Peace NSW conducted the interview ahead of the Myall Creek Memorial event on the long weekend of 13-15 June. A group from Initiatives of Change Australia travelled to the site to join Aboriginal and other participants to remember the past, and build relationships for the future.