Month of Truth Telling about Frontier Violence in Hunter Valley

Australian Greens

Beginning on 1st August, Greens MP David Shoebridge will be publishing a series of four short documentary videos on the 195th anniversary of violent events that occurred in the Hunter Valley between 1 August and 1 September 1826, as told by Wonnarua Traditional Owners. The first video is online here.

The month of truth telling is in support of an application by Traditional Owners to the Federal Environment Minister to protect the massacre sites and landscape from destruction by open cut coal mining.

The site of these events is the landscape that surrounds the Ravensworth Estate and Homestead. which is threatened with destruction from the proposed expansion of the Glendell Coal Mine. Glencore, the operator of Glendell, plans to extract over 140 million tonnes of coal in the area entirely destroying the landscape and the history. Glencore has proposed the homestead be relocated 45km away from its original site at a cost of $20 million while the rest of the landscape is destroyed by an open cut mine.

The landscape contains multiple Aboriginal heritage sites and is regarded as ‘hallowed ground,’ by local First Nations people. It is the site of some of the most violent recorded conflicts during the Frontier Wars in NSW. Currently, the estate is one of the last in the region which has not been destroyed by open cut mines. The previous owner of the Glendell mine, Xastra, had pledged to return the land to Traditional Owners.

The Plains Clan of the Wonnarua People have lodged a Section 10 application to protect the land from excavation and the proposed open cut mine under the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act. A decision on that application is now pending from the Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley.

The dates for release of the series coincides with the corresponding events 195 years ago:

1 August 2021: The execution of Jacky Jacky and the following acquittal of Lieutenant Lowe

12 August 2021: The capture and execution of 7 Aboriginal men by the Mounted Police

30 August 2021: Mounted Police reinforced with ‘Aboriginal Trackers’ are dispatched to hunt for Aboriginal men believed responsible for a retaliatory attack on a farm

1 September: Mounted police massacre of 18 Wonnarua people

Greens MP and Aboriginal Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“We’ve worked with Traditional Owners to tell some of the story about what happened to the Wonnarua People at this place because it’s too important to be forgotten, and for the place where it happened to be destroyed.

“What happened here over the course of just one month 195 years ago should be taught in schools, known and understood by all Australians, not bulldozed for even more open cut mining.

“The landscape surrounding Ravensworth is steeped in deep significance for First Nations people in the Hunter Valley and across the country.

“The landscape here tells the story of what happened and the awful violence perpetrated against First Nations people, it must be protected and the story must continue to be told.

“After the devastating destruction of the Jukaan Gorge, the community is deeply concerned about what mining companies are doing to critical First Nations sites.

“It is essential we tell these truths now, because unless people join in to support the heritage protection claim, this entire history will be wiped off the map by open cut coal mines.

“You can’t relocate this landscape any more than you could move the Opera House or Uluru, and the suggestion of relocating the Homestead pretends buildings are the only things that have historical value, ignoring the role of landscape and place.

“It’s obscene to suggest keeping old buildings while digging up massacre sites and burial places to find coal.

“This is just another attempt to erase all but the desired white colonial history of ‘brave settlers’, and erase the violence underpinning the theft of this country and its land.

“Traditional Owners are once again fighting to protect the places important to them and to continue their stewardship of this land. We stand with them” Mr Shoebridge said.

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