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Myall Creek Massacre (1838)

In 1838 white settlers murdered 28 Aboriginal men, women and children near Myall Creek Station. The massacre is a harrowing reminder of Australia’s colonial violence and one of the rare cases where killers were tried and hanged. On 10 June 1838, a group of white settlers murdered 28 Aboriginal men, women and children near Myall Creek Station in northern New South Wales, near Bingara. Seven of the killers were tried and hanged.

The Myall Creek Massacre now serves as both a harrowing reminder of Australia’s colonial violence towards Aboriginal people and an example of modern-day reconciliation. In 1838 white people had settled Australia for just 51 years. Pastoralists were pushing into Aboriginal land, dispossessing Indigenous people from the land that nurtured them physically and spiritually.

Aboriginal people did not give up the land that they had looked after for millennia without a fight. White settlers engaged in many clashes with Aboriginal people at the frontier. Fearing to be outnumbered by Aboriginal tribes some settlers escalated low-level skirmishes to the atrocities we now know as Australia’s massacres of Aboriginal people.

With the eyes of the law often several days’ ride away the settlers had little to fear. Gangs of stockmen went on what was known as ‘the Big Bushwhack’ or simply ‘the Drive’: a hunt for Aboriginal people which lasted several months. They thought there was nothing wrong with shooting Aboriginal people or raping Aboriginal women.

Among the massacres, the one at Myall Creek differs from the many other massacres of Aboriginal people in that it is a well documented and extreme example of what white people were capable of perpetrating on Aboriginal peoples.

Note, however, that the Myall Creek massacre if not famous for what happened to the Aboriginal victims, but for what happened to the white perpetrators.

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