National Heritage List inscription date 7 June 2008
Bronze plaque at the Myall Creek Massacre and Memorial Site reads:
In memory of the Wirrayaraay people who were murdered on the slopes of this ridge in an unprovoked but premeditated act in the late afternoon of 10 June 1838. Erected on 10 June 2000 by a group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians in an act of reconciliation, and in acknowledgment of the truth of our shared history. We Remember them (Ngiyani winangay ganunga).
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Conflict that lead to massacre
The massacre of approximately 30 Wirrayaraay people at Myall Creek on 10 June 1838, the subsequent court cases and the hanging of seven settlers for their role in the massacre were pivotal in the history of the relationship between settlers and Aboriginal people. The Myall Creek massacre was the first and only time the colonial administration intervened to ensure the laws of the colony were applied equally to Aboriginal people and settlers involved in frontier violence, and the first time Europeans were executed for the massacre of Aboriginal people.
Despite instructions from the British Colonial Office to treat Aboriginal people with goodwill and kindness, competition for land and resources invariably resulted in frontier violence.
In response to the intensifying conflict the colonial administration ordered settlers to defend themselves and ordered Aboriginal people to stay away from European settlements. Aboriginal people were increasingly viewed as a serious threat to settlers and it wasn't long before settlers took things into their own hands.
The massacre at Myall Creek was the culmination of a series of conflicts between settlers and Aboriginal people in the Liverpool Plains region. The twelve men responsible for the massacre included freed men and assigned convicts that had spent a day unsuccessfully pursuing Aboriginal people. When they came to Myall Creek station they discovered a group of Wirrayaraay who they rounded up and tied together. A few minutes later they were led off and massacred. Two days later the men returned to the scene of the crime to burn their victims’ remains.
The aftermath of the massacre was marked by a series of unusual events for the time. Firstly, it was unusual the massacre was reported to authorities and secondly, it was unusual that the then Governor assigned a police magistrate to investigate the reports.
Eleven of the twelve settlers involved in the massacre were arrested for the murders but were found not guilty. Seven of the men were then re-arrested and tried again. The second trial delivered a guilty verdict and the judge sentenced all seven to death.
On 18 December 1838, after all legal objections were exhausted and the Executive Council rejected petitions for clemency, the sentences were carried out. The hanging of the seven European settlers caused controversy throughout the colony and led to heightened racial tensions and hardened settler attitudes towards Aboriginal people.
Since the 1850s, the story of the massacre has been retold in a number of poems and books and has continued to remind and teach Australians about the mistreatment of Aboriginal people during the period of frontier conflict. The story has also become a symbol of Australia's reconciliation movement.
In 2000, 162 years after the massacre, the Myall Creek Memorial Committee opened the Myall Creek Memorial 'in an act of reconciliation and in acknowledgment of the truth of our shared history'. This memorial brought together the descendants of the victims, survivors and perpetrators of the massacre in an act of reconciliation.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Myall Creek Massacre and Memorial Site national heritage listed place
Indigenous people are the primary source of information on the value of their heritage and should be consulted on a proposed action likely to significantly impact on the listed Indigenous heritage values of the place and/or on a protected matter that has Indigenous heritage values (like listed threatened species).
Prior to undertaking any action, proponents should contact the appropriate Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of the land on which the action will occur that has listed values that may be significantly impacted, as well as the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of adjoining lands that may be significantly impacted by the action.
A letter from the appropriate representative bodies declaring that they have been adequately consulted on the action informs the Department that a best practice approach has been undertaken. Further information on Aboriginal representative bodies is available from Native Title Corporations or via local Aboriginal Land Councils. Guidance about best practice Indigenous engagement can be found at Engage early – guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).