“As the breeze blows, you can hear voices of our ancestors. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt it. The birds sing their songs and the wind tells stories. We’ve just got to listen,” Aunty Sue Blacklock told hundreds gathered at Myall Creek on Sunday.
The stories Myall Creek has to tell are not pretty. The murder of 28 Aboriginal people on the station has been a stain on our history for 180 years. An ugly mark, a reminder of cruel times and a beautiful country formed in the midst of genocide and hatred. And even worse, it was just one of many.
It was an incident all too familiar at the time in our country, when racism reigned and violence against Aboriginal people was barely considered a crime.
But from the moment Frederick Foot reported the murders to Governor Gipps, Myall Creek began turning into something different. As Ted Stubbins noted on Sunday, what made Myall Creek significant among so many cruel acts of violence against Aboriginal people was that a measure of justice was done.
“If there had been more people like Frederick Foot and (Governor) Gipps and Denny Day, and those who stood up in court, we would have had a different history. We wouldn’t have had to hide it in the great Australian silence that persisted until the 1960s and still persists in some localities today,” he said.
The journey wasn’t without its obstacles. The first trial was a failure, with one juror reportedly overheard saying he knew the men were guilty but “would never see a white man hanged for killing a black”.
In 1965, Len Payne’s proposal for a memorial on the site was met with condemnation - a letter to the Bingara Advocate called it “ill conceived, unconsidered, mischievous and an insult to the Bingara people”.
But over time the persistence of those eager to learn from our cruel past and heal together began to pay off until Myall Creek transformed from a place of sorrow to a place of hope. Seven murderers were hanged and today many of their descendants work tirelessly to make amends with the descendants of those who were slain.
And now, the Friends of Myall Creek are working to make the site a true beacon of hope as they seek funding to create an educational centre on the site. It is a worthy project that deserves grassroots support.
Aunty Sue believes her people are finally free.
“I came out here with a heavy heart before and now I can go from this place knowing that their song and spirit is flying high. They are soaring with the eagles,” she said.
“When we first started, we had children dance here. Now they’re grown up and married with children. Thousands of white cockatoos flew, crying out for their souls to be set free. We don’t hear them today, because they are free.
“It’s the first ceremony that I’ve been here that there’s been no cockatoos. They were sitting here. But now they are free, they’re soaring high.”
READ MORE: 180 years on, and what have we learnt?