Massacre site listing a good start
The chair of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has thanked the state government for placing an infamous Aboriginal massacre site on the state heritage register, but says it doesn't override the need for greater heritage protection.
Planning Minister Tony Kelly on the weekend announced the heritage listing of the Myall Creek massacre site, where 30 Aboriginal men, women and children were slaughtered by white stockmen in the early 19th century.
NSWALC Chairwoman Bev Manton today welcomed the move, saying it was an important step in the healing process.
"The Myall Creek massacre represents an abhorrent time in Australia's history." Ms Manton said.
"It was not a single abhorrent act - it was just one of many massacres carried out by white settlers around the nation during the days of frontier war.
"But it also represents, in part, a turning point for Aboriginal justice. It was the first time in our history that the white perpetrators were held to account for an Aboriginal massacre.
"This is a part of Australian heritage that should never be forgotten if we want to heal the scars of the past and I thank the NSW government for recognizing this."
But Ms Manton says it is heavily ironic it has come from a government that has refused to ensure greater cultural heritage protection throughout the state.
"While it is important to recognize massacre sites, which are as much a part of Australia's European heritage as they are Aboriginal, it is astounding that the government isn't as enthused about protecting other cultural heritage sites.
"This form of protection cannot happen without control being placed back in Aboriginal hands.
"Right now, our heritage is currently at the whim of government, which is too great a threat to ignore.
"That is why we have consistently called for an independent Aboriginal heritage commission to ensure we are able to protect it."
Ms Manton says the devastating impact of a lack of control can be seen in the stoush over the Brighton bypass - which has already damaged thousand year old Aboriginal artifacts.
"The Tasmanian government is currently riding roughshod over the rights of Aboriginal people with its bypass. The irreversible damage the project has, and will continue to cause is a tragedy.
"This should not be replicated in New South Wales.
"This heritage listing should not be an empty gesture, and if the government is as serious about heritage protection as it says it is, it will work comprehensively with Aboriginal communities to ensure what is occurring in Tasmania will never occur here."
CONTACT: Chris Munro 0438 760 242