By Shelby Brooks
THE ANNUAL commemoration of the hanging of two Aboriginal freedom fighters in 1842, the first people to be hanged in Victoria, drew a sombre and reflective crowd to Wishart Reserve, Wonthaggi, a week before Australia Day.
The Bass Coast South Gippsland Reconciliation Group (BCSGRG) held the ceremony on Wednesday, January 20, exactly 179 years after Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were executed after being captured in Harmers Haven in 1842.
The two men had been taken to the District of Port Phillip, now Victoria, from Tasmania to assist in the ‘civilisation’ of Aboriginal Victorians when they were accused of two counts of murder, which they denied.
About 100 attendees watched on as members of the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation performed a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony before Aunty Dyan Summers spoke about the ongoing aftermath of the hangings.
“This country is still dripping with the blood of Aboriginal people, my people, our people, who resisted colonisation,” she said.
“These two men remained loyal to themselves and to their people, who took up and led the fight for freedom and rights for Aboriginal people.
“To me, these men and women are not criminals, they are not murderers, they’re my heroes.
“The story of these men need to be heard, the truth told. They loved their people and fought dearly for their land.”
BCSGRG secretary Dr Marg Lynn said the event, which is in its fifth year, had gotten better and grown every year.
“I hope everyone attending were humbled by the story today,” she said.
“For those who joined us for the first time, I think it would have been quite a shock and a real insight that is so grounded in our own locality.
“I hope it’s alerted people to the fact that history is still very real, present and contemporary, it’s not just in the past to forget.”