The road to understanding

I grew up in Canberra, 3 hours to the south of Sydney, and for the last 9 years I have lived in the Sutherland Shire. I would visit family in Canberra a couple of times a year, and almost always drive the same route, the shortest route according to my GPS was via the small towns of Appin and Wilton before joining the Hume Highway. I grew in love with this section of the trip, the country towns, the farms, surrounding by national parks, and a windy section of road called Broughton Pass. I would convince anyone I knew to drive via Broughton Pass (-34.228894, 150.742659) for the experience. Something drew me to this location, the huge rock faces and tight corners as you wind down to the bridge crossing the river, several metal pipes reached up the rock face to the pump station on top.

Broughton Pass was one of my favourite trips to drive, that was until I learnt of the history of the location, the dark dark history of Broughton Pass.

It was the collaborative book titled ‘Dharawal’ by Les Bursill and Mary Jacobs, an amazing resource on Indigenous people of my area, that raised my awareness to the tragic events of 1816.

“Between 1814 and 1816, relations between Aborigines and Governor
Macquarie’s government broke down. Macquarie felt compelled to ‘inflict
terrible and exemplary punishments’ on the ‘natives’ by ‘punishing and clearing
the country of them entirely, driving them across the mountains’ (Macquarie’s
Diary, 10th April, 1816.) When Captain Wallis came across the Dharawal men in
Appin, he had them killed and their heads removed. Others were sent to hunt
down the women and children. A massacre occurred by ‘shooting and trampling
them under their horses’ hooves and driving them over the cliffs of Broughton
Pass’ (Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, ‘Genocide’). Nearly all the three thousand
Dharawal speaking people had now been killed or driven off their land.”

– Extract from Dharawal (Les Bursill, Mary Jacobs)

The world famous Sydney Opera House is on Macquarie Street in Sydney, named after Governor Macquarie, streets, suburbs, buildings and business’ throughout Australia use Macquarie’s name.

I was lost, I had to research further, and the more I did, the more real the events became. In 2008, NSW member for parliament’s Phillip Costa read into the hansard a recount of the events, they were not only real, they were recorded in our houses of parliament.

Around 1814, the areas around Appin and Campbeltown had been cleared of its native flora and fauna for farming, however drought conditions were limiting food supply. Indigenous Australian’s were treated as Animals, given rations after their homes and food supplies had been cleared for farming. Tensions became worse with the drought conditions, and fighting between the European settlers and Indigenous Australians sparked to new levels, one possible trigger was a teenage Indigenous Australian boy shot dead for stealing from a farm. Violence flared with loss of life for both groups.

It was Governor Macquarie, who in his own words called for the genocide of Indigenous Australian’s in the area.

200 years ago… An Australian Government called for the mass killing of an entire race. Just 200 years ago.

Macquarie’s troops were sent to the area with clear instructions to kill, the first and most documented event was the murder of several Elders, they were shot and beheaded, with their heads sent back to Governor Macquarie as trophies… Australian’s beheaded, right here, 200 years ago. Their skulls were sent to Scotland, where they remained for 175 years, and have been since returned to the National Museum of Australia.

The troops didn’t stop with death of the elders, all Indigenous Australian’s in the area were targeted, women and children were shot and trampled by horse and cart. A final group had been chased to the top of the cliffs at Broughton Pass, women and children of all ages, they were forced off the cliff and fell to their deaths. To this day, the total number of deaths is still unknown and some estimate it could be in the hundreds.

It has been 200 years, and over the last few years a ceremony has been held in remembrance of the Appin Massacre at Cataract Dam.

To honour the Dharawal people, the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group is hosting a memorial to mark the 200th anniversary of the Appin Massacre.

Time: 11:00am, Sunday 17 April 2016

Location: Cataract Dam Picnic Area