Righting the harms caused by past wrongs

After the fishing season, they dispersed and set off back to their homes in the hinterland, looking for pickings along the way.

On their return to the hinterland during October and November, they found sheep were an easy meal at stations at Kilcoy, Collington and Cressbrook in the Brisbane Valley, which were occupied from 1841.

The various tribes had been peacefully going about their routine for eons. They didn’t understand or appreciate the white man’s possessiveness about his animals.

The white landowners were annoyed by the effrontery of these people taking their sheep and took matters into their own hands to deal with these “pests”.

The following January and February of 1842, Aborigines gathered for the bunya feasts and it was early in February when a large number of Aborigines, about 60, were massacred on Kilcoy Station.

They had raided a shepherd’s hut and eaten poisoned flour and meat specially left for them. Two shepherds were blamed. The owners were elsewhere and could not be implicated, it was said.

There is no documentation of the Kilcoy massacre, so the full story will never be known. But there were others, in other places.

On the 11th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s Sorry Speech, the Beulah Community of Buderim met on 13 February to recall the injustices to Australia’s first people.

Brisbane historian, Frank Uhr recalled the stolen generation and the forced removals and shared his research of these massacres. The deaths of so many led to organised resistance to white settlement by strong tribal alliances across southeast Queensland. Fourteen or 15 clans met at Tiaro and decided to take revenge.

And so began organised “frontier wars” or “black resistance”.

There have been just two inquiries – in 1843 and in 1979 – to determine what actually happened to cause so many deaths.

The details remain a great mystery as evidence is difficult to find.

Kabi Kabi traditional owner, Melinda Serico told of how her family survived the massacre. 

From family oral history she has learnt that her ancestors were out fishing at the time of the massacre, otherwise they too would have died.

She also told the story of her grandmother, Lucy, who was born at Tuchekoi on the Mary River.

Lucy was six when, with other family members, she was forcibly removed to live at Barambah now known as Cherbourg, near Murgon.

Aborigines from different groups were all lumped together and their lives were changed forever. Saltwater people were mixed with desert people.

Their culture and language were lost as strict laws forbade them practising their customs.

They needed permission to travel into Murgon and generally were not allowed to leave Cherbourg.

Lucy was nine when she was placed with a white family to work as a domestic. She was treated so poorly she had to be returned to Cherbourg.

She recalled diseases such as chicken pox causing deaths among Aborigines. It raises questions of the deliberate introduction to the community. 

In the spirit of reconciliation between Aborigines and Europeans many people express their own “sorry” stories. Australia-wide, the stolen generation, the forced removals and the massacres are a terrible blot on our history.

While some of us may doubt the sincerity of apologising, it is a step forward.

Hopefully, healing and reconciliation occurs where there is an understanding of past wrongs and the harm caused by them.

Image:  A gathering of Kabi Kabi in about the 1880s. Image: John Oxley Library