It is two hundred years since the massacre at Appin on 17 April in 1816 of many Aboriginal people by the British settlers called the Appin Aborigine Massacre.
When Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie and his wife visited the Cowpastures in 1810, they were welcomed by several small parties of the cow-pastures natives who performed an extraordinary ‘Welcome to Country’ song and dance. Yet within a few short years, orders issued by Macquarie would result in the deaths of many Aborigines.
When the newcomers took up land grants, they cleared and fenced the land, irrecoverably changing the patterns of hunting and gathering that had been followed by the Dharawal people for tens of thousands of years.
Some European settlers formed a close rapport with Aborigines. Charles Throsby of Glenfield was accompanied by Dharawal men when he explored the southern highlands area. Throsby was a persistent critic of European cruel treatment of the Aborigines.
Whereas the mountain natives the Gandangara people had a reputation of being hostile in defence of their people and their land, the Dharawal were peaceful and had no history of aggression.
Unfortunately few settlers could distinguish between the two groups.
In 1814, Macquarie issued an order in the Sydney Gazette, admonishing settlers in the Appin and Cowpastures area saying ‘Any person who may be found to have treated Aborigines with inhumanity or cruelty, will be punished?.’
This followed an atrocity when an Aboriginal woman and her children were murdered at Appin.
Two years later, in the drought of 1816, the Gandangara people came again from the mountains in search of food. About 40 farmers armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks and with the arrival of soldiers on 16 April a large number of Aborigines died during clashes.
In the end, more than fourteen (including women and children) met violent deaths as a result. How many others might have died when they plunged over the precipice will never be known. Five prisoners were taken.
The date of the infamous massacre at Appin was 17 April 1816.
I wrote my book – ‘Shadows of Our Dreaming’ Published by Angus and Robertson Australia in 1983, in order to honour the memory of Aboriginal people who lived in Australia for about 60,000 years in harmony with nature.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people should certainly be recognised in the Australian Constitution. I am sure they would have ‘Welcomed to Country’ the Muslim Community who are now so deeply enriching Australia.