Death sites

August 08, 2017

A map has revealed Goulburn Weir and Benalla were locations where the massacres of Aboriginal families took place.

Researchers from Newcastle University unveiled a map, which shows massacre sites across Australia’s east, after almost four years of exhaustive research.

The project has so far documented 150 massacres and 6000 deaths along the east coast, including Benalla, Barmah Lake, Goulburn Weir and Campaspe Shire.

Each site has been recorded, along with multiple accounts of the battles, with information from newspaper reports, settler diaries, letters and court records.

Shepparton indigenous elder Uncle Lance James said researchers had highlighted the issue, which was largely under-researched and ignored in Australia.

The massacres, which took place less than 100 years ago, caused the sudden loss of more than 30 per cent of individual clans, leaving the survivors vulnerable to further attack and with a diminished ability to hunt food and produce further generations.

Those killed were relatively defenseless against the assault, being on foot, unarmed and at a significant disadvantage to the colonials.

Uncle Lance said many of Shepparton’s Yorta Yorta people were descendants of those who had survived the carnage at Barmah and said national recognition would be a step towards healing.

He said indigenous leaders were in talks to place plaques at the notorious sites, but nothing had yet been finalised.

‘‘We don’t have any anger towards it, but I think when we acknowledge our own history then reconciliation will take place for all Australians,’’ Uncle Lance said.

‘‘I don’t think many Australians are aware of what took place and much of our history has been washed away with the sands of time.

‘‘We’re not there to shame people or make them feel terrible, we just want everyone to acknowledge our past history.’’

The interactive map includes information about the number of people killed at each site, the type of weapons used and who was responsible.

The massacre at the Goulburn River, near Goulburn Weir, details an attack that happened to several men, women and children from the Daungwurrung tribe.

The clan was out hunting possum when a group of colonials offered them flour to make damper, before shooting several dead.

Shepparton reconciliation group co-convener Dierdre Robertson said many Australians believed Aborigines had been decimated by disease, but only a few were aware of the truth.

‘‘It becomes a bit more acceptable when people think there was no resistance, but in actual fact it was remorseless,’’ Ms Robertson said.

‘‘Part of our journey towards a truly reconciled nation is to acknowledge our shared history and the continuing impact of this on the lives of Aboriginal people today.

‘‘(The researchers’) work is another step in helping us achieve this.’’

To view the map, visit

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