Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area

When I look at the hills from my window I do recall that this is Dharawal country. See A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family (2010), So, Mount Keira is of significance to the Dharawal… (2010), I lift my eyes up to the hills… (2011) and Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection (2011).


Welcome to Country in the Dharawal language

Screenshot - 11_04_2016 , 7_48_42 AM

I saw in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Artists shed light on Governor Macquarie’s massacres of Indigenous Australians:

The instructions were clear.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie wrote in his diary in April 1816 that he felt compelled to “inflict terrible and exemplary punishments” upon Indigenous people living on the outskirts of Sydney.

Macquarie’s diary, held at the university named in his honour, records that three military detachments were deployed to clear the country entirely of “hostile natives”…

The soldiers carried out the Governor’s orders with alacrity, with one group killing at least 14 Aboriginal men, women and children near the upper reaches of the Cataract River.

The Appin massacre was one of the earliest officially sanctioned mass killings of Indigenous people but it was not the only one, says Tess Allas, the co-curator of With Secrecy and Despatch, at Campbelltown Arts Centre….

The exhibition, which marks the 200th-anniversary of the Appin massacre, features artworks by Indigenous Australians such as Rover Thomas and Fiona Foley…

See also Secrecy and Despatch exhibition remembers the 1816 Appin Massacre of Indigenous Australians.


A memorial by the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group will be held at the site of the massacre, on April 17

To learn more about that sad chapter in our local story see A History of Aboriginal Sydney – 1810s and “Massacre at Appin in 1816” on the excellent Campbelltown Stories site.

When Governor Macquarie and his wife visited the Cowpastures in 1810, they were welcomed by “two or three small parties of the Cowpastures natives” who performed “an extraordinary sort of dance”. Yet within a few short years, orders issued by Macquarie would result in the deaths of more than fourteen Aborigines.

When Europeans 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 treatment of the Aborigines. Hamilton Hume who, in 1814 with his brother John, made the first of a number of long exploratory trips southwards, did so in company with a young Aboriginal friend named Doual.

Whereas the “mountain natives” (probably Gandangara) 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. “Any person who may be found to have treated them [natives] 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 came again from the mountains in search of food. Europeans were killed and about 40 farmers armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks.

Macquarie ordered Captain Schaw to lead a punitive expedition against the “hostile natives” in the regions of the Nepean, Grose and Hawkesbury rivers. Lieutenant Charles Dawe was ordered to do the same proceeding to the Cowpastures….

Do read the rest of that.


I borrowed that from Resurrection of the History Wars by Ken Parish on Club Troppo. Keep in mind that Lachlan Macquarie was among the most enlightened and humane of our early NSW governors.