All the history in this area needs to be in one place.Noeline Briggs-Smith
MYALL Creek could become the site of a “world class facility” rivalling those around the globe, if the ambitions of the Friends of the Myall Creek Memorial committee are realised.
Committee member Kelvin Brown hinted at plan to have a new facility built at the site in coming years to add to immortalise and commemorate the story of 28 indigenous people massacred on Myall Creek station, and the ensuing trial and convictions of the white settlers that committed the atrocity, while bringing cultures together in the spirit of reconciliation.
“We are continuing to move forward, slowly of course, because these things move at a glacial progress, but we are getting closer to our end game to have a facility,” Kelvin said.
“A world class facility, here on site, up at the memorial, which will be the rival of anything you would see anywhere else in the world.”
The ambition came to light alongside Moree historian Noeline Briggs-Smith (OAM) calling for a national keeping place for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal family history around the area.
“I just think it is so important, it is imperative, that we get a national building here to take in all our history. Not just Aboriginal history, because we have an associated history--all the history in this area needs to be in one place,” Noeline said, after her moving speech at the memorial site about her grandmother’s connection to Myall Creek and the surrounding district.
For Noeline, the need for a national keeping place came after the success of the Dhiiyaan Centre in Moree, in which she said thousands of Aboriginal family histories have been collected.
Non-Aboriginal people... can go back to repositories, archives, libraries, museums--Aboriginal people can’t.Noeline Briggs-Smith
“Look at those programs, like ‘Who do you think you are’. Non-Aboriginal people, especially those who have come out from England or from Ireland, they can go back to repositories, archives, libraries, museums--Aboriginal people can’t,” she said, noting the oral traditions of Aboriginal people and the associated history with later settlers.
“When you start doing family history, it is like a giant jigsaw puzzle--it all starts to come together and it is vital information for people in the future to look back and do their family history,” she said.
“If we can have a national keeping place up here, it is for all our history, not just for Aboriginal or for the early settlers, it is for all our history on the whole. We have an associated history and it needs to be preserved. It needs to be documented.”
Bundarra School’s Matt Pye said he thought the notion was long overdue.
“I think it is very important for both sides, the indigenous and the non-indigenous people, (for) recognition and recognition of cultural significance.
For Inverell elder, Aunty Sue Blacklock, it has been in the pipeline since the original Myall Creek memorial committee.
“We spoke about this when the original committee first started, and we talked about a keeping place, and now this plan is going to go ahead and we are going to get it,” she said.
A world class facility, here on site, up at the memorial, which will be the rival of anything you would see anywhere else in the world.Kelvin Brown
Matt, however, said achieving reconciliation would not be done by political rhetoric and symbolic gestures. He said until there is decisive action, and recognition of both culture’s historical and current rifts, there was still much work to be done.
“I think, in the first instance, we are recognising the fact that white men have done Aboriginal people injustice, but further than that, if we are going to be perfectly honest, it is still happening today,” he said.
“It is happening in education, in employment, in health services, and until people come together and admit that it has happened and it is continuing to happen, and until people commit to genuinely changing, nothing is going to change. It has to happen at ground level, not nationally. It has to happen in small places like Myall Creek, and Tingha, and Moree. Things have to be put in place to change at the local level, and they have to be genuine.”
Meanwhile, for the Myall Creek committee, ambitions are high for a permanent centre near the Myall Creek site.
“We want people to be able to say when they come to Australia, they come to see Ayers Rock, or Uluru, they come to see the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and other places of interest, as also come and see the Myall Creek facility and visit the memorial and take on board all that has happened there,” Kelvin said.