Elliston Council members water down history to satisfy white majority

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waterloo bay massacre memorial elliston

The debate in the town of Elliston in South Australia continues over the massacre memorial stone that currently has no story inscribed on it.

Local residents of Elliston were shocked to discover that an Aboriginal massacre site was finally going to be acknowledged in stone. Some of these residents are direct descendants of the first settlers to the region. A petition was started earlier this year that aimed to stop the word massacre being carved into stone at the massacre site, which sits at the top of Elliston’s famous sea side cliffs. The petition resulted in around 80 signatures on paper and another 300 online signatures.

This week the Council finally agreed to allow the use of the word massacre, but it came with strict conditions. The council does not want the term ‘large’ used together with the word ‘massacre’. The local Wirangu people say that up to 200 people died in the widely known Waterloo Bay massacre, which occurred in 1849. The shocking history has been passed down from generation to generation. As part of the Council’s investigation, an anthropologist was hired to help estimate the number of people killed. The anthropologists believes the figure could be as high as 50, but still the council feel the term ‘large massacre’ would cause more concern for the angry non Indigenous residents.

Wirrangu community members at the memorial site

The Council will now present these watered down conditions to the Wirangu community in the hope they will agree. This comes at a time when history is making headlines in Australia. A national debate erupted when it was suggested that the wording on the Captain Cook statue be altered to remove the word discovered. There are still no plans to change this historical lie, but down in Elliston they are fighting to stop the truth.

We’ve got a feeling that this won’t be the last time we write about Elliston. We are yet to see the reaction from the locals who petitioned against the word ‘massacre’. What are they going to do now that the Council went against their wishes? Will the Wirangu community reject the strict condition of not using the word ‘large’? Do the angry residents also believe the Port Arthur massacre (which killed 35 people) was not large?

Did you know that every Aboriginal massacre site in Australia either has no record of the event or a small plaque no bigger than the size of a shoe box lid. The largest frontier massacre site you can find is a site that remembers white settlers in Central Queensland who died in the Cullin-la-Ringo massacre.

 

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