Myall Creek Massacre Commemoration Weekend

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The Myall Creek Massacre Memorial is a  healing place. This is our second pilgrimage out to Bingara to participate in the memorial commemoration. A pilgrimage for every Australian who cares about our shared history and acknowledges white Australian has a black history. Being the 180th Anniversary since the Massacre we had the opportunity to participate in a full day symposium at the Universary of New England on Friday and I met Bruce Pascoe who gave the key note address. I had read his original Dark Emu but the latest edition has so much more in it as more and more information comes to light. Thank you Bruce Pascoe for inverting almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. It makes us all richer. My poem shared history, I read at the memorial  will be published in The Good Oil SGS later in June.

Thank you also to Lyndall Ryan for her tenacity at research on Mapping the Massacres. with her new interactive map. When my sister, Margaret Hede, sent me a map a year ago of Lyndall’s  work I was stunned, blown away as the saying goes and to meet her and listen to the next stage of  her work was uplifting. One can google Map of massacres to find lots of information.

Photos below of Bruce Pascoe and Lyndall Ryan amd yours truly with Bruce’s updated book



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The next two photos below show over 1000 people gathering at Myall Creek and  holding my Grandson’s winning entry in the Children’s’ Vision and Dreams for the Future Competition . Thomas Keating-Jones lives in England but i am proud of my daughter Elizabeth assisting him to enter  and helping him understand the word Empathy.




Myall Creek Massacre Commemoration

Myall Creek Memorial 180th anniversary program:18838942_1797371287241211_2834088407915097287_n

The four-day program of activities (7-10 June 2018) planned for the 180th anniversary will include:

  • Thurs 7 June: a historical exhibition at the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place about the history of the Myall Creek Memorial;
  • Friday 8 June: the Myall Creek and Beyond one-day symposium at the Oorala Aboriginal Centre, UNE exploring the historical, legal and cultural significance of the massacre;
  • Friday 8 June: the opening of the contemporary art exhibition Myall Creek and Beyond and an exhibition by Inverell based artist Colin Isaacs at NERAM in Armidale;
  • Saturday 9 June: Sounds of the Country concert at the Roxy Theatre in Bingara.
  • Sunday 10 June: the Oorala to Myall Creek bus for members of the local Aboriginal Community, UNE students and staff to attend the memorial event.
  • Sunday 10 June: the 180th anniversary memorial event at the Myall Creek Memorial near the site of the massacre (near Bingara).

Sunday 10th June the 180th Anniversary of the Myall Creek Massacre



A very special commemoration  at the site of the Myall Creek Massacre.was experienced by about 1500 people gathered with descendents of those killed and those who killed j in a grassroots reconciliation movement at the sombre and informative memorial.

Again it raises awareness of the Myall Creek Massacre as a national identity and as a formative reconciliation event. It is now part of our shared history.  Michael and I had the alarm on and drove our 20 kms to the meeting place an hour early.

What serenity is this beautiful land.  Brown grasses, fields stretching to the hills the amazing trees and the wafting mist.

Unlike Friday with the Symposium where i wrote many notes for this day I arrived back after this amazing day  out at the memorial with my mind filled with happiness. Yes happiness and yet we had been at a commemoration of a most violent crime which is being noted as genocide. I think the happiness was  because I felt HOPE about being together where people held hands, joined together and walked with determination for the future of our nation.

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There were many highlights reading my poem, shared history at this sacred memorial on the ridge overlooking the slope of the massacre and having a great group listening and taking a copy..

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My grandson Thomas winning the poetry award for the children  competition Thoughts and dreams 180  years on:  What have we learnt.  I will put his poem up in a few days.  


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I have no notes for the day.

What caught my eye was a crisp clear winter Sunday morning. with a mist snaking along the river.
What touched my heart was a coming together of many people from all over the country for love and reconciliation 
What whispered  in my soul   We are here standing together and that is amazing
We gathered in a field  20 kms out of Bingara. The CWA had coffee and tea for all and we ordered a lunch. for later. We had a minutes silence and some speeches then set out for a walk of about a kilometre to the site.


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There was the  welcome to country, the lighting of the fire, a bull roarer ringing out to let the ancestral spirits know we are here,  With vibrant dancing and song , clapping sticks and the earthy drone of the didgeridoo, more then 1500 of us singularly filed before the young man holding the fire in a coolamon fanning the eucalypt leaves making the white smoke for our cleansing, there was a woman who signed our foreheads with red ochre and then the walk to each stone along the way where students read the information on the stones and then at the Memorial we gathered.

It took a few hours for this as you can imagine. And at the memorial lots of speeches, singing, readings, and two candles lit  . . the red one by the descendent of perpetrators reminding us of the blood brutally shed on this slope and the children came forth and lit the green candle a symbol of hope, healing and new life. Aunty Sue Blacklock a descendent of a survivor of the Myall Creek massacre, and a Kamilaroi elder said it was very emotional on their first few visits to the site more then 25 years ago.
They built a cairn of rocks and reflected on the sorrow of the place.  
They placed a red bottle brush on an old rock.  
It was a painful place, sad,  full of sorrow. many could not go there.
In time when two other descendants of survivors became known  they had meetings to make a memorial and then one day a descendant of a perpetrator walked in embraced and asked forgiveness. This memorial was opened in 2000 and victim and perpetrator walked together as one.
On the day of the first public commemoration when they were all gathered with story, music and song ,
Aunty Sue says:

A large number of white cockatoos flew up from nowhere and circled in the sky . My heart was freed. I have no more heaviness in my heart. Their souls were freed that day . Our ancestors souls were set free that day” 



reconciliation black and white together

A moment of reconciliation when the descendents of the victims and  perpetrators stood side by side in solidarity of shared history.

Now each year on this anniversary we come together to rememberIMG_5290and
today we stand here together and it is amazing.


After the Symposium the day wasn’t finished .We drove from the University to NERAM (New England Region Art  Gallery and Museum) for the opening of the contemporary art exhibition  Myall Creek and Beyond. Here we saw work by many talented artisans, listened to Indigenous Music and sipped champagne.

Of alf the special  things I have experienced it was the seeing or more experiencing the  possum cloak  which took close to 80 hours of work by a gathering of women for the Myall Creek Commemoration.



Two other events that enriched our long weekend was a historical exhibition at the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place .

and on the Saturday a concert at the Roxy Theatre in Bingara.Sound of the Country.



Myall Creek Memorial Commemoration Weekend

Myall Creek and Beyond  Symposium



Myall Creek 1838 and beyond symposium  at University of New England in Armidale was a very full day, with papers from many academics . It featured a great line up of  artists, writers, poets, song writers and dancers, historians, lawyers and commentators. This word  beyond  to mean not  just moving on but deepening and spreading the story like roots deep into the soil become the anchor of a tree.

Of course this weekend was especially focused on the 180th anniversary of the Myall Creek Massacre but many spoke of seeing beyond 1838 to find its significance in history, law and culture. And it is seen hopefully, as a reaching out to many other killing fields identified and unidentified and  both still in pain.

It was especially important to meet Lyndall Ryan from Newcastle University whose paper explained the online map in which she is compiling details of massacre sites, as they meet the criteria to be designated as a place of a massacre. We have to memoralise all the sites,  acknowledge and be aware, find the evidence for ordinary Australians to understand. This is an important part of the story of who we are as Australians. It can no longer he secret, hidden, whitewashed.  Australia has a black history.

It is white fella business and black fella business to move forward.  If we do not know and acknowledge our past we cannot be present to move into the future. Again it is like a tree, if it does not have its roots planted deeply into the earth, its present cannot be health giving and its future is one of weakness.

Myall Creek is part of a National project,  a very important movement towards Reconciliation.  It is a catalyst.  It acknowledges Australia has a black history, and that we are prepared finally to listen.



Bruce Pascoe, and myself.  Bruce is the author of Dark Emu and he gave the keynote address ‘Australian’s Failure to Know its History’

My highlight was meeting the historian Bruce Pascoe, author of the well known Dark Emu and I was able to buy a new updated edition as more and more  evidence comes forward and he updates the history.

His key note address was titled “Australian’s Failure to Know its History”

This is not a summary it is just my notes from his inspirational speech. ( Michael wrote notes too and comparing our noted,we realise everyone picks up different things.

Aborigine knowledge is all around us, deep in the earth, in the waters, the rivers and the lakes and high in the sky, if you but change your perspective and listen and look around . 
Sometimes i sit and watch mother earth my mother talking to me: she teaches me how to behave.
We  have to shift our understanding of Indigenous life. In the future the young ones, will please God learn the truth of history.
Aboriginal people  had a fishing and agricultural life. They were the first agriculturalist .  They had the first tools: Picks have been found ,  grooved where a wooden handle was held probably by reeds and spinifex glue.
Grinding stones have been found. They are the rosetta stone in telling the story of culture  for starch in embedded in grooves up to 65, o00 years old. Impregnated grain in stone .
 They were the first bakers. They made a nutritional  bread from a grass seed.  
They irrigated the springs to catch a  eels high in protein .  They built the first traps to catch the fish.  Google fish traps of Bewarana for illustrations,detailed fishing weirs across rivers. (from diaries of Leichhardt)
They sowed seed,
 they harvested crops, 
they irrigated the earth. 
The seed of the kangaroo grass does not need plowing, 
it needs no extra water, 
it needs no superphosphate 
no insecticides . 
Like early Australian’s old rice it was valuable. Kangaroos nibbled it for food but the first herd of sheep that came through trampled it to the ground and ate it to the bare earth. They ate the heart out of it and their hard hooves pounded the ground. So it did not rise again. 
Aborigines were the first inventors of tools,  the first agriculturalist with their seed 
the first chemist creating dough  and the first scientists, that they heated the dough making a chemical change to cook it , to make it light and sweet.
In a diary written “for 9 miles the stooked grass in bundles of sheaves stood”  and Mitchell saw fields of yams stretching to the horizon, 
he said’
“It was as if God had prepared the land for for me”
The aborigines traded along a great web of songlines. Trade, gossip and journey followed these lines, intricate connection of Australia. 
Much research is done by Biomolecular, GIS maps, oleography and palaeography. 
Much was so quickly destroyed by British occupancy. It was gone with the first herd of sheep, before records.  It was gone before the reality was recognised. If we had  but listened.
“ Breath there a man with soul so dead
who never to himself has said 
this is my own , my own sweet country “
 A British slogan yet the British went out and and took others land and pillaged their culture and their language.   They needed credence, so a Papal Bull  was found that said they could invade any land that did not know Jesus Christ,  so occupation of soil took place under the banner of bringing the LIGHT.
Change language:  
We no longer speak of bush tucker and damper and other diminutives . This is BREAD
No longer huts or humpies these are HOUSES 
No longer speak of camps but TOWNS
They had the oldest towns on earth. 
So you see our beautiful country is a lot more then, 
‘put another shrimp on the barbie’  or 
‘where the bloody hell are ya’
We have here the oldest people, oldest culture , oldest civilisation on the earth.

By the end of the Symposium I felt the grit in the oyster grinding around in our struggles and our deafness to the truth of our history. Through our mutual LISTENING it will become the the pearl of our story.  And the story of Myall Creek in time is a beacon of hope. Our nation depends on us, working and walking to a shared history


Aunty Marg and myself enjoying a break at the symposium




Myall Creek Memorial Commemoration Weekend

Myall Creek Memorial CommemorationWeekend

In memory of the Wirrayaraay people who were murdered on the slopes of this ridge in an unprovoked but premeditated act in the late afternoon of June 10th 1838.



Left Sydney early heading north to Scone to have lunch with  Sharon our dear friend. 




Then up over the Liverpool Range to Tamworth for the night.

Here are a few moments of beauty from the window of our car as we drove the New England Highway with sun setting in the west. 


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Today from Tamworth the journey is like a poem in itself. 

tell me about the magpies

their song croons our picnic table 
our soul knows the song 
it plays the strings of our heart 
we leave  the cracked aroma 
of the pepper tree but not the magpies
sadly farewell the tamed Peel River
but not the magpies
they come with us
climb the Liverpool range 
windmills, tanks, cattle and sheep
Goonoo Goonoo, Wallabadah 
Moonni Range, 
Thunderbolt and Hanging Rock
Katingle, Bendemeer, Uralla  
and massive boulder and grass trees 
along the way
and in Armidale the magpies welcome us.
Tell me about the magpies 
and I’ll tell you about me.

Turn west onto the New England Tableland into Armidale. 
Autumn is lingering in the cool crisp highland air. 
The gardens of our motel are stunning with their late rich autumn dress.

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The Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place

Our evening began amidst smoke with a eucalypt aroma 
a smoking ceremony and deep earthy sound of the didgeridoo 
under a dark starry sky around an open fire.
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The young people dancing the echidna dance 
and to more modern music 


then to the opening of the exhibition  Looking Beyond the 1838 Massacre.


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Leonie who gave the welcome to country and her dancers from Duval  High School,
with me at the Opening of the exhibition Myall Creek






Wild: Anthology of Ginninderra Press



So thrilled to be included in the new Anthology of Ginninderra Press  called WILD

My poem Caged  has been announced as one of the included poem and i will be reading it at the launch. 

The Anthology has been edited by Joan Fenney and includes 159 talented poets from across Australia exploring the many facets of WILD – human, environmental and metaphorical. The book will be launched on the 7th July as part of the Ginninderra celebrations in Adelaide. 

Michael and I have got flights and accomodation to be part of the fun and celebrations, the  Launch , to read my poem,  and hear fellow poets read, being part of the book shop session to sell books and a great celebratory dinner to meet all the fellow poets and the publishers.


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Poems selected and edited by Joan Fenney 

Fire on Water: A Book Review



Keating Cover

Fire on Water   by Colleen Keating

Fire on Water—what a strikingly impressive title: and after reading this collection of Colleen’s poems, how apt and appropriate. I remember when I was quite young we purloined some dry-ice from a cold storage facility and put some in a pool of water left in the gutter after a shower. We were fascinated by the bubbles of gas and cloud of vapour that resulted from the chemical reaction. We were just about to leave when an older chap came along, squirted some cigarette lighter fluid onto the puddle and ignited it. Fire on water we were impressed then as I was yesterday when I read Colleen’s poetry book. 

A small suite of poems on downsizing especially resonated with me as we sold our family home last April after 45 years. On page 41 belongings one day my heart unlocked / I donated some and ordered a skip / emptied the garage returned the key / it felt like a heavy pack moved / off my back after a long hike I walked / lightly feeling so much had owned me … 

Colleen’s interest and observation of the minutiae of life is fascinating—only a poet of some standing could record 

‘a tiny brown sparrow in the gutter defies fragility / as it tackles a twig too big for its flight’… taken from choice on page 108. part of the section entitled Exultation. From the same section on page 110, this gem: 

the vicissitudes of a blue butterfly  

she lavishly opens her wings
teal-blue fans quiver  
playing warm still air
motley light from the trees

she darts and dives 
ah with what precision                        IMG_5051
dodges the many hazards 
with angular flight 

creole-eyed she alights to sip
from sweet honey-dewed 
red-dressed grevilleas
moves like notes of music 
up and down around and in me
with lightness and freedom

i think of shy miss butterfly 
sprawled in Eliot’s poem 
pinned and wriggling on the wall

I know dull blue of wings 
silver-pinned under glass

today her iridescent triangles of blue
flash with the sun   like flying jewels
intoxicated with life

The vivid images conjured up by Colleen’s poems are spectacular word-pictures that impress themselves on the reader’s mind. They are recalled with ease long after reading.

The appealing illustration on the front cover is by Colleen’s daughter Elizabeth. 

Colleen’s poetry exposes us to a large range of emotions. Stillborn on page 75 forces us to face up to a situation that as Australians we are, in the main, still reluctant to address. 

winter darkens our land
the tree outside my window
is stark and bare
close up new life is tightly budded 

the news says
our country has turned back refugees at sea people seeking asylum
returned to face those they flee 

history like a drawbridge is pulled up closed off
humanity is stillborn 

hearts are cold
fear deadens minds 

the everywoman in me weeps for the birthing 

the woman with child is weeping the woman in every woman
if you are not weeping
ask why 

Colleen’s book is 122 pages, Perfect Bound published by Ginninderra Press ISBN 978-1-76041-351-4 and is priced at $22.50 and is highly recommended. 

Page 26 FreeXpresSion– March 2018 

Thank you Peter Piper for a great review of Fire on Water and thanks for your dedication to poetry and poetry writers.