Field trip to Waterloo Creek a step to recognising massacre

REMEMBERING MASSACRE: (Back) Office of Environment and Heritage heritage conservation officer Steven Booby, Waterloo Creek committee member Greg Hoy, Wee Waa Lands Council CEO Robyn Keeffe, Narrabri Shire Council's community development officer Roz Solomon, Gomeroi Nation representative Liz Taylor, Moree Plains Shire Council's director of planning and community development Angus Witherby, North West Local Land Services land services officer, Aboriginal communities Jason Wilson, (front) Waterloo Creek committee member Bronwyn Spearim, Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council chair Marilyn Binge and Moree Plains Shire Council's community development officer Dominic Wilcox at the Waterloo Creek site.

REMEMBERING MASSACRE: (Back) Office of Environment and Heritage heritage conservation officer Steven Booby, Waterloo Creek committee member Greg Hoy, Wee Waa Lands Council CEO Robyn Keeffe, Narrabri Shire Council's community development officer Roz Solomon, Gomeroi Nation representative Liz Taylor, Moree Plains Shire Council's director of planning and community development Angus Witherby, North West Local Land Services land services officer, Aboriginal communities Jason Wilson, (front) Waterloo Creek committee member Bronwyn Spearim, Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council chair Marilyn Binge and Moree Plains Shire Council's community development officer Dominic Wilcox at the Waterloo Creek site.

The hundreds of Aboriginal people slaughtered at Waterloo Creek are a step closer to finally being acknowledged following a successful field trip to what was most likely the massacre site last week.

On Friday, July 14, members of the Waterloo Creek committee (who are driving the memorial project), along with representatives from Moree and Narrabri councils, Moree, Narrabri and Wee Waa Local Aboriginal Lands Councils, North West Local Land Services and the Office of Environment and Heritage, met to review the probable site of the 1838 massacre.

The site, which borders the Moree and Narrabri shire boundaries, was determined as the most likely following surveys of five creeks in the area during initial site identification and preservation work conducted by the LLS and Lands Councils about five years ago.

During Friday’s field trip, Waterloo Creek committee member Bronwyn Spearim conducted a Welcome to Country and a traditional smoking ceremony before the group evaluated the site and discussed a way forward.

A recommended path of action was developed to better understand the history of the site and ways in which it can be acknowledged and protected through site protection, conservation and repatriation.

There was also a suggestion to nominate the site as an Aboriginal Place to protect its cultural heritage.

Ms Spearim, who has been researching the Waterloo Creek massacre for the past five years, said it’s a step forward in putting Waterloo Creek on the map and recognising what happened on January 26, 1838.

“It’s the best thing that these people have come on board to find a solution and work together to acknowledge Waterloo Creek,” she said.

“Our people were taken and slaughtered for no reason. It’s sad knowing there were 300, maybe more, slaughtered under the NSW police.

“There was no justice, no acknowledgement and no knowledge. I want to put it on the map, it has to be acknowledged.”

Ms Spearim would like to see a plaque erected and a memorial held on January 26 each year as a way “for us to heal our souls and for [the victims] to heal their souls”.

Moree Plains Shire Council’s director of planning and community development Angus Witherby said that the day was both moving and productive, with sharing of knowledge and experience amongst the people attending. 

“Everyone had something to offer, and everyone will be contributing to the project moving forward,” he said.   

An important next step is to seek advice from the community for any oral history or family stories related to the events.

The committee is working towards active steps to acknowledge and recognise the site before the end of the year.

The Waterloo Creek site has been included on a map of Aboriginal massacres which is being developed by researchers from the University of Newcastle.

The map can be viewed here.

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