Families of Waterloo Creek massacre victims form new association to address

Greg Hoy, Buddy Hippi, Polly Atmore and Paul Spearim were working with Moree Plains Shire Council's Angus Witherby (second from right) on a Memorandum of Understanding to acknowledge the Waterloo Creek massacre. Photo: Lisa Hogben
Greg Hoy, Buddy Hippi, Polly Atmore and Paul Spearim were working with Moree Plains Shire Council's Angus Witherby (second from right) on a Memorandum of Understanding to acknowledge the Waterloo Creek massacre. Photo: Lisa Hogben

The family clans of massacre victims have formed a new association to represent those killed and displaced during the frontier wars.

In the lead up to the 180th anniversary of the Waterloo Creek massacre, which saw hundreds of Gamilaraay men, women and children slaughtered on January 26, 1838, families of the massacre victims have formed the Gamilu Bidi-Wii Banma Baragi-y Families Group.

The association was formed in response to growing wider support from non-Aboriginal people and organisations and represents descendant survivors of those killed and displaced.

“We believe it’s time to formally respond to the growing support from non-Aboriginal people and organisations to address the wrongs of the Waterloo Creek massacre in this 180th year,” Group spokesperson Paul Winangali-Gii Spearim said.

“We know everybody understands we need to recognise, reveal, and respect the devastating affects these killings have on Aboriginal people and their families.

“This an important development in the journey to healing past injustices, maintaining dignity and securing the longer term preservation of the [massacre] site as a point of healing for all the community.”

Negotiations with local, state, and federal bodies to develop appropriate commemorations for these untimely violent deaths will now progress with respect for those who suffered.

“We trust we can look forward to Gamilaraary people managing this sacred tragedy,” Mr Spearím said.

“Up to 500 of our ancestor relatives died – they deserve peace and remembrance in perpetuity.

“Not one of the persons responsible for the killings were brought to justice. No official apology or remedy has been received for these wrongful deaths.”

Mr Spearim, an original descendant survivor of those massacred at Waterloo Creek, said acknowledging this shared grief and sorrow is the first step in helping Gamilaraary people heal and overcome the ongoing impacts of the massacre.

“For many years there has been a committed group of people, myself included, that have been having ongoing discussions with stakeholders to ensure the Waterloo Creek massacre site is preserved,” he said.

“The mass killings were racially motivated and the site is a sacred and solemn place to all Gamilaraay.

“This year marks 180 years and we felt it time to take the next important steps to establish a dedicated group to make the memorial area and visitor centre a reality.

“The site would qualify to hold national heritage significance and managed in perpetuity could act as a racial social healing point.”

The massacre of hundreds of innocent Gamilaraary people coincides with Australia Day – ‘Foundation Day’ – on January 26.

The exact whereabouts of the mass grave remains undiscovered.

Plans to unveil a memorial plaque commemorating the Waterloo Creek massacre on Friday, January 26 have been postponed by Moree Plains Shire Council as further consultation is needed.

The Gamilu Bidi-Wii Banma Baragi-y Families Group held their inaugural meeting on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

Group committee office bearers were elected and new membership received.

The group plan to quickly move to incorporation and have consequently already sought pro-bono legal advice and assistance to help achieve that.

For more information about membership of the group please contact Paul Spearim on 0416 069 788.

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