Indigenous Freedom Fighters Commemoration Day






Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner
Tunnerminnerwait & Maulboyheenner
The Freedom Fighters
Read More about the History
and the Commemoration

Joseph Tocsano Anarchist Age Weekly Review 20th January 2010

The intense disquiet felt by an increasing number of Australians about celebrating Australia's national day on the 26th January – the day a colonisation process began at Botany Bay in 1788 which led to the brutal and violent dispossession of people who had inhabited this continent for over 40,000 years has all but been ignored by successive governments and the fourth estate.

The time has come for both indigenous and non indigenous Australians who find the idea of celebrating this country's national day on such an inappropriate day to set aside a day to commemorate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander freedom fighters who paid the ultimate price to protect their families, their culture and their land from an onslaught by a people who were willing to use the most brutal and inhumane practices to eradicate indigenous Australians so they could steal their lands for their own personal gains.

For far too long Australians have written and re-written Australian history to justify their refusal to confront the past and enter into meaningful negotiations with the descendants of the survivors of this invasion. In 2006 and 2007 the Melbourne based Anarchist Media Institute organised a commemoration to mark the judicial murder of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, two indigenous freedom fighters from Tasmania who, on the 20th January 1842, were the first people publicly executed in Melbourne.

They paid the ultimate price for waging war against the Crown.

In 2008, realising the public execution of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner was an event that was pivotal in Australian history, the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Commemoration Committee was created to organise a public commemoration on the 20th January since 2008. Three years later all the attempts of the Commemoration Committee to highlight the unfinished business that still exists between indigenous and non indigenous Australians and their efforts to establish a significant public monument on the spot the men were executed on that fateful day on the 20th January 1842, have been largely ignored. The Melbourne City Council has put the issue on the back burner, the Governor General, Quentin Bryce and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard send their apologies when asked to speak.

Reconciliation between indigenous and non indigenous Australians cannot occur until the past is publicly acknowledged. Australians unwillingness or inability to grasp the idea that celebrating this county's national day on the day the colonisation process began is both offensive and inappropriate demands a national response from those indigenous and non indigenous Australians who believe reconciliation is much more than a Prime Ministerial apology on behalf of the government, not the Australian people.

The Melbourne based Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Commemoration Committee calls on all those Australians who are interested in reconciliation to mark the 20th January as Indigenous Freedom Fighters Commemoration Day. Six days before the traditional “Australia Day” celebrations it provides an opportunity for all Australians who want reconciliation to use the past to understand the present and change the future. We call on all those Australians who believe reconciliation is needed to lance this public carbuncle to follow our example. We call on other Australians to learn their local history, make contact with indigenous Australians and form groups across the country that on the 20th January 2012 – the 170th Anniversary of the execution of the indigenous freedom fighters Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner will be marked by public commemorations across the country that recognises the ultimate sacrifice made by so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders resisting a colonisation process that attempted to eradicate them and continues to deny their resistance.

Reconciliation between indigenous and non indigenous Australians based on justice, not charity, will only begin to occur when Australians from all walks of life set up groups around the country who acknowledge the past. Acknowledging the 20th January as Indigenous Freedom Fighters Commemoration Day provides a mechanism to kick start a process that has been stillborn as a result of public apathy, government indifference and overt hostility from powerful sections of Australian society who continue to deny the past for their own personal gain.

From the: Anarchist Age Weekly Review
Number 914
10th January 2011 – 16th January 2011


Commemoration Site: Corner Bowen and Franklin Streets, Melbourne
Anarchist Age Weekly Review
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Comments

Personal Observation

by Jo Toscano

A familiar face here, there, over there, hidden in the growing crowd the dozen or so stalwarts who turned up for the first Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Commemoration in 2006 are lost in a sea of new faces. The young outnumbered the old, the very elderly, the sick, the lame (no it’s not a biblical story) make up the rest of the crowd. Midday, 20th January 2011, the 169th Anniversary of the execution of the indigenous freedom fighters Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner.

On this small rise diagonally across from the Melbourne City Baths these men were executed for the same reasons Australians commemorate on Anzac Day. The irony was not lost on the growing crowd of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians who gathered to pay their respects. The familiar faces blended into the crowd as the guest speakers made their point. Others took to the microphone to speak.

The live broadcast on 3CR cut out at 1:00pm, the crowd eager to talk to their neighbours finally took to the street, walking silently from the execution site to the burial plots hidden under Melbourne’s most popular market, the Queen Victoria Market, to pay their respect to two indigenous freedom fighters who paid the ultimate price in a story that has not yet been finalised. Unfinished business cannot be finalised by an apology on behalf of the government of the day.

Unfinished business cannot be put aside by a High Court decision that recognises indigenous Australians had rights to land in law because of their prior occupation of this land. Unfinished business does not go away because one party refuses to acknowledge the other.

Today people took the first step in a journey that has turned a local commemoration into a national day of healing that will kick start a stalled reconciliation process that should have been finalised decades ago.

The 20th January, Indigenous Freedom Fighters Day, is one step that all Australians who want to acknowledge the past and change the future need to make on a personal journey that aims to finalise the unfinished business that still exists between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians today.

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