2009 commemoration for Indigenous freedom fighters Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner

Gunnai elder, Robbie Thorpe spoke at the 2009 commemoration for indigenous freedom fighters Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, giving the welcome to country address and smoking ceremony to show respect to the spirits. His address highlighted in a very personal fashion that aboriginal people have never ceeded sovereignity over their land and even today a treaty is needed to advance the reconciliation process and resolve the many injustices of the invasion and dispossession of the aboriginal people from their land, culture and life.

60 people attended the commemoration on the anniversary of the execution on January 20, 1842. They were the first judicial executions in Victoria, which were public and attended by 5000 people, a quarter of the population of Melbourne at the time.

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were part of a group of five Tasmanian aborigines brought to the mainland by Chief Protector George Robinson to 'civilise' the mainland indigenous people. After a brief time, they were left to fend for themselves. And so the five launched a guerilla style campaign of harassing settlers around Western Port and South Gippsland to leave their stations. Their capture took a number of months and three military expeditions.

Upon capture, they were brought back to Melbourne where the two men were put on trial for murder and sentenced to be executed. They were not allowed to present statements or evidence in court on their own behalf as they were seen as heathens and prohibited from giving evidence in their own defence.