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Massacres Memorial launched in WA's South East

Kokenarup massacre: In 1880, a family group of approximately 36 First Nations people were massacred about 15 kilometres from the Ravensthorpe in Western Australia's south west region. One account states that John Dunn, a farm worker, attacked and raped a young Nyoongar girl and in accordance with the Nyoongar lore of that region he was subsequently killed by Yandawulla Dibbs and a group of local Nyoongar men. Dunn's overseer sent out word of the killing, and returned with a large group of armed settlers who rounded up and slaughtered around 36 Nyoongar men, women and children.
The Kukenarup memorial, 15km west of Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, and the accompanying walk trail<br>Image: Tara De Landgrafft
The Kukenarup memorial, 15km west of Ravensthorpe in WA, and the accompanying walk trail
(Image: Tara De Landgrafft)

Organisers say they hoped that the Memorial would prompt reconciliation between farming and the First Nations communities in regional Western Australia

ABC Rural 'WA Country Hour' Tara de Landgrafft 26 May 2014

Noongar elders and sisters Carol Petterson and Roni Grey Forrest

'Reconciliation is an action, not a word, and that's what's happened here today' -
Carol Petterson, Noongar Elder


Pictured: Nyoongar elders and sisters Carol Petterson and Roni Grey Forrest
(Image: Tara De Landgrafft)

The location is where the region's original pastoral station was established by the Dunn brothers in the 1860s, but it was also where a brutal massacre of about three dozen Noongar people took place 135 years ago.

It has taken eight years of effort from both parties, but now the area is home to a memorial, picnic spot and walk trail.

Noongar Elder Carol Petterson said it was one of the first memorials of its kind in Australia, acknowledging the past and reconciling the future for both the local Indigenous people and agricultural industry.

"It's important because it's a hallmark of the reconciliation process. Reconciliation is an action, not a word, and that's what's happened here today," she said.

Carol's sister Roni Grey Forrest was one of the project instigators, after researching the history behind the massacre.

She said the memorial had been a long time coming.

"When dad first told me about it in the 70s, when I used to ask about things, I lived not far from here on a farm and he came to visit me, I actually didn't believe it when he told me," she said.

More than 200 people gathered at Kukenarup for the official opening of a memorraial to the massacre, about 15 kilometres west of Ravensthorpe, on Thursday 21 May 2015 to witness the historic event.

(Image: Tara De Landgrafft)

"I thought it must be absolutely impossible that people could still have skeletons in riverbeds.

"The stories started coming out thick and fast and there's always been the Wajala (white man) side of the stories told. There was never the Noongar side told.

"So I wanted to do the white thing, I guess, and write our stories down, because I am a child of a mother and father black and white so I felt like we should write them down."

Ravensthorpe historian Ann Williams said that, while the location's history was marred by sadness, she hoped everyone could enjoy the memorial that had been lovingly and thoughtfully erected.

"It might have taken a long time, but now we have achieved something," she said.

Colin Hughes helped to build the Kukanarup memorial and he too hoped that the community and tourists alike could appreciate the significance of the project.

"There's always been conflict, whether it be different races or different religions, so this was one that happened all those years ago of course and hopefully we can put it to bed as such and we can move on from here as one," he said.