Melbourne city to honour two hanged Aboriginal Freedom Fighters

ABC TV - News Report

Carolyn Webb The Age January 20, 2014

Melbourne City Council will build a memorial to two Aborigines who in 1842 were the first people executed in Melbourne.

Campaigners say it will bring one of our most important stories into the public eye, and called for a reassessment of the men once dubbed bloodthirsty outlaws.

On January 20, in 1842, 5000 Melbourne citizens watched as Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were hanged for the murder of two whale hunters while resisting white settlement.

At a time of violence between European settlers and indigenous people, the Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson, brought Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner and 14 other native Tasmanian Aborigines to Melbourne in 1839 as intermediaries.

In 1841 Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner and three indigenous women stole guns, and in a six week, guerilla-style campaign against authorities in the Dandenongs and the Mornington Peninsula, burnt and stole from houses and killed two whalers.

After their arrest, they were defended at trial by Redmond Barry, who as a judge 38 years later was to sentence bushranger Ned Kelly to hang. At the 1842 trial, Barry questioned whether the British had legal authority over Aborigines. Read more

John Harding, Broadcaster and Activist (Left) with Dr Jo Toscano, Broadcaster and Activist at the 2014 ceremony and mourning of the freedom fighters, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, at the site of their hanging in Melbourne, 172 years ago.

Every year on the 1842 executions' anniversary sympathisers including Aboriginal elders and historians, hold a ceremony mourning the men at the site of the hanging on the corner of Bowen and Franklin streets, now part of RMIT and near Old Melbourne Gaol. (Images of the 2014 event)

A resolution from a City of Melbourne meeting on December 17 states that council endorses a research paper by Monash University academic Clare Land that lauds Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner's experience as "one of the most important stories of early Melbourne".

The City of Melbourne resolution instructs council management to "finalise proposals" to mark the events surrounding the lives of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner "with a permanent marker outside the Old Melbourne Gaol or Bowen Lane", and to consult Aboriginal, Old Melbourne Gaol and RMIT representatives on its nature.

No details have yet been decided about the nature of a memorial, its cost, size or exact location.

A buoyant Councillor Cathy Oke who spoke at the 2014 commemoration moved the resolution endorsing the memorial. She said: "It's an incredibly important story not only because they were the first to be executed but the way that Aboriginals were treated in Victoria and Melbourne at the time, and the connection to Tasmania."

Cr Oke said Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were "freedom fighters" whose crimes should be "taken in context at the time that this occurred. It's a time in Melbourne when the tensions between whites and the traditional owners, or Aboriginal people, was obviously quite heightened," she said.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle supported the memorial plans.

Speaker - Melbourne Aboriginal Activist, Sharon Firebrace
Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner
172nd Anniversary Commemoration - Gallery
Speaker - Dr Joseph Toscano, Activist & Anarchist
Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner
172nd Anniversary Commemoration - Gallery

The presentation to council members

The next step ... The Monument Design

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Public monument proposal - 'The Freedom Fighters'
Campaign to erect a public monument to Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, who paid the ultimate price for resisting white colonisation in Victoria.


'The Forgotten War' - slaughter on stolen lands
While white Australians remember their casualties in overseas wars, they don't even comsider of Aboriginal deaths during the brutal colonisation of Australia.