By Daniel Jantos:
Is there not something in all of us that is restless in the face of an injustice? Winston Churchill may have believed that history was written by the victors, but every historian pursues their craft in the hope that, in time, the fuller story will emerge. And sometimes it does.
On April 17th, many in the Campbelltown/Macarthur region will mark the 200th anniversary of a genocide. Many of us may not have ever heard about it in high school history class. It has come to be referred to as the “the Appin Massacre.” For the Dharawal people, indigenous to the land occupied by the Campbelltown campus of Western Sydney University, this is a solemn and important memorial. The process of reconciliation makes it a memorial we acknowledge together as a part of the shared history of this land and its people.
European settlement of the region began in 1809. Widespread drought in 1814 brought increased numbers of Darug and Gundungurra to the region which was known for its abundance. The Dharawal were known for their hospitality.
Skirmishes around crops and livestock caused the Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, to order the military to apprehend all Aboriginals in the area. On the night of April 17th, after a month of searching and pursuit, an encampment near Appin, beside the Cataract Gorge, was attacked. According to the regiments own account, two women and three children survived. The rest were shot or fell to their deaths over the gorge’s cliffs. No one really knows the numbers but in 1845 the magistrate in Campbelltown reported that the few surviving local indigenous people in the area had all died.
The CruWsible devotes this space and draws attention to this story in honour of the Dharawal people and in the spirit of finding paths towards reconciliation. There will be a memorial ceremony on Sunday, April 17th from 11a.m. – 3p.m. at the Cataract Dam Picnic area, near Appin. There will also be a brief ceremony of acknowledgement on the Campbelltown campus green, at noon on Friday, April 15th. All are invited to come and pause for a few moments in solidarity with the principle that Martin Luther King Jr. stated as, “whatever affects one….affects all.”
Sources include: The Macarthur Catholic Justice, Development and Welfare Network, Appin: The Story of a Macquarie Town by Anne Maree Whitaker and Gavin Andrews, descendant.
Article compiled by Daniel Jantos, Chaplaincy Coordinator, Student Support Services.