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Sacred site that sparked Coniston Massacre handed back

Posted: Thu, October 09, 2014

The 22 year battle for justice by the traditional owners of Yurrkuru (Brooks Soak) had ended today.

During  a ceremony today at Yurrkuru near Yuendumu, Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion handed the title to the Yurrkuru Aboriginal Land Trust to Willowra elder and CLC executive member Teddy Long, on behalf of the traditional owner group.
The square mile of former Crown land surrounded by the Mt Denison pastoral lease includes the sacred site where the dingo trapper Fred Brooks was killed by Aboriginal men in 1928, before Mr Long was born.
The killing triggered a series of reprisal killings of large numbers of innocent Aboriginal people across the region by Constable George Murray. The raids became known as the Coniston Massacre.
“My father explained to me what happened here in the shooting days”, Mr Long said. “He explained every rock hole and soakage where people got shot.”
The Aboriginal Land Commissioner recommended the grant of the block in 1992, however, the Mt Denison pastoralists bitterly opposed the grant.
“I am happy to have my grandfather’s and father’s country, even though it took a long time because the station owners were against it. It’s important for ceremony and culture,” he said.
Mr Long and the men sang a ngatijiri (budgerigar) song while the women performed a bandicoot purlapa (song and dance) and presented the minister with a coolamon and clap sticks.
Approximately 80 traditional owners attended the ceremony.
“They had to wait a long time for their land but they never considered giving up,” said CLC chair and Coniston documentary maker Francis Kelly.
Originally, the traditional owners wanted to set up an outstation on the block, but they changed their minds because the soak is a very small and unreliable source of water and has been fouled by cattle.
They have plans to build a shelter to harvest rain water and provide shade for visitors, as well as feature interpretive materials about the events that led to the massacres.
“Yurrkuru doesn’t only hold deep cultural significance for us but the loss of so many people during the massacres is still causing a lot of sadness across our region”, Mr Kelly said. “It will be good to be able to teach visitors about this place so we can make peace with our shared past”.

 

8 October 2014

 

Contact and stills: Elke Wiesmann 0417 877 579, media@clc.org.au

Video: Michael Taylor 0407 427 774, michael@pawmedia.com.au