16 April 2020
VIRTUAL FUN WITH HISTORY - WEEK 3by PORT FAIRY & REGION VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
A Tragic Past Set in Stone
South West Victoria’s green, rolling lands look a picture of tranquility, but over 180 years ago they were the scene of tragic conflicts between the local Gunditjmara Aboriginal people and white settlers. The Gunditjmara are the traditional owners of the land between Portland and Warrnambool and as far inland as Camperdown.
At the heart of these conflicts was a Latin phrase that shaped the European approach to land ownership in Australia: “terra nullius” which essentially means “the land belongs to nobody”. With that in mind the settlers felt empowered to move into this area and take possession of the land by displacing or killing the local Aboriginal people. The timeframe of 1837 to 1844 mentioned in the memorial coincides with the arrival of the first sealers, whalers and squatters in this area.
Many of the conflicts occurred over a twenty year period near the Eumeralla River between Portland and Port Fairy. There were many bitter confrontations during this time as the European settlers brought in tens of thousands of sheep and cattle onto the Aborigines’ territory and confiscated their water sources and disrupted their traditional food resources.
Hunting raids by Aborigines to steal or chase away the livestock triggered increasing violence and for every European killed by raiding natives there were revenge attacks, sometimes better described as massacres. Many Aboriginal people were killed, with an estimated population of approximately 7,000 Gunditjmara people in the area, before the arrival of the Europeans, being reduced to around 450. These conflicts eventually became known as the Eumeralla Wars.
This stone monument was placed near the Port Fairy Visitor Information Centre in 2011 as a memorial to all the Aborigines killed in the southwest during these conflicts. The memorial is a recognition of the suffering endured by the Aboriginal people. At the base of the inscription is a symbol with individual lines pointing to where the various Gunditjmara tribes are located across the south west.
In Memory Of
The Thousands Of Aboriginal People
Who Were Massacred Between
1837 And 1844 In This Area Of Port Fairy.
Today We Pay Our Respect To Them For
The Unnecessary Sacrifices They Made.
Your Spirit Still Lives On Within Our People.
This stone was unveiled by Moyne Shire Mayor Councillor James Doukas on the 29th March 2011.