Appin Massacre 200th Anniversary

05 May 2016

Matter of Public Importance


Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (15:35): I am delighted to speak on this matter of public importance to remember and pay respect to all the lives lost at the Appin massacre 200 years ago on Dharawal country, which encompasses the Macquarie Fields electorate. I commend my friend the member for Campbelltown for raising this matter of public importance and for his eloquent words. I also commend the member for Camden for his kind words about this important issue. It is important not only for locals but also for the State. I commend all members across the political divide who have spoken about this part of our nation's history—however difficult those events were. Being able to reflect on our history, to understand events and to acknowledge that mistakes were made that had deadly consequences for our First Australians is an important part of our nation's moral development and the relationship between all Australians.

The Spanish-American historic philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It is inconceivable to think a concerted directive to kill many of our fellow Australians could be repeated in modern Australia today. Nevertheless, let us not be mistaken that because a disastrous event happened 200 years ago it no longer matters. The Appin massacre still matters today; it will matter tomorrow and every day. It matters because of those who lost their lives and it matters to their descendants who are alive today. We must recognise the difficult and harsh realities of our history and continue our reconciliation and healing process with Indigenous Australians.

The Appin massacre should not be a mere footnote or reference in our history books. It should be a deliberate reminder of our past wrongs and a reminder of the strength of our Indigenous culture. Despite the loss of many innocent lives, the local Indigenous culture has survived. Indeed, it continues to strengthen—and long may that continue. The efforts of local Indigenous elders such as Uncle Ivan Wellington, Aunty Glenda Chalker, Aunty Frances Bodkin, the Bell family and many others have no doubt contributed to maintaining our local Indigenous identity.

I recently visited Ingleburn Public School, where proud young Indigenous men performed a traditional smoking ceremony to welcome us to their land. The primary school kids were fascinated and we were all reminded of the richness and resilience of our Indigenous culture. The descendants of the Dharawal people are proud and I feel most privileged to represent an electorate that sits within Dharawal country. The process of reconciliation is an ongoing one and our nation—indeed, our State—will take a long time to reach its full potential unless we continue to work on that reconciliation process. I commend this matter of public importance to the House. We all have a shared responsibility in the reconciliation process and will continue to pay our respects to the descendants of this dreadful event.