Reservoir ceremony remembers Aboriginal massacre

Joining the Winda Mara dancers are (from left) Wannon Water chairman John Vogels, Southern Grampians Shire mayor Albert Calvano, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Tim Bull, and Nationals Candidate for Lowan Emma Kealy.

Joining the Winda Mara dancers are (from left) Wannon Water chairman John Vogels, Southern Grampians Shire mayor Albert Calvano, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Tim Bull, and Nationals Candidate for Lowan Emma Kealy.

THE name gives away no clues about the events that happened there, but the commemorative Konongwootong Quiet Place was opened yesterday at the site of the 1840 Fighting Waterholes massacre.

A ceremony was held at Konongwootong Reservoir, near Coleraine, to remember the Aboriginal massacre that took place on April 1, 1840. The commemoration coincides with National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week.

References to the massacre suggest it occurred after the Konongwootong gundidj stole a number of sheep from the Whyte brothers. After they were unable to find a trail, the brothers’ stationhands returned to the home station, on the way passing waterholes where some old men, women and children of the clan were camped. 

The entire camp was shot and the bodies buried in a mass grave on the bank of the overflow creek. 

It was the second massacre inflicted on the Konongwootong gundidj clan by the Whyte brothers in their first two months of occupation of Konongwootong station. 

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Tim Bull planted a tree at the reservoir and congratulated the Elders from the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Wannon Water for designing a place of contemplation and learning.

“The Konongwootong Quiet Place is where people can come together to acknowledge our history,” he said.

Wannon Water chairman John Vogels said recognising the injustice of the events of 1840 and acknowledging the site’s cultural and heritage values was an important step in the company’s Konongwootong Reservoir Master Plan. 

Mr Bull said the Victorian government was strongly committed to the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage, with the 2014-15 state budget providing $3.1 million for its protection.

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