Around this time 130 years ago, in 1884, four white miners were killed by native tribesmen at the Daly River copper mine.
In revenge for these four, Sargent Montaqu—with horses and rifles supplied by the Government—came across a large group of Woolwonga natives at a waterhole. Of the 30 men that took to the water none were known to survive. Of the other men, women and children: they made an attempt to escape, but their fate was not revealed.
What we do know is that the Woolwonga who inhabited this country from the Adelaide River across to the McKinlay River and south to where we are today were all but wiped out.
What happened then was appalling then and appalls us now.
There is no justice in taking the lives of nearly an entire family group for the lives of four prospectors.
Today, as we acknowledge and remember these awful events together, we take another step towards reconciliation
Indigenous peoples have recorded for centuries, in paintings and rock art, the stories of place and people.
This plaque is a modern way to mark the terrible story of this place and a people that were nearly lost to us.
It is a tribute to those who survived and their descendants here with us today.
It ensures that this history is put right.
The Government knows all that Indigenous culture has to offer.
We will support Indigenous Australians to both maintain their culture, and participate in the economic and social life of the nation.
This is why the Government is working with Aboriginal people to get children into school, adults into work, and make communities safer.
But, unlike in 1884, or 1954 with the Stolen Generations, it is not a punitive improvement measure. We are going to do this with you, not to you.
Today community safety is about providing the resources you need as determined by your communities.
Getting kids to school is a joint effort, involving parents, elders, teachers, and community leaders.
Getting adults to work is about changing community attitudes and expectations from the ground up, not from the Government down.
Our justice comes in practical forms like providing the opportunity for economic growth and the necessary conditions to flourish as a community.
It also comes in recognition.
Just as being recognised today as Woolwonga is important to your own identity and sense of belonging, the Government knows that recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution is vitally important to the nation’s identity.
The Prime Minister said in his Australia Day address that constitutional recognition would be a ‘unifying moment in the history of our country’; that, ‘we have become one people sharing the one land.’
I encourage you to be involved in the ‘Recognise’ campaign and to talk widely with your friends and family about how and why every Australian should support this once-in-a-generation push for recognition of Indigenous people in Australia’s Constitution.
You, of all people, know what it means to be recognised.
It matters because we are all Australians sharing two strands of history.
That’s why you are placing this plaque to honour those who were murdered here and why as a Twenty-first century Government Minister I am pleased to be asked to unveil it.
Thanks to everyone for coming all the way out here today.
Thank you for taking the time to recognise and remember what happened to the Woolwonga ancestors on these lands.
Thank you for taking the time to help heal the wounds.
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