Ballina MP and minister for the north coast, Don Page, yesterday celebrated the official gazettal by the NSW government of the East Ballina Aboriginal Place with Bundjalung elders and community members.
‘This has been fifteen years in the making, and I am very pleased to be a member of a government that has recognised, at last, the East Ballina Aboriginal Place,’ Mr Page said.
The area at East Ballina was the site of an horrific Aboriginal massacre in 1853/54, where approximately forty members of the local Aboriginal community were shot by Queensland police officers.
‘It was a tragic event in our history. A police patrol from Queensland snuck up on 200 to 300 Aboriginal people in the middle of the night and started shooting.
‘The local White settlers were shocked and sickened by the event. Amazingly, the local Aboriginal people did not retaliate against the local White population as they understood that they were not involved in the massacre,’ Mr Page said.
‘On behalf of the people I represent I offer our heartfelt apology for that terrible massacre.
‘The strong oral tradition of the Bundjalung people has ensured the Indigenous community in this region has never forgotten those events, and neither should they,’ he said.
The Aboriginal Place at East Ballina is now recognised by the NSW government as a place of special significance to Aboriginal people and their culture. Under law it is an offence to harm or desecrate an Aboriginal Place, and under the National Parks and Wildlife Act there are special provisions to protect and safeguard the land.
‘As a result of the massacre, the importance of that site has been retained, and maintained, in the local Indigenous culture for almost 160 years.
‘The area also has cultural significance for its burial and occupation sites, shell middens and other archaeological sites that are important as representing how previous generations of Aboriginal people lived on Bundjalung Country.
‘I congratulate and thank all those who worked for the gazettal of the East Ballina Aboriginal Place. May it always be treated with the respect it deserves,’ Mr Page said.