Macquarie's record on treatment of Aboriginal people highlighted

Last weekend's attack on the statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in McQuade Park at Windsor has raised the issue of Macquarie's role in early Aboriginal massacres in the Hawkesbury. Picture: Paul Evans
Last weekend's attack on the statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in McQuade Park at Windsor has raised the issue of Macquarie's role in early Aboriginal massacres in the Hawkesbury. Picture: Paul Evans

THE spectacular attack on the statue of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in McQuade Park last weekend excited very different reactions from the community. 

While most posts on Facebook on the attack condemn the spraying of the statue with red paint and the message MURDERER, others have expressed sympathy with the apparent Aboriginal viewpoint indicated by the graffiti.

Sprayed around the base of the statue were “Always were, always will be” and “No justice on stolen land”. There were also symbols that could be the Aboriginal flag and a message “F*** your (something)”.

While Police would not comment on the apparent Aboriginal angle of the attack, Hawkesbury Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett said “I fully understand the sadness and dispossession felt by many Aboriginal people, yet actions such as this incite hatred, anger, and cause division”. “At this stage we do not know who has done this or what their motives were,” she said. “Many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the Hawkesbury have worked tirelessly to further the cause of reconciliation.”

The Courier asked Windsor Downs resident Barry Corr, an Aboriginal man himself and historian of the bloody conflicts between Aboriginal people and white settlers in the Hawkesbury, to comment on the vandalism of the statue.

“Coming to terms with the horror and the implications of the 1794-1824 Frontier War is something the Hawkesbury community has consistently failed to do,” he said. “A compilation of casualties 1794-1824 suggests that 35 settlers were killed, one drowned after the sacking of his farm and 12 wounded. Available figures suggest a minimum of 470 Aboriginal people killed. 

“In his account of 1816 George Bowman wrote: ‘The military did not attempt to take the Blacks and make prisoners of them but shot all they fell in with and received great praise from the Governor for so doing.’. 

Windsor historian Jan Barkley Jack said Macquarie's instructions as governor were that Aboriginal people and settlers should live in harmony, but when Aboriginal people were denied their traditional access to the riverbanks and food supplies, and the new settlers refused to share their crops with them, Macquarie sided with the settlers when Aboriginal people were forced to raid farms for food.

“Macquarie had begun sympathetic to the Aboriginal quandary, but still saw the tribal ways through the lens of European beliefs about land ownership,” she said.