Council will spend $155,000 on memorial for hanged First Nations Freedom Fighters

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner
These portraits were painted individually by Thomas Bock between 1831 and 1835 and published in James Fenton's History of Tasmania Hobart [1884]

Carolyn Webb The Age April 25, 2014

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Melbourne Herald-Sun 30 April 2014

The City of Melbourne has flagged spending up to $155,000 on a memorial to two Aboriginal men who in 1842 were the city's first people to be publicly executed.

Supporters praised a recommendation that the permanent marker to Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner be built on a sliver of land at the corner of Franklin and Victoria streets.

Close to RMIT and the City Baths, it is believed to be the actual hanging site.

On January 20, in 1842, 5000 locals watched as the Tasmanians were hanged for the murder of two whale hunters after a six week battle with colonists in the Dandenongs and Mornington Peninsula.

At the time they were deemed bloodthirsty outlaws, but campaigners have called for a reassessment of them as freedom fighters resisting white settlement.

A report on the memorial, released on Thursday, on which councillors are expected to vote on Tuesday, sets out possible costs from a $50,000 plaque to a $120,000 bronze sculpture.

Expressions of interest will be called for its design. After a shortlist of three artists is chosen by a working group, including indigenous elders, the council will select a preferred applicant.

The report gave the most expensive option as totalling $155,000, including community consultation, flights for indigenous advisers from Tasmania and $20,000 for a project manager.

The installation should be "a contemporary and/or abstract interpretation", "acknowledge the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner story as being an important episode in Melbourne's early history".

Joe Toscano, convener of the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Commemoration Committee, supported the proposal. It didn't specify a size, but he said this could be negotiated.

Dr Toscano said it would be "the first major acknowledgement in a capital city, in a CBD anywhere in Australia, regarding the frontier wars [between Aborigines and colonists]. I think it is an achievement".

The site was "quite an extensive piece of land", and would attract tourists exiting from the nearby Old Melbourne Gaol.

"This is in the Melbourne CBD, next to one of the major tourist attractions," he said. "We hope that this is a template for people around the country because there were frontier conflicts around Australia and if they look at what we [in Melbourne] have been able to achieve, it is something they can use as an example.

"There are a few monuments or memorials to the frontier wars in Australia but they're few and far between and in very inaccessible places."

The council's Indigenous Heritage Plan 2014-15, also released on Thursday, proposed the memorial be part of an indigenous heritage walk, linked to a self-guided iPhone app, with the $40,000 cost paid by a business that could apply for a council grant.

The Indigenous Heritage Plan proposes that an indigenous heritage map and database be developed "that visually and more easily identifies Aboriginal heritage places".

The plan also said the council's indigenous grants program would be modified to "explicitly seek submissions" from individuals or groups interested in producing "living events" such as plays or poetry readings telling the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner story.

The report acknowledged that "a relatively small number of places with known or potential Aboriginal heritage values are currently recognised and fewer are actively managed and protected" and that needed to change.

"The available information concerning many of the places in the City of Melbourne which are currently recognised is inaccurate."

Councillor Cathy Oke said the council could "do much more to recognise and celebrate the traditional owners of Melbourne".

"Theirs is a rich cultural history and we only have to scratch the surface to be reminded of how Melbourne was before colonisation. There are so many stories that we don't know, that should be told when we tell the story of Melbourne."

AUDIO: Dr Clare Land provides a clear and account of the Freedom Fighters from Tasmania that were hung in Victoria in 1842. ABC Radio National Interview.

Warriors in a forgotten war: Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheneer
The colony of Port Phillip was just eight years old when it held its first execution. The first people hanged in 1842 were two Aboriginal men from Tasmania.


Public monument proposal - 'The Freedom Fighters'
Campaign to erect a public monument to Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, who paid the ultimate price for resisting white colonisation in Victoria.


The Freedom Fighters - Lest We Forget
Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were executed at Melbourne in 1842. They defended their lands and the genocide of their people.