First Nations men executed in colonial conflict honoured in major memorial in Melbourne

Ballarat indigenous artist Aunty Marlene's depiction of the 1842 hanging. Photo: City of Melbourne
Ballarat indigenous artist Aunty Marlene's depiction of the 1842 hanging. Photo: City of Melbourne

Clare Rawlinson ABC 27 November 2015

A swing set reminiscent of the gallows where two Indigenous men were hanged in 1842 will be erected as a memorial to colonial conflict in Melbourne.

The memorial marks the first major monument recognising colonial conflict in Melbourne, and will be established near the site where Indigenous Tasmanian men Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were executed.

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A memorial planned for central Melbourne to remember executed Freedom Fighter Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener. The warriors fought the sellers in Victoria but were born in Tasmania - Read More

Newspaper stands telling stories of frontier wars are a centrepiece of the winning design for the monument.

It will feature a series of newspaper stands and an Indigenous garden, inviting the public to reflect on the executions – Victoria's first formal hangings - on the corner of Franklin and Victoria Streets, near the old gaol.

Artist Trent Walter, who co-designed the memorial with artist Brook Andrews, said it was a difficult task to memorialise such a confronting part of the city's past.

He said it could be compared to a war memorial for Indigenous people, or a marker for hidden parts of Melbourne's past.

"It's definitely a confronting story but the space we've created is about reflection – it's trying to say let's deal with this traumatic past," Mr Walter said.

"It's not pushing a specific political agenda, it's just saying these things happened we need to acknowledge it and think about it more broadly than we have before, and what the implications are for our society."

The swing set will provide a view towards the old gaol, where Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were kept before their hanging.

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener

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Discover the story of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener's resistance and executions Links to articles here.
Facing the other direction, visitors will look towards the newsstands.

"The idea of the newsstands is that this should be news every day, we should remember these people."

Tunnerminnerwait, I believe, had just had enough. He could see what was happening and what had happened to his people and his family in Tasmania and it was happening again. - Dr Clare Land, historian, Monash University

Before being recruited to design a memorial with Ms Andrews, Mr Walter said he had no knowledge of the story behind Melbourne's first executions.

"This is a really challenging thing - I think it shows great vision, by the City of Melbourne," he said.

"Hopefully it's the start of broader engagement with these histories."

The City of Melbourne will spend $155,000 building the memorial.

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Image: Scene of Melbourne around the period of the hanging.