ABOVE: A monument that was unveiled, and women dancing around it, in 2003 at Yurrkuru (Brooks Soak). Image courtesy National Museum of Australia.
The traditional owners of Yurrkuru (Brooks Soak) will receive the title next Wednesday to a sacred site where the dingo trapper Fred Brooks was killed by Aboriginal men in 1928.
The killing triggered the series of reprisal killings of large numbers of innocent Aboriginal people across the region by Constable George Murray. The raids became known as the Coniston Massacre.
Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion will attend a ceremony at Yurrkuru, located on a square mile of Crown land surrounded by the Mt Denison pastoral lease to hand back the title to the Yurrkuru Aboriginal Land Trust.
The Aboriginal Land Commissioner recommended the grant of the small block in 1992, however, the Mt Denison pastoralists bitterly opposed the grant. It took the traditional owners and the CLC the best part of 20 years to finally achieve justice.
“They had to wait a long time for their land but they never considered giving up,” said CLC chair Francis Kelly, who is one of the makers of the documentary Coniston.
Originally, the traditional owners wanted to set up an outstation on the block, but they changed their minds because the soak is a very small and unreliable source of water and has been fouled by cattle.
They have plans to build a shelter to harvest rain water and provide shade for visitors, as well as feature interpretive materials about the events that led to the massacres.
“Yurrkuru doesn’t only hold deep cultural significance for us but the loss of so many people during the massacres is still causing a lot of sadness across our region”, Mr Kelly said. “It will be good to be able to teach visitors about this place so we can make peace with our shared past”.
The traditional owners have invited the Aboriginal Land Commissioner and the Mt Denison pastoralists, the Martin family, to the ceremony which will feature purlapa (song and dance).
With the exception of part of Irrinjirrinjirri (Crown Hill), a 26.5 hectare area on the Mt Denison – Mt Allan boundary, Yurrkuru is the only part of the owners’ traditional lands they have ever been able to claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
(Contributed by the Central Land Council.)