03 June 2024


On Sunday, I joined Dharug traditional owners and Hawkesbury residents at the commemoration of the Battle of Richmond Hill. It's not something my generation was taught about at school. It marks the first recorded massacre of Aboriginal people by the military in Australian history.

The Battle of Richmond Hill started with yam beds being removed around the rivers by settlers to plant corn. Aboriginal people who depended on the yam instead harvested the corn. In late May 1795, when the corn was ripening, Acting Governor Paterson sent more than 60 soldiers to the Hawkesbury with the purpose of killing as many Aboriginal people as they could and to drive the rest away. The dead were to be strung up on wooden posts. We don't know how many people died, but a small group were taken prisoner, including a woman with a baby which died of gunshot wounds.

Dharug elder Chris Tobin shared this story and Melissa Stubbings told the history of the memorial, created in 2002 at St John of God in North Richmond, thanks to the support of the brothers and the organisation. Over two decades, people have been invited to come and learn the truth of colonial settlement: that, in the Hawkesbury, Dharug people fought for, killed for and died for the right to access the land that sustained them.

Until the true history of the region is understood and acknowledged, we won't be able to reconcile our past with our future. I thank the Dharug community for patiently and generously educating us.