Forgiveness and healing

Forgiveness and healing

For the past 15 months, Yuin Elder, Uncle Max Harrison, has been writing the story of his family, starting with Charles Hammond, the sole survivor of a massacre at Brodribb River near Orbost in the 1840s.

Not a great deal is known about the massacre although online research hasprovided the following information: Little Dan Dempsey, the cook, was killed 1841-45 by Aborigines on the banks of the Snowy River. Local tradition has it that he had caught a young Aboriginal girl and kept her prisoner in his hut for three days. His hut either caught fire or was set on fire, and as he stepped from his hut, he was speared by a group of Aborigines; so many spears that he was unable to fall over. The girl was taken back to the tribe. When word of the killing got out, a party of settlers was organised to hunt down the group, and retribution in the form of a massacre is said to have occurred at the Aboriginal camp at Milly, near the Brodribb River.

Rivers of Kinship is the story of how one sole survivor, a small boy, was raised by one of the perpetrators, a local settler by the name of Charles Hammond (who passed on his name to the lad). Charles grew up and had a family, giving rise nearly 180 years later to a dynasty of five living generations.

Today at the age of 82, Uncle Max Harrison is a well-loved and respected wisdom keeper of Yuin cultural lore and determined to pass on what he knows. As he says, “You have to give it away to keep it”.

A recent article in The Guardian, The Killing Times: the massacres of Aboriginal people Australia must confront, states: “Learning about this history will come as a shock to some. But Australians trying to move past blame or guilt are coming forward now in greater numbers, and their voices are only growing louder”.

In the words of Sandy Hamilton, a descendant of a soldier in the 46th Regiment, which, on orders of the NSW governor, Lachlan Macquarie, killed at least 14 Aboriginal people at Appin in 1816, “We need to take ownership of our history. We deserve to know the truth of how we came to be who we are. Then we can also make real choices about who we want to be as a society, as Australians”.

Uncle Max has made a lifelong practice of forgiveness. He would like to pin point the exact place on the Brodribb River that the massacre of his ancestors’ tribe took place.

He would like to meet with any of the descendants of the settlers involved in the massacre so that a healing ceremony can take place for the families of all involved and for the country on which it occurred.

If anyone has any information relating to this event, any family stories or settler diaries that have been passed down, Uncle Max would love to hear from you. His contact details are available at the East Gippsland News.

PICTURED: Uncle Max has made a lifelong practice of forgiveness.


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