150th Anniversary of the Flying Foam Massacre

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We stand here today on Murujuga – the land of the Yaburara people – in memory of one of the great tragedies of British settlement in our nation: the Flying Foam Massacre.

The Yaburara – reportedly a tall and handsome race – suffered more than most at the hands of the settlers. But even with the terrible violence they suffered, even with the weeks and weeks of relentless hunting by white-men determined to kill all Yaburara men, women and children, even with the scourge of smallpox, they have left descendants. And so today we have people alive who trace their ancestry throughMirbin Lowe, Willy Cooper, Alf Boona, Woggi, Tutparinya, Pantun, Eva, Mabel, Jessie, Toby and others. Thank God these Elders survived after so much hardship.

And these Elders have left descendants which include the Boona, Cosmos, Cooper and Wally families, whom I would like to thank for their work in establishing the Yaburara and Coastal Mardudhunera Aboriginal Corporation and for their dedication in arranging this ceremony.

The Yaburara people lived on the islands we can see today, this peninsula and the mainland north of the Karratha Hills and moved comfortably between the islands of the Dampier Archipelago on log-boats. The Ngarluma and Mardudhunera were their close neighbours and the three distinctive hills near the mouth of the Maitland River mark the boundary of the lands of these three groups.

We have heard of the sad, sad story of the Flying Foam Massacre, the rape of a young woman, the arrest of her husband Coolyerberri, his freeing by the tribe – which resulted in the deaths of Constable Griffis and two others – and then the great manhunt. Possibly 100 men, women and children were killed over a two month period – we will never know the correct number.

Let us continue to remember this terrible stain on the white settlers and our national heritage. But let us also remember the enormous contribution this disappeared tribe, the Yaburara, made to our nation and mankind. Around us is the greatest collection of rock art on the planet. We are standing in a magnificent art gallery– thousands and thousands of engravings – perhaps as many as a million, cover the incredible outcrops of fractured rock, the hard-as-iron granophyre which give this amazing location its distinctive beauty.

Out of tragedy, let us grasp this beauty, this internationally important collection of rock art, the spectacular peninsular with its enormously rich botanical heritage, the unique beauty of this place – and let us ensure that we honour the Yaburara people by preserving their heritage for generations to come. Lest we forget.