Page apologises for massacre

SPECIAL PLACE: Uncle Lewis Cook and Ballina MP Don Page mark the dedication of parts of East Ballina where a massacre occurred as an Aboriginal Special Place.
SPECIAL PLACE: Uncle Lewis Cook and Ballina MP Don Page mark the dedication of parts of East Ballina where a massacre occurred as an Aboriginal Special Place. DOUG EATON

STATE Member for Ballina and Minister for the North Coast, Don Page, has apologised to Aboriginal people for a massacre that occurred at East Ballina in 1853/54 which saw about 40 local Aboriginal people shot by Queensland police officers.

Last week, Mr Page attended an event in Ballina to mark the official gazettal by the NSW Government of the East Ballina Aboriginal Place, which is made up of 162 hectares of bushland parcels from Shaws Bay north to Angels Beach.

Bundjalung Elder Uncle Lewis Cook gave the "welcome to country" at that event.

He said his grandfather was a survivor of the massacre, escaping north to Queensland.

He said the "troopers showed no mercy".

"Women then threw themselves off Black Head (at the northern end of Shelly Beach) with children so they did not get caught by the troopers," he said.

The declaration of the East Ballina Aboriginal Place has been 15 years in the making.

Mr Page said the massacre "was a tragic event in our history".

A police patrol from Queensland snuck up on 200-300 Aboriginal people in the middle of the night and started shooting.

"The local white settlers were shocked and sickened by the event," Mr Page said.

"Amazingly, the local Aboriginal people did not retaliate against the local white population as they understood that they were not involved in the massacre.

"On behalf of the people I represent I offer our heartfelt apology for that terrible massacre."

Under law it is an offence to harm or desecrate an Aboriginal Place, and under the National Parks and Wildlife Act there are special provisions to protect and safeguard the land.

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