Call for memorial to Aboriginal freedom fighters

January 23, 2010

Since 2006, a group of activists in Melbourne have gathered on January 20 to commemorate two Aboriginal freedom fighters, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, who were hanged on that day in 1842.

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were among a group of five Tasmanian Aborigines who conducted an eight-week campaign of resistance to European settlement in 1841 from Dandenong to Western Port and South Gippsland, near Melbourne. The others in the group were Trugannini, Planobeena and Pyterrunner.

After three military expeditions they were finally captured and brought back to Melbourne for trial. They were not allowed to give evidence.

The two men were found guilty of the murder of two whalers. The jury said due to the circumstances mercy should be granted.

The deaths of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were the first judicial executions to take place in Melbourne on January 20, 1842 before a crowd of 5000 — a quarter of Melbourne's population at the time.

The annual commemoration was initiated by Melbourne anarchist Joe Toscano. The Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Commemoration Committee is campaigning for the Melbourne City Council to build a public memorial to the freedom fighters. Lord Mayor Robert Doyle took part in the 2009 commemoration.

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