Supermarket planned for historic Aboriginal burial site

Issue 

The March 25 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the site of a planned supermarket development in the northern NSW town of Moree is an Indigenous burial site.

A local Aboriginal elder, Lyall Munro senior, told the SMH: "I have no doubts if they dig up any part of it they are going to uncover relics or skeletal remains."

The council re-zoned the area to allow the construction of the Woolworths-owned supermarket. According to the SMH, 3000 people, many of them Aboriginal, rallied in support of the proposed "Big W" supermarket on February 13. Members of the Moree Aboriginal Mens Group have voted unanimously to support the development. "Four of my kids have left town to get employment. Why should they have to? We have a great opportunity here. I'm confident [the supermarket] will employ Aboriginal people", the group's chairperson told the SMH.

However the paper quoted Dick Estens, founder of the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, as commenting, "It's not a game that should be played by big corporate Australia on a small town, saying 'we will give you Big W if you give us this site'. All around Moree is open land. I don't think Woolworths should be holding a gun to the head of the Moree community. Go and buy four or five houses, knock them down and build it there."

An Indigenous historian, Noelene Briggs-Smith, told the SMH: "If the past treatment of Aborigines in Moree is anything to go by, Big W will go ahead no matter what. But there is other land to build on. Is it all worth it in the long term?"

Moree has a history of appalling treatment of Indigenous people. A 2001 speech by Estens to the Bennelong Society Conference noted, "Moree's reputation as a racist town was highlighted by the Freedom Rides during 1965, which centred around Moree's pool. This was followed by the [federal] referendum, which removed any constitutional discrimination against Aborigines. We also had the moving of the Aboriginal community from shanties at the bottom of the Gwydir River into the town."

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