3rd May 1804
waranta tangara takariliya Mumirimina, lungkana Risdon Cove-ta
We mourn our Mumirimina families, murdered at Risdon Cove on 3rd May 1804
On this day in 1804, raytji lungkana waypa, luna + luwutina Mumirimina. nara mulaka tara paywuta paywuta. Mumirimina-mapali krakapaka parana-nara-mapali; krakapaka kuntana-ta nara mitungkuna. waranta takara milaythina nara takara. takila-mana-mapali wingani payintrika waranta tangara pakana mana-mapali krakapaka. waranta tunapri nara-mapali manta manta.
On this day in 1804, white soldiers murdered men, women and children of the Mumirimina people. They were hunting kangaroo, as they had always done. Many Mumirimina died of their injuries, on the ground where they fell. We walk where they walked. There is much sadness in our hearts as we mourn our dead. We will always remember them.
Eyewitness account of the events of that day from a convict servant:
‘ [I] Was one of the first men who landed 27 years ago, built Lieutenant Bowen’s house at Risdon – was then servant to a man named Clark – On the 3rd of May 1804 was hoeing new ground near a creek – saw three hundred natives come down – in a circular form, and a flock of kangaroo hemmed in between them, there were men, women and children – they looked at me with all their eye – I went down to the creek and reported them to some soldiers then went back to my work – the natives did not threaten me – I was not afraid of them – Clark’s house was near where I was at work & Burke’s house near Clark’s – The natives were never within a quarter of a mile of Burke’s house – the natives did not attack the soldiers – they would not have molested them, – The firing commenced about 11 o’clock – there were a great many of the natives slaughtered & wounded, I don’t know how many – some of their bones were sent in two casks to Port Jackson by Doctor Mountgarrett; they went in the Ocean; a boy was taken from them; … this was three or four months after we landed – they never came so close again afterwards – they had no spears with them – only waddies – they were hunting and came down into a bottom – there were hundreds & hundreds of kangaroos about Risdon then & all over where Hobart Town was started – the natives were driven from their homes afterwards & their wives & children were taken from them by stock keepers – lived three years as a shepherd in the Western Tier – was always afraid of them – afraid they would kill him – they often fell in with him – never pursued him – they carried spears in the bush – he never carried a gun – the soldiers came down from their own camp to attack the natives – I could show all the ground – Mr Clark was there – the Natives were close to his house – they were not on Burke’s side of the creek- never heard that any of them went to Burke’s house – is sure they did not know there was a white man in the country when they came down to Risdon.’
– Edward White’s evidence to the Committee for the Care and Treatment of Captured Aborigines,
10th March 1830.
A bicentenary ceremony was held at Risdon Cove on the 200th anniversary of the massacre in 2004. This extract from one of the speeches that day reflected on some of the lasting effects of the massacre:
“When the white invaders started killing us off on this day two hundred years ago, they also started the killing of our culture, our languages, our intimate knowledge of our lands, our child raising practices, our family connections, our trade routes, our economy, and every other aspect of our traditional way of living in this land for thousands of generations.
On the massacre site where we stand today, they took the bodies of the people they had killed, stuffed them into barrels and shipped them off for scientific study. We are still trying to bring home the remains of our people taken to all parts of the world all those years ago.
They took a little boy whose parents they had killed and named him Robert May. That was the start of Europeans trying to turn our children into white people. We are still trying to put right the effects of that long practice of removing our children from their families and community.
They put up fences, hoed the ground, planted foreign plants and brought in their animals which destroyed our traditional hunting grounds. We are still trying to heal the damage done to our lands.”
It was an important act of reconciliation when the site was returned to its original owners in 1995. The land is now classed as Aboriginal Land under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1995 and is actively managed by the Aboriginal community as a meeting place, a learning place, a place for culture, and a place for stories. What better way to heal country, and community.
The general public are able to access certain areas of Risdon Cove during daylight hours. The Aboriginal community has the right to close access during special events. Public access is to the carpark, monument and up the walking track to the ruins of the settlement.
Since 2015, the name ‘Risdon Cove’ has been replaced within the Aboriginal community by the name piyura kitina. This refers to the large numbers of native hens which have bred there, near to the Aboriginal Children’s Centre buildings. The laughter of our children at this place today is our strongest remedy against the brutalities of its past.