A missed opportunity to do the right thing

Leanne Flaherty, Sale


I CONGRATULATE Wellington Shire councillor Carolyn Crossley on her motion to remove the Angus McMillan monuments and am thankful for the three councillors who supported the motion.

I listened to the online streaming of the council discussion and was moved by the passionately genuine and measured speakers representing various sections of the community who supported this simple act of reconciliation.

There was notably only one community member who spoke against the idea.

Objectors to the removal of the memorial cairns are worried that history will be erased or censored on the whim of political correctness.

As the cairns stand now, they are censoring history by leaving out the unpalatable part of the whole sordid story.

People won’t learn history from these cairns, but they can continue to easily deny it.

No reasonable person can argue about McMillan’s explorations.

He was great at orienteering, bush bashing, land grabbing and establishing settlements, all while amassing great personal wealth.

There’s no changing that.

No one is actually requesting to alter that, but why shy away from acknowledging his actions against the Gunaikurnai?

Angus McMillan was a perpetrator of Gunaikurnai genocide, and that truth has been conveniently and repeatedly left out.

If people living in Wellington Shire in 2020 are so attached to these memorial cairns glorifying his contributions to Gippsland, perhaps conside dual purposing them.

Imagine the cairns stating that each stone or rock respectfully and solemnly represents the life of each man, woman and child slaughtered by him or at his request right next to the bronzed plaque that says Angus McMillan passed this way.

The council meeting was the focus of nationwide interest, and showed that an overwhelming 78 per cent of the more than 230 submissions wanted some action either to remove the cairns or add additional information telling the truth behind the man people in Wellington seem to uphold and glorify.

With such a large number of respondents in favour of the motion and only one community speaker against it, who were the five councillors representing?

What a shame we were in a spotlight for the wrong reasons this week.

It could have been a proud watershed moment, but people lacked the will to make amends and practice restorative justice, not because we are responsible for the wrongs of the past, but simply because it was the right thing to do.