We need to face up to our local history

Bronwyn Barbetti, Sale


OVER the past two weeks I have read with sadness the letters against the removal of cairns that recognise Angus McMillan as the heroic explorer of Gippsland.

Most of the authors reveal their considerable white privilege in arguing that “all lives matter” or arguing that history should not be rewritten, and we should all just “move on”.

This approach completely undermines the work for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians – which is centred on strengthening relationships.

My understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement is a commitment to listening, which seems particularly relevant for our own context given the Indigenous tradition of oral histories.

Many of the voices in support of keeping the cairns argue for the preservation of history, but the cairns only tell half the story.

True unity and reconciliation demand historical acceptance, which is driven by education.

How many school groups have visited Victoria Park to view McMillan glorified in sculpture and to recognise his achievements and contributions to our civilisation?

We should not make his mistakes and disregard that of the civilisation that was already established here.

Reconciliation does not mean saying sorry and moving on.

It is a continual process of education and if that process reveals a more complete picture of history (however abhorrent), then by all means we should face up to it – even if it means altering or removing monuments.

As for renaming streets and towns: the McMillan electorate has already been renamed and I do not believe anyone from the community has greatly suffered, yet local Indigenous people no longer have to vote in an electorate named after a man who led massacres against their ancestors.