Monday, February 18, 2013

Flying Foam Massacre commemorated in Perth and around Australia

The photos above are from the Perth commemoration of the Flying Foam Massacre.

The round up below is by organiser Mark Lawrence

West Pilbara elders lead first Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day,

A minute's silence on the Burrup

On Sunday17 February, for the first time in 145 years, black and white Australians jointly organised a national commemoration day of one of Australia’s largest massacres known as the Flying Foam Massacre.

At 11 am on King Bay, Burrup Peninsula, 1500 km north of Perth on the Pilbara Coast, site of the first Flying Foam massacre, Wong-goo-tt-oo, Yaburara-Mardudhunera, and Yindjibarndi elders observed one minute's silence for more than 60 Yaburara men women and children murdered there by Western Australian police and colonists on 17 February 1868.

The 1868 Flying Foam Massacre was in fact a series of massacres that lasted from 17 February to May 1868, on the Burrup and on other islands and in sea passage surrounding was then known as Dampier Island.

It is believed that 150 Yaburara men women and children were shot in cold blood in a genocide planned to terrorise all the tribes of Australia’s North West. Only 6 Yaburara people, all men, are known to have survived.

Elders and members of the neighbouring tribes – Yaburara-Mardudhunera, Wong-goo-tt-oo, Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi organised Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day to honour the murdered Yaburara , and to show unity in the campaign for World Heritage listing for the Yaburara's legacy, the Murujuga/Dampier archipelago rock art precinct.

Wider community supporters present included cultural heritage specialist Dr Ken Mulvaney, and Pilbara representatives of the major political parties.

Wong-goo-tt-oo elder Wilfred Hicks said that the unity shown in the West Pilbara and across Australia for Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day was encouraging, and will be built upon in the months ahead,

National remembrance events

As well as at the King Bay Massacre Site, commemorations were held at the Australian Parliament in Canberra, and at the New Wales and Western Australian Parliaments in Sydney in Perth, and at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, seat of of the Australian Parliament from 1901 to 1926.

Commemorations were also held in Adelaide at the Tandanya Indigenous Arts Centre's annual Spirit Festival, in Brunswick, Melbourne,in Tarradale in the Central Victorian Highlands, and elsewhere. Solidarity messages came from England, the Isle of Wight, New Zealand, Chile, the USA and elsewhere.

Stand Up for the Burrup campaign coordinator Mark Lawrence said that the national Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day events showed that people throughout Australia and internationally are aware that the Australian and Western Government's claims to sovereignty over the Burrup and Dampier Archipelago are unlawful, being based on a crime against humanity.

Maritime Union members observe minute's silence

Members of the Maritime Union of Australia at Mermaid Marine near Karratha and the P{rt Of Dampier showed solidarity with Ngarda Ngarli elders by holding a minutes silence at 11 am and 11 pm respectively.

Stand Up for the Burrup campaign coordinator Mark Lawrence, a lawyer and former national union official, said that elders in Roebourne were moved by the MUA members' spontaneous show of support.

“This is the first time workers have taken solidarity action on the job in support of the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign.

That workers in the Pilbara have taken such action is demonstrates the extent of community support for World Heritage protection for the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Ngarda Ngarli peoples.”


Nyungar Senior Elder Aunty Mingli Wanjuri welcomed 30 supporters to a commemoration at the Western Australian Parliament, on Whadjuk Nyungar land.

Aunty Mingli spoke of the unrecorded massacres of her Wanjuri people near Bremmer Bay in Western Australia’s South West, and of the need to raise awareness of the the history of massacres in Australia.

Supporters lay 130 white crosses on the Parliament steps to signify each of the Yaburara victims of the Flying Foam Massacre.

The Catholic Church was represented by Father Alfonsis Savrakis, former Chaplain to the Western Australian Aboriginal communities and long-term Stand Up for the Burrup supporter.

Other speakers included Stand Up for the Burrup campaign coordinator Mark Lawrence, Perth organiser Seamus Doherty, and indigenous rights activist John McBain.


Supporters from the ACT, NSW and Queensland met at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra to remember the 145th anniversary of the Flying Foam Massacre and show their support for the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign. .

Organiser Laurence 'Sprocket' Coughlin said “like the heritage listed Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Burrup needs heritage protection, through the World Heritage List”.

Aboriginal Tent Embassy activists around Australia have shown consistent support for the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign, with photo-shoot actions at the Canberra, Brisbane and Nyoongar Embassies in recent months.


In Adelaide, a commemoration was held at the Tandanya Indigenous Cultural Centre's annual Spirit Festival with visiting artists and performers and elders from many communities in South Australia and elsewhere showed support by being photographed with Stand Up for the Burrup signs.

Organiser Tanya Hunter countrywoman Tanya Hunter spent two days at the festival explaining the Flying Foam Massacre to people from around Australia.

Some spoke of the massacres in the own lands, and the need for white Australia to confront these historical truths. All expressed support for the campaign for World heritage Listing for the Yaburara peoples' legacy, the Burrup rock art.


Sydney's Flying Foam Massacre Day Remembrance Day events began at the NSW Parliament House at midday, with speeches from Stand Up for the Burrup organiser Paddy Tobin about his other rock art passion, the cave art at Bambara, NSW, and Occupy Sydney's Lanz Priestley about the Flying Foam Massacre and corresponding massacres on the East Coast.

Artist Jude Williams brought a new banner commemorating the Flying Foam Massacre, a revitalised Stand Up for the Burrup banner, and new t-shirts and hats carrying our message.

After the Parliament House action, supporters carried the banners to Sydney Harbour and the Opera House for more photo-shoots and more opportunities for community education about the Flying Foam Massacre and the need to protect the Burrup sacred rock art.


Victorian organiser Davie Thomason and a group of supporters held their Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance at the World Heritage Listed Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, seat of the Australian Parliament from 1901 to1926, ad the place at which both the Terra Nullius and White Australia policies were made into federal law.

Cathryn Murdoch and friends organised a ceremony for the Yaburara's memory at Allison Monkhouse in Brunswick, including selecting a symbolic object be sent to Western Australia and gifted to Ngarda Ngarli elders.

In Tarradale, Central Victorian Highlands, Robbie Noakes and friends organised another solidarity action, showing their respect for the Yaburara victims of the massacre.

Mark Lawrence said that at each location, black and white Australians gathered to mark the occasion with a minute’s silence.

This commemorations were part of the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign which is seeking World Heritage Listing for the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago rock art precinct.