IN 1841, only seven years after colonial occupation of the Port Phillip District began, two Aboriginal men from Tasmania were convicted of the murder of two whalers on the beach we now call Harmers Haven.
In January 1842, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener became the first people to be hanged in Melbourne, an event witnessed by some 5000 people.
At the time they were deemed bloodthirsty outlaws but in more recent times campaigners have called for a reassessment of them as freedom fighters, resisting white settlement.
In 2014 the Melbourne City Council commissioned a marker to commemorate this event to be situated at the site of the hanging, on the corner of Franklin Street and Victoria Parade, just in front of the old Melbourne Gaol.
Following an invitation from the Melbourne City Council, members of the Bass Coast/South Gippsland Reconciliation Group attended the unveiling of the marker on September 13.
As the capture of the two indigenous men took place on the south coast of Bass Coast, our group wishes to have this story recognised in some way in this area, as it believes it is important as part of our local history and reconciliation.
At the unveiling ceremony in Melbourne, Elder Caroline Briggs, who is descended from Northern Tasmania and Victorian Aborigines, congratulated the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener Committee for their dedicated efforts and steadfast determination, over 11 years, for the project’s final outcome.
Dr Joseph Toscano, convenor of the committee, spoke of the importance of the recognition of the hanging in 1842, as it offers vital insights into the very significant past and future of Melbourne and Victoria.