THE federal seat of McMillan encompasses Pakenham in the west and Moe in the east, north as far as Noojee and south to Wilson’s Promontory.
This seat was named in the 1940s after Angus McMillan, a Scotsman from the Isle of Skye and an early explorer of the Gippsland region who took up land as a squatter. McMillan held the land between the Avon and Macalister rivers as the Bushy Park Pastoral Company. It encompassed Newry, Boisdale, Tinamba, Maffra, Briagalong and Stratford.
Angus McMillan has a dreadful history of atrocities committed against the Gunai Kurnai tribes who occupied this area.
Angus McMillan fenced his run, destroyed the wildlife and established cattle and sheep grazing. As the tribespeople had lost their food source, he “befriended” them and gave them rations. When they were reliant on this food source he poisoned the food.
After claims that a white woman had been abducted by Aborigines, hunting parties went out to shoot Aborigines.
Gibrey Street, Maffra, is known to be the site of a massacre, as are Warrigal Creek and Butchers Creek. The Knob recreation reserve in Stratford is the site where the remaining tribes people were rounded up and pushed over the cliff edge above the Avon River.
Angus McMillan explored much of Gippsland and was a member of the Legislative Assembly for South Gippsland. In 1948 the Federal Division of McMillan was proclaimed in his honour, covering western Gippsland. Photo: State Library of Victoria
In 1843, Charles James Tyers, the Crown Lands Commissioner, in his annual report, estimated there were 1800 members of the Gippsland tribe. In his 1857 report to Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe, he estimated that were 96 surviving members.
Before his arrival in the area, there were estimated to be between 1800 and 3000 members of the tribe in 1842. By 1857 there were only 96 survivors. More than 1500 people were unaccounted for. Survivors were taken east to establish the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Mission.
Angus McMillan became the “protector of Aborigines”, again able to control their movements in the district.
It is time to take the honour of the electoral name from Angus McMillan. I think we need to recall that when this electorate was named in 1940, Aboriginals were not included as citizens of Australia, nor had the right to vote. I would like to see the McMillan electorate renamed in favour of the Gunai Kurnai people.
Seven years ago, the governing panel that decides on electoral boundaries and name changes received six letters requesting the McMillan electorate be renamed – not a significant number. The panel next meets in 2017.
Please discuss this issue among friends and organisations and send a letter to the returning officer at the Australian Electoral Commission, Smith Street, Warragul requesting a name change from McMillan. People may wish to nominate an appropriate name.
Detailed accounts of the Gippsland massacres are available through the Maffra Historical Society and regional newspapers such as the Maffra Spectator. These details are the local history of the people who lived between the rivers, as I did.
Many people don’t know the real story of Angus McMillan. If we are to vote under his title, it’s time we did.
References for this article
- Our founding murdering father : Angus McMillan and the Kurnai tribe of Gippsland 1839-1865. By Peter Gardner, Ngarak Press, 1990
- Our black history: the Kurnai of Gippsland, By Julian Drape - November 1998
March 9, 2015
We totally agree that the name of the Federal seat of McMillan needs to be changed as Angus McMillan was responsible for the Gippsland Massacres. We have written to Russell Broadbent suggesting that the name be changed and did not receive a response. Russell Broadbent also needs to change.
We agree that the name of the electorate be changed to The Gunai/Kurnai electorate in respect to our Aboriginal forebears.
Frank & Mary Schooneveldt, Wonthaggi
March 9, 2015
The article on McMillan was also timely. This community needs to take the action outlined in this article. It is just shameful to have that name attached to this area for any reason!
Geoff Ellis, Wattlebank