I Can Hardly Wait for the Results of the Post-Voice “Truth Inquisition”! By James Reed

Indigenous "Truth-Telling" bodies, who have the same power as Royal Commissions, including the ability to hold public hearings, call witnesses under oath, compel evidence and make recommendations to government, are getting going. They will report on alleged injustices to Indigenous people, in the past, and now. Read on for background of what is to come, and be very glad that the Constitution was not changed in the Voice referendum. The battle now is at the state level.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/mar/28/descendant-of-victorian-colonial-family-calls-for-removal-of-monuments-to-her-ancestors

"A descendant of the Henty family – regarded as Victoria's earliest European settlers – has called for monuments memorialising her ancestors in Victoria's south-west region to be removed.

Suzannah Henty, an art historian whose work focuses on anti-colonial and decolonial contemporary works, appeared at Victoria's Indigenous truth-telling inquiry on Thursday. The Yoorrook Justice Commission is holding public hearings investigating land, water and sky injustices.

Coloniser Edward Henty arrived in Portland in 1834, creating the first permanent European settlement in Victoria. Tensions between settlers and traditional owners, the Gunditjmara people, led to the state's first recorded massacre of Indigenous people at Portland Bay.

Suzannah Henty, a direct descendent of Edward's brother James, told the Yoorrook commission that she believed monuments dedicated to the family in Portland should be removed from their intended sites and be relocated to a museum or park for "fallen monuments" or destroyed.

"Memorialising the Henty family is essential to colonisation," she told the inquiry.

"Removing these monuments is a start to repairing the injustice committed by settlers. Ultimately, I believe that Indigenous people should be responsible for what happens to the monuments."

Henty said some of the Henty family's monuments had been spray-painted with the words "sovereignty was never ceded" – a popular phrase in Indigenous activism.

"This shows that these monuments continue to have a damaging impact," she said.

Henty said the monuments denied the demands of the Gunditjmara people who have requested the statues and monuments be removed.

Her comments follow a spate of recent attacks and vandalism on Captain Cook statues and monuments. The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has offered financial support for councils wanting to reinstate damaged statues and condemned acts of vandalism.

Henty has previously written about how her family continues to be celebrated and characterised as pioneering colonists, reflected in monuments and statues in the Portland region, but argues the full history has not been told.

"There have been five generations of Henty family members who have not said anything and I don't want to be part of the sixth generation who doesn't say anything," she told the hearing.

In 2020, the Glenelg Shire Council, which includes Portland, committed to an audit of colonial monuments and placenames across its region, following calls from Gunditjmara man Shea Rotumah for them to be removed amid the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. The audit, tendered to Yoorrook on Thursday, revealed 19 colonial monuments in the council area.

Yoorrook held a ceremonial hearing on Gunditjmara country on Monday, with commissioners visiting the site of the Convincing Ground massacre at Portland Bay, to kick off the final round of hearings.

Yoorrook is Australia's first Indigenous truth-telling body and has the same powers as a royal commission, including the ability to hold public hearings, call witnesses under oath, compel evidence and make recommendations to government.

Its mandate is to investigate historical and current systemic injustices against First Nations people and it will produce a final report with its findings by mid-2025. 

 

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Monday, 22 April 2024

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