Native Title Agreement – Doctor Fiona Foley with her design for the Butchulla People Land and Sea Claim. Photo: Cody Fox
Native Title Agreement – Doctor Fiona Foley with her design for the Butchulla People Land and Sea Claim. Photo: Cody Fox

Doctor adds voice to calls for Butchulla monument

FOR years, Butchulla woman Fiona Foley has researched the massacres committed against the Aboriginal people, both during and after settlement.

She has weighed into the fight to create a monument to the Butchulla lives lost, but she beliefs two need to be built.

One should be on Fraser Island, she believes, marking the murder of Aboriginal people which started on Christmas Eve, 1851.

Aboriginal oral history reports the biggest massacre was at Indian Head.

Men were sworn in on the day to go across and "examine" the indigenous population.

Dr Foley said it came down to the psychology and mentality of people.

"I've read a lot about that pathology," she said.

"They didn't view Aboriginal people as human.

"They were equivalent to fauna, a species of fauna."

"They referred to them as vermin, like a dingo.

"Something you can shoot to get rid of."

It is there at Indian Head Dr Foley believes the first monument should be built, not only because of the attack on the Butchulla people at the site, but because it was named Indian Head by Captain James Cook after he spotted the inhabitants of the island while sailing past Fraser Island in 1770.

It was the first moment the would-be settlers and the indigenous people saw each other.

Dr Foley said it was also the "first point of racialisation" as the Europeans attempted to identify a new group of people.

She said monuments to past massacres would help recognise and heal the Butchulla people, but it would also do more than that.

"It's really important because it signals to the rest of the word that we are a mature nation," she said.

Dr Foley said a lot of Australia's suffered guilt about past atrocities in Australia, which made it difficult to acknowledge the extent of the massacres.

As well as a monument on Indian Head, she believes there should be one on the mainland as well, with Maryborough the most likely location.

The Heritage City was the scene of much of the conflict between the settlers and the indigenous people in the region.

Butchulla elder Glen Miller spoke of his desire for a monument yesterday.

He said he believed it should acknowledge the dark history of the region, while also celebrating the endurance of the Butchulla people.

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said he believed the site of the old Maryborough township could be a good place for the monument.

He said it would be very much up to the Butchulla people what the monument would look like.

"There's a lot more to the pioneering story than what goes written up in the history books," Cr Seymour said.

"The story for me is about the survival of a vibrant, living culture despite enormous odds."